Beyond “Small is Beautiful”: Buddhism and the Economics of Climate Change

Based on a talk given at Harvard Divinity School, sponsored by the Religions and the Practice of Peace Initiative, on Feb. 18, 2016.

Maitreya in dry grass

MANY BUDDHISTS—as well as many non-Buddhists!—have raised   concern and alarm about the climate crisis and other crises facing our society and our world.  Clearly, we need to take urgent action.  As Buddhists, we have a pressing moral obligation to do what we can to relieve the suffering of all beings on the planet, both now and in the future. Our hearts yearn to make things better.

And clearly much of the climate change disaster is caused by economic activity. If you graph carbon dioxide emissions and industrial output over a long period of time, the two graphs look pretty much identical. The development of large scale, fossil-fuel burning industries was accompanied, in Western societies, by the rise of large corporations, global markets, and a rising emphasis on consumption as a source of well-being. Great wealth has been created, but this wealth has been very unequally distributed, and has often come at the cost of environmental and social sustainability.

It’s abundantly clear that we can’t go on with “business as usual.” People and other sentient beings are already feeling the disruptive effects of a set of historical and social developments that, as a whole, have taken far too little account of the effects of our production and consumption on the rest of nature. We urgently need to change how our economies work.

But how? Continue reading “Beyond “Small is Beautiful”: Buddhism and the Economics of Climate Change”

Husbandry: a feminist reclamation of men’s responsibility to care

To stop the economy’s advance towards greed and destruction, we need new metaphors and images that inspire a radically different alternative.

Millet The Angelus
Post-card rendering of The Angelus by Jean François Millet. Credit: Bewareofthe rug.blogspot.com. Some rights reserved.

 

What do you see in your mind’s eye when you hear the word ‘care’? If you search for images on Google you’ll get lots of pictures of white mothers snuggling with their babies. You’ll also see photos of a female caregiver’s hands intertwined with those of an elderly person, and images that show two hands holding a young plant that symbolizes Earth.

If you Google ‘economics’ instead, you’ll get lots of pictures of piles of cash, or representations of math and data. Continue reading “Husbandry: a feminist reclamation of men’s responsibility to care”

Self-Interest and Other-Interest

We get to choose between being self-interested, on the one hand, or putting the needs of others first, on the other, right? Or maybe not.

sharing and self interest

I grew up, as a Lutheran preacher’s kid, hearing a lot of negative things about self-interest, selfishness, and self-centeredness. And I heard a lot of positive things about putting others ahead of oneself, altruism, and even self-sacrifice. When I got older and went to college, I was exposed to a different view. Continue reading “Self-Interest and Other-Interest”

Feminine and Strong

“Muliebrity”: An important word to add to your vocabulary.

old-woman-yoga
Source: The Daily Mail

Muliebrity. I bet that’s a word you don’t know.

Our minds like to put things in easy categories, and gender is, for most of us, a very handy way of defining these categories. We tend to perceive “strong” as going in the “masculine” pile. A word like “soft,” on the other hand, goes in the “feminine” one. Continue reading “Feminine and Strong”

Surgeon and ?

So here’s a riddle for you: A man and his son are in a car accident…

surgical mask (1)

So here’s a riddle for you:

A man and his son are in a car accident. The man is killed instantly, and his son is rushed to the local hospital. The emergency room personnel see that the boy will need to be operated on,  and call for the surgeon. But, looking at the boy, the surgeon says, “I can’t operate. That’s my son!” How can this be? Continue reading “Surgeon and ?”

Why this blog?

Thoughts on economics, ethics, gender, climate, language, Zen, and a few other things…

wintery spring

Dear friends,

I’ve just started a blog that has the tagline, “Thoughts on economics, ethics, gender, climate, language, Zen, and a few other things…” What in the world could those things have in common?? Continue reading “Why this blog?”