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What would the Dalai Lama say about fracking? September 16, 2011

Posted by Jill S. Schneiderman in Dalai Lama, fracking, natural gas, science, shale.
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This piece is cross-posted on Shambhala SunSpace.

In his book For the Benefit of All Beings: A Commentary on the Way of the Bodhisattva, His Holiness the Dalai Lama writes, “The actions of each of us, human or nonhuman, have contributed to the world in which we live. We all have a common responsibility for our world and are connected with everything in it.”

That is of course, a statement that applies to people of all kinds; not just Buddhists. As an earth system scientist, I feel the truth of that statement in my bones, every day. So, yesterday when I heard the news that ecologist, bladder cancer survivor, parent and activist Sandra Steingraber had been recognized this year with a Heinz award, I felt a surge of hope. Dr. Steingraber has written numerous books about the perils of a contaminated planet that are simultaneously scientific and personal.

Currently, she is working to prevent the unnatural disaster that will ensue if New York State proceeds with high-volume slick water hydrofracturing of shale gas — fracking — in the state. Steingraber puts it powerfully and renders the earth system science right when she avers, “we are shattering the very bedrock of our nation to get at the petrified bubbles of methane trapped inside.”

Sandra and I have had some supportive communication with one another over the years and so I dashed off a quick e-note of congratulations when I heard about the honor that carries with it a $100,000 unrestricted cash prize. Despite a very busy life, she got back to me quickly to share her statement subtitled “The Heinz Award and What I Plan to Do With It.”

In it, Dr. Steingraber acknowledged the connectedness of earth and all life, writing that “…the bodies of my children are the rearranged molecules of the air, water, and food streaming through them.” She announced her intent to devote her Heinz Award to the fight against hydrofracking in upstate New York where she lives with her family. And she implored others to join her in the struggle to fight fossil fuel addiction. In her opinion, dependency on these nonrenewable resources causes us to act irrationally — removing mountains, felling forests, drilling deeply — and to use these fossil fuels as raw materials for pesticides, solvents, and other toxic substances that insinuate themselves into the tissues of all living beings.

It seems to me that Dr. Steingraber’s thoughts and motives are as much informed by a sense of responsibility — one like the Dalai Lama wrote about – as they are by science. And that, as I say, makes me hopeful.

What about you?

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This View of Earth: A Call to Attention September 8, 2011

Posted by Jill S. Schneiderman in Buddhist concepts, Cambridge Insight Meditation Center, disasters, earthquakes, Larry Rosenberg.
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This piece is cross-posted at Shambhala SunSpace

It’s been an eventful couple of weeks here on the eastern edge of the North American continent, despite the fact that we are situated in the middle and therefore relatively stable portion—speaking tectonically—of the North American lithospheric plate.

I felt the 5.8 magnitude Virginia quake on August 23 while sitting in a flimsy camp chair perched on Precambrian bedrock just inches above the ground surface in western Massachusetts. As readers of reports after that quake will know, the old and rigid rocks of the east coast of North America propagate seismic waves very efficiently so this geologic event was felt hundreds of miles away from the epicenter.

Just a few days later, the approach of and preparations for Hurricane Irene truncated the opportunity to marvel at the fact that Earth shook in surprising places. These were two different kinds of earth events: the earlier one a phenomenon of the solid earth possibly rebounding from the melting of Pleistocene ice sheets and the latter, a spectacle produced by the interactions of hydrosphere and atmosphere in the Anthropocene. They had in common the vast spatial scales that are an every day matter for planet Earth. Fortunately casualties among the living were few and we can be grateful for that. Nonetheless this planetary activity serves as a reminder that the earth is alive, and like any living being, deserves compassionate attention.

Aropos of these events, I recently finished a one-day sit with Larry Rosenberg at the Cambridge Insight Meditation Center. Larry’s instructions, very helpful on the cushion, are useful to me now as I reflect on the earth’s dynamism in preparation for my introductory earth science course. Seasoned meditators will relate to Larry’s instructions: to be present rather than to wallow in an unchangeable past or become lost in an uncertain future.

His words have a direct geological analog in the famous saying by James Hutton, considered the founder of geology, the earth shows “no vestige of a beginning,–no prospect of an end.” Hutton penned the words in an attempt to convey to a populace yet unacquainted with radiometric dating what he believed to be the vastly ancient age of Earth. But after sitting with Larry, I also read Hutton’s statement as an invitation to be present in the moment. The Earth’s past is indeed unchangeable and it’s future uncertain. All we can do right now is pay close attention to the communications we receive from this living planet.

This entry was created by Jill S. Schneiderman, posted on September 6, 2011 at 10:10 am and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.