Melting Glaciers Pose Moral Dilemma for Local Populations and Industrialized Countries: Examining the Role of Buddhism in Addressing Climate

Last Updated: 30 Mar 2023
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This presents a significant dilemma to both the local populations that depend on seasonal melt eater from the glaciers, and to billions of people in adjacent plateaus whose rivers are directly fed from said glaciers. This also creates a difficult moral predicament for the industrialized countries that are largely to blame due to their high contribution of greenhouse gases. These mountain populations have had very little impact in comparison, yet they stand to suffer the most since they generally do not posses the resources to cope with such a major potential water shortage In their remote locations.

Thus, in principle, heavily industrialized economies will be responsible for telling a basic human right, freshwater, from these people. This paper will analyze in detail the extent of the damage the melting of these glaciers could have and the necessary response needed by the global community to address climate change. In particular, I will examine the potential effect the proliferation of Buddhism could have In addressing these problems on a global scale and in considering our own responsibility to the planet.

We find that through Buddhism a transformation could be made away from the modern consumerist culture, and a greater sense of obligation to the environment could be instilled, but to suggest that the religion is inherently the solution to our ecological crisis would be illegitimate. By 2000 there were more than 1. 1 billion people Inhabiting mountainous regions across the world, with approximately 90% of this population living In developing and translator countries that are vulnerable to food and water Insecurity.

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For the purpose of this essay I will focus on the Himalayas and adjacent ranges, a primarily Buddhist area that is the most extensively inhabited range above mm in the worlds. A combination of poverty and remoteness make this region an already official place to live with poor medical support and available education systems. Cities and villages throughout the Himalayas depend heavily on their natural environment for their economies and livelihood. In particular Inhabitants of Nepal face widespread poverty with the World Bank estimating that 82. % of the population lives on less then $2 per day. The poverty index for rural areas that depend on subsistence agriculture is much lower than those in urban towns who benefit from tourism. A heavy dependence on these two sectors "make Napalm's economy very sensitive to climate variability'2. Nevertheless freshwater has almost always been abundant In the past. The southeasterly monsoon system provides approximately While feeding the rivers, the monsoons also play a pivotal role in growing the glaciers as it falls as solid precipitation at higher elevations.

These glaciers become massive reservoirs of freshwater that then become integral in providing a perennial water source during the dry winter months. They also act to regulate the water runoff from the mountain to the plains during these periods, and are thus instrumental in securing agricultural productivity and the livelihoods for millions of peoples. Should climate change continue along its forecasted trend and widespread degeneration occur the consequences will be widespread. Rising temperatures will continue to result in snow melting earlier and faster in the spring shifting the timing and distribution of the runoff.

The projections show "a regression of the maximum stream-flow period in the annual cycle of approximately 30 days"2, with an increase in the glacial runoff during the shortened period of 33% to 38%2. This excessive melting will likely result in flash floods, and increase the unique risk of glacial lake outbursts in the region. Glacial lakes form at the lower altitude end of a glacier as it retreats in unstable mounds of deposited rock. If sudden floods occur there is a high risk of these natural dams collapsing resulting in excessive damaged.

The consequences will, however, not be limited to the mountain communities. Across the adjacent plateau hundreds of millions of people depend on major rivers such as the Ganges, Yawning, and Indus, which are all fed by these glaciers. During the dry season the "low flow contribution of Naples rivers to the Ganges could be as high as 70%"4. While in China, 23% of the population resides in the western regions where Alicia melt provides the principal dry season source or waters. Widespread degeneration will completely alter the hydrological characteristics of these rivers.

Complications will be diverse. Power shortages could become common due to the lack of hydro-generated electricity. There will be major health risks from disease and lack of water and food, and a completely altered ecosystem, as the changes in stream flow will change food chains from the basic insects and invertebrates pup. For many of these land-locked countries that are isolated in rugged terrain providing aid will be difficult and costly. Changes are needed now on the world stage to prevent such a situation from developing.

