underthetree wrote:How much of our reaction to peak oil should be as 'Buddhists,' though? I'm dubious about environmentalism being considered under the Buddhist rubric a la engaged Buddhism/green Buddhism. That's not to say that our practice shouldn't lead us to concern and engagement in these vital areas, but aren't we then Buddhists who are concerned about the environment, rather than 'Environmental Buddhists?'
Environmentalism and Buddhism go hand in hand for numerous reasons, primarily because concern for life on earth is equivalent to compassion. Concern for all the species in the world is quite agreeable to anyone who cares about the well-being of other beings. In our present day it is all the more a critical issue because of the scale of extinctions and human suffering.
Peak oil will mean that most of industrial civilization will be gone in less than two centuries, possibly sooner. That means preserving the canon, maintaining traditions through rough times and transmitting essential practices will be key. When the Roman Empire collapsed it was Catholic monks in places like Ireland that preserved parts of Roman civilization and classical knowledge. We will likewise have to preserve things for them to survive.
Perhaps I'm splitting hairs, but isn't Buddhism's connection with environmental activism synergistic rather than something inherent to Buddhism itself? I ask this because in my part of the world Green Buddhism is big, though it seems to me like two creeds that have co-opted one another in a typically Western, New Agey kind of syncretism and I'm not sure if it's helpful to either cause.
Buddhist organizations in Taiwan and their branch overseas institutions are all heavily invested in environmentalism. Everything from recycling to bringing your own metal chopsticks when you go to eat out (otherwise you might use disposable chopsticks).
That being said, I don't know if it is enough. At the end of the day most Buddhists and even monastics still lead ordinary consumer lifestyles making use of cars, plastic products, airplanes, oil or nuclear powered electricity, paper milled from the rain forest, etc... it is inescapable. Bringing your own bag to the grocery store just saves the company money, but doesn't negate the fact your plastic packaging is using a hell of a lot more plastic than your grocery bags would. Taking public transport is to be recommended, but for many people not owning a car is a social and economic handicap. Your cotton underwear uses plenty of freshwater that in many parts of the world (like India) is becoming scarce as the days go by. If you live a first world lifestyle, even as a penniless monk in a monastery, you're damaging the planet. Just using electricity from a nuclear power plant is contributing to the world's environmental problems.
This is why a lot of environmentalism is effectively futile. It is better to be an environmentalist than to not be, but the system is hard-wired to self-destruct. There is no way out of this sinking ship.
If humanity did what it had to do to prevent what is happening as we speak, economies would collapse and billions would die in a short period. Even if you took small steps, it would mean drastically less consumption, which again would mean economic contraction, which is not politically feasible because in a democracy you'll be impeached and in a totalitarian state your colleagues and/or people would kill you. To voluntarily contract the economy would also mean surrendering military power, which is not going to happen either.
Damage control is important. As times get worse and ecological payback punches us all in the jaw again and again, there will be a lot of neurotic people. This is why Buddhist practice becomes potentially life-saving. Strong religious traditions with robust communities and intelligent leadership will make things a lot easier for many people.