Climate Change and the Three Jewels


Climate change scares the shit out of me. I don’t think I’ve ever cursed before in this blog, but climate change scares the shit out of me. We are all… well, I don’t think I wanna use a word even more offensive than “shit”, but we are all basically doomed, unless the Chinese discover a miraculous source of unlimited clean energy or we manage to narrowly avoid utter catastrophe through some sort of wacky geoengineering scheme. Perhaps that’s why Elon Musk is working on his Mars colony?

If you want to cry, or perhaps just redouble your efforts to retain your sanity through sheer force of self-delusion, here are more reading materials to convince you that we are all fu… I mean, doomucked:

There are certainly rosier assessments of the climate situation, and the idea that we’ll all be extinct within 15 years isn’t exactly a mainstream opinion among climate scientists,  but I’m pretty sure the world will at least be a hot mess (ha, ha!) within a couple of decades. Of course, you are welcome to convince yourself that everything is fine because at least Iceland is colder than usual. And hey, El Niño! Unfortunately, your remarkable capacity for self-delusion will run out sometime before you are up on your roof with a rifle, shooting at starving looters who are trying to break into your food storehouse.

I personally have no such delusions, especially living in the Philippines, a country that is already in a rather precarious environmental situation even before the ugliest effects of climate change make themselves known. So how does a human being cope with such horrifying expectations? Basically, our options are various possible combinations of:

  1. Work to make a better place, for you and for me
  2. Practice your survivalist skills
  3. YOLO (A Canadian neologism, meaning “Yo! Oughta Live Outlandishly”)
  4. Stolidly prepare yourself for the inevitable

Option a) doesn’t really appeal to the pessimist in me, especially living in a place where most people seem to be completely indifferent to all environmental issues. Not that I can be too judgmental, coming from a rich western country that got rich off ghastly CO2 emissions and now wants to lecture developing countries about how they can’t follow the same path, even as it continues to emit way more CO2 per capita than any developing country; nonetheless, watching millions of newly prosperous Filipinos strive for the good life by massively expanding their carbon footprint doesn’t really give me faith in my ability to make a meaningful impact on climate change by… segregating my garbage? If I had a PhD in engineering I could probably achieve a bit more, but as it stands I’ll just keep my kitchen light off when I’m not using it. (Besides, electricity is expensive here!)

A case can be made for option b), as it’s never too early to start hoarding solar panels, water collection equipment and small arms. But since I’m not a very hands-on person and am not looking forward to shooting my first looter, I can’t really buy into this option, either.

Option c) is pretty tempting, but part of me feels like I’ve already spent a good decade of my life YOLOing, and I need to find a deeper refuge through which to cope. Besides, if there is a chance to avert catastrophe, a whole planet of people living as hard and fast as they possibly can won’t really help us stop short of the point of no return. (Also: I am currently planning 4-6 months of world travel, during which I will emit a shitton of carbon in the process of trying to see this world before it is forever lost. YOLO!)

My upcoming YOLO trip notwithstanding, option d) still seems like the best long-term choice. Watching the planet go to hell has been intertwined with my increasing interest in Buddhism, and I feel strongly that Buddhism can give me (and perhaps you) the best possible toolset for coping with what is to come.

One of the fundamental teachings of Buddhism is that nothing will last forever, change is a constant, and it is our attachment to impermanent things and phenomena that causes the majority of pain in our lives. Our own bodies are subject to change, of course, and much of Buddhist practice is preoccupied with mentally preparing ourselves for our body’s aging, gradual falling-apart, and eventual death. The idea that we, our loved ones, and everything that exists on this planet and beyond eventually pass away is absolutely horrifying, but it is also an absolute inevitability, and something we must come to grips with. In a way, climate change doesn’t change anything: it simply means that our lives (as we know them) will be ending a bit sooner than we expected. In spite of the temptations of full-time YOLOing, we need to make all due effort to prepare ourselves for this inevitability while our planet and, hopefully for most of us, our bodies are still relatively healthy. When the world is already completely consumed in flames, it will not be easy to find our inner serenity.

Some may seek their refuge in sensual pleasures and exciting experiences, or in the love of their nearest and dearest. I have no doubt that these things will provide comfort and distraction for me as the world continues flushing down the toilet, but I need something more permanent, too. In spite of the many mundane distractions and temptations of daily life, I will continue following the Buddhist path to prepare for my own death and, beyond that, the death of this planet as we know it. Hopefully as I continue to cultivate inner strength and equanimity, and reduce my detachment on transient things, I will be ready for the coming storm. If the Chinese don’t manage to save us (and I really hope they do), at least I’ll still have The Three Jewels.

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