In dealing with our current ecological crisis, and in particular climate change, it is fundamental that we first address the problem from its root source. Anthropogenic climate change has occurred as a direct result of our burning of fossil fuels to promote the growth of a consumer based economy. Our consumption levels per capita, and especially in industrialized nations, are way above sustainable levels. We eat too much, we buy too much that we eventually throw into garbage landfills, and e use too much energy through a variety of manufacturing processes.

It is in this regard that an adoption of Buddhist principles would benefit the world. Buddha, originally known as Shattered Guatemala, personifies this ideal of limiting consumption. He was a prince who left home and rejected his material riches when he was 29 in search of true enlightenment. Buddhism views the western consumer- based economy and outlook on happiness as incorrect. Instead the religion states accumulation is actually a source of suffering"6. According to the latter two of the

Noble Truths, the best way for a person to escape their suffering is to free themselves from any attachment and desire for material and social status. Along with the four Noble Truths and the Eight-Fold path, the teachings of Buddha often contain an element of the need to escape greed. In the realms of rebirth it is thought one can be born below a human as a Pretax, or hungry ghosts . These beings could be seen as those overcome with greed, and who can never satisfy their need to consume. Many echo-Buddhists would associate this thought to the state of consumerism that has grasped so much of the world.

Thus Buddhism is fundamentally opposite to the positive correlation associated between economic output and welfare as adopted in mainstream Western thought. One of the most difficult aspects in addressing the challenges climate change brings is generating a feeling of responsibility. In many monastic rules there is no offence if a person's action was "unintentional, for one who lacks mindfulness"7. This is the case for much of the developed world. Many people go along with their daily lives without much thought to the consequences.

Burning fossil fuel seems innocuous, however there are major consequences. By living in this manner we become responsible for the degeneration and resulting effects. The main offence being that by unintentionally melting the glaciers we are depriving other people of a basic human right and necessity: access to clean freshwater. Buddhism excuses offences if performed through absentmindedness, such as using water with life forms to nourish plants. What is more important is the root of the deed, in this case being greed for a materialistic and comfortable life.

As the Threading monk Euthanasia explains, there are unintentional acts with damaging consequences that expose carelessness and lack of circumspection in areas where a person may reasonably be held responsible"7. We are not intentionally melting the glaciers and depriving people of a basic human right, it is an unintentional byproduct of our industrial activity. However the lack of awareness and mindfulness shown by industrialized economies puts us at fault, and provides us with a responsibility to change and aid those we have harmed.

Particularly in this age when so many of the effects of climate change are widely broadcasted to the public, living the same style of lives becomes inexcusable. We are no longer mindless but instead bystanders. It is in this field that Buddhist thought is important to instill a sense of wrongdoing and thus responsibility in the public. Buddhist texts often depict how our morality influences the state of the environment, and that humans cannot ignore the affect of their actions. The Goanna Status gives a depiction of the initial development of life, with divine beings falling from their prior state.

These beings over consume from their environment and become lazy in a very similar manner to humans. They learn to value possession and the beautiful beings become conceited and arrogant. They consume more and more from the earth making their environment less fruitful. They are not intentionally harming the earth but their actions brought upon by greed and laziness brings them suffering. Other annoyed. Often as a reaction the stars will "go wrong in their course" and the wind will "blow wrong, out of season"7. In light of climate change this view has backing.

Many Buddhists believe that the world has seen a "gradual decline in morality and spirituality'7. Whilst this does not address the problem directly it does examine that the root of the crisis is from our moral orientation. So often societies are fixated on the ideology of progress through economic developments. This entails a promotion of consumerism and in turn production, which puts a strain on the environment. Society encourages the idea that those who are able to consume at the highest material value are deemed to have achieved success.

In particular Buddhism would condone this view and the morals people adopt to achieve this material wealth. Buddha himself states that it is only by "the destruction of these, the not lusting for these, it is by the cessation of, the giving up of, the utter surrender of these things hat the heart is called fully freed"3. A change in morals and outlook away from economic growth towards a principle such as Gross National Happiness as adopted in Bhutan would arguably put less emphasis on sheer production and less strain on the natural world.

Along with its condemnation of consumerism, and approach to responsibility and moral code, a fundamental component of Buddhism that can aid the world in reforming its practices is its ideal of interdependence. We have made the mistake of separating from each other, and most importantly from the natural world that sustain us. As Stephen Batcher puts it "we fail to recognize them for what they are: part of us as we are of them"7. Throughout Buddhist texts there is a constant theme of this relationship. At the physical level there is the idea that we all survive through an exchange of the four basic elements: earth, fire, water, and air.

Thus promoting respect for the components we depend on. On the spiritual level it is believed that through the "process of taking birth, one is kin to all wild and domestic animals, birds, and beings born of the womb"l . Buddhism shows a greater level of appreciation for all that is Samara and the importance of the connection between all living things. This is exemplified in the Wadded Stark in which the danger of disrupting the natural order of an ecosystem is embodied. The Jungle cats over consumed and brought an imbalance to the ecosystem, which was subsequently corrected by the trees .

However humans then cut down the trees without a full understanding of the implications. This is a valuable lesson and principle to be adopted. It emphasizes how important it is to recognize our dependence on the environment and how removing or altering one component can bring the entire yester out of harmony. We see this in the relationship with carbon dioxide concentrations and the diverse implications including the melting glaciers. A greater appreciation for the connection between humans and the earth's systems would theoretically lead to more responsible stewardship of our resources and for other life.

Theoretically a society that embraced Buddhism in its' reformation of social and economic institutions and beliefs would "greatly reduce the drivers that currently religion is the answer is simply the easy way out that would avoid direct confrontation with the problems we have created. Buddha middle path is a good starting place for the changes needed too address the roots of climate change, however there are components of the ideology that would hamper progress and environmental action. Fundamentally, Buddhism "Nirvana teleology'8 makes major environmental concern seem pointless.

If the focus for a Buddhist is to achieve enlightenment and be liberated from Samara then it is possible that there will be an absence of concern for tit. This impermanence could "render the world devoid of sustainability'8 and leave us carefree from the challenges we face such as dealing with degeneration. Furthermore, as mentioned previously, one of the central principles of Buddhism is to free oneself from attachment. This largely applies to material wealth but would not be beneficial when we are in need of greater attachment to the natural world.

This attachment cannot Just be to the financial value of resources, but to entire ecosystems and all beings even if they don't directly benefit us. Throughout Buddhism ideologies arise pertaining to our interconnectedness and responsibility to nature, but the religion is more concerned with its instrumental value rather than purely its intrinsic . Nature is often thought of as a tool and the best setting for one to attain enlightenment. Many of the religion's most famous figures have searched for enlightenment in nature's most spectacular locations, such as Para Tasting in Bhutan.

Conversely our view of nature as an instrument from which to benefit from is arguably a primary source for our current situation. Therefore one cannot claim Buddhism is inherently echo-friendly. The disappearance of Himalayan glaciers is one of a number of serious issues threatening our planet as a direct result of anthropogenic climate change. The science has become too irrefutable and the knowledge has been broadcasted so biblically that we have the moral obligation to reform our social and economic organizations.

As the Dalai Lama explains "human use, population, and technology have reached that certain stage where Mother Earth no longer accepts our presence with silence"7. In providing a solution, an adoption of Buddhist ethics would be beneficial in shaping our root beliefs towards a lack of attachment to material wealth, responsibility to the environment, and interconnectedness with all beings of this planet. However the principles of the religion are not enough since it places too much of an emphasis on detachment and pacifism.

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Melting Glaciers Pose Moral Dilemma for Local Populations and Industrialized Countries: Examining the Role of Buddhism in Addressing Climate. (2017, Nov 02). Retrieved from

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