Robert Thurman on Climate Change and Racial Justice

In the excellent Night Club interview with Robert Thurman, I was struck by his emphasis on the Buddhist ethical imperative to meaningfully engage with climate change and racial injustice:

(10:38) In my elder age, one of the things I’m most focusing on – I just want to say up front – I recently went to Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project Training in Minneapolis…because I think that the older generation must really make a special effort now, because we’ll be dead, but our grandchildren will be really suffering climate refugees if this goes on. And so I couldn’t make more emphasis on the coming election, to remove the government – let’s not talk Republican and Democratic, let’s talk climate denier vs. climate activist. And we should really be removing the levers of power and government from the climate deniers, because they are clearly not being sane, and we should get the levers of power into the hands of climate activists, who will challenge the petroleum complex, which is a huge octopus that has control of society and the congress at the moment. And this is really, really critical.

And I think that a Buddhist ethic of – see, there was a great editorial by Michelle Alexander, who is a wonderful sociologist, who wrote a great book called The New Jim Crow, about the mass incarceration going on with the people of color in our country, and she said in this op-ed – I think in the Times, six months ago maybe – “I wish I believed in future lives, I unfortunately don’t,” she said, “but I wish I did, and I wish lot’s of people did,” she said, “because this might get some of the people who are behaving so recklessly and cruelly about the planet and about other people to decide they better shape up, because they’re going to be back! And they’re going to have to suffer the consequences of how they’ve treated the world.” I was so touched by that. Even though she’s not into it, but I would say she maybe met some Buddhist, or something, I would give credit to Buddhists for making her think like that. Although she should find out that it’s sensible to actually believe it, but which she doesn’t do. Never mind! OK, what’s next?

I love this. It’s so on-target. Aside from the “future lives” thing – about which I am skeptical/agnostic – it seems to me that nonseparation is another reason to engage with this issues. We’re not separate from any of this, either on the part of perpetrators or victims, now or in the future. So how do we work with that?

If I recall (or understood) correctly, @Andrew was talking somewhere about dedicating merit as being a way to progress on the spiritual path. I think it may have been in his book Preparing to Die: Practical Advice and Spiritual Wisdom from the Tibetan Buddhist Tradition, which I recently read and was quite impressed by. Working with these issues and dedicating the merit of that work seems like a good idea. :thinking: