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Oct 09
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Climate Change Optimism

Social Action LA takes a closer look at climate change, and engages in contemplation practice  to help participants carry their intentions from the cushion out into the world

by Chris Bomba

The morning of Saturday, September 16, over twenty people gathered at the Eagle Rock Shambhala Center for talks on an issue that affects us all — climate change. While hosted by our fledging social engagement group – Shambhala Social Action LA — the event was the idea of our indefatigable regional director, Sharon Owyang, who had entitled it: “Social Action on Climate Change: The Case for Optimism.” The title proved to have been a big draw. When Jason Elias (my Social Action LA partner and co-moderator) asked why people had come, answers reflected a hunger for positive engagement in a global environmental crisis that can so easily evoke despair.

A retreating glacier

After Jason briefed the group on the View of the social action group, David Tillinghast – Shambhala LA member and professor in the Illustration Department at Art Center College of Design – took the stage. Having recently completed training to serve as a volunteer Climate Reality Leader, under a program of former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and The Climate Reality Project, he gave the same lecture that Al Gore presents around the world, framing it with the story of his own awakening, both personal and professional, to the whys and hows of sustainability.   While David’s revelations about the rapid rise in the temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere were grim, there was cause for optimism. Wind and solar technologies, for instance, have become so inexpensive they’ve reached the point of being more profitable than fossil fuels, and are bringing clean electricity for the first time to rural, grid-less communities in Africa and Asia.

Backyard birds

David was followed by Marcos Trinidad, also a Shambhala LA member and the Director of the Audubon Center at Ernest E. Debs Park. Marcos not only described the center and its programs, he detailed its efforts to engage the predominately Latino residents of Northeast Los Angeles, where he was born and raised. (His parents met at a bus stop just outside the park.) In contrast to David’s photos of hurricanes, retreating glaciers and state-sized ice sheets breaking off from Antarctica, Marcos taught us how we might determine the state of our local environment simply by seeing which birds reside in our backyards. His emphasis on the local not only put the global crisis into perspective, it inspired us to seek a deeper connection with our immediate community.

The morning concluded with Jason leading us in a contemplation created by Acharya Emily Bower, who has served as Social Action LA’s advisor since day one. Designed to help us carry our intentions from the cushion out into the world – raising windhorse before any social action we might undertake — this contemplation simply asks us to ponder what’s required for all beings, animal and human, “to feel safe and thrive.” That cuts right to the heart of the matter!

There is talk of doing the same presentation (or a version of it) at the Westside and Orange County Centers in 2018. In the meantime, David Tillinghast is open to giving his Climate Reality talk to any interested group. Contact him if you know of or are involved with a group that might like to hear this presentation. Shambhala Social Action LA hopes to host more such informational events on important issues, as well as organize more “actions” like our participation in a Heal The Bay beach cleanup back in June. I urge you to follow our BLOG or join our Facebook Group. While this inaugural year has been slanted toward the environment, we’ll be moving into other areas in 2018. We welcome everyone’s participation, ideas, and optimism.

The post Climate Change Optimism appeared first on Shambhala Meditation Center of Los Angeles. Top photo by Anne Saitzyk.

Chris Bomba serves as one of the co-leaders of Shambhala Social Action LA.

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2 responses to “ Climate Change Optimism ”
  1. In Nelson, we are continuing to work with other local churches. We meet once a month to discuss the way forward, and hold rotating monthly “vigils” where each church or spiritual group uses their own approach to focus on the issue of climate change. This continues to be important in forming bonds across traditions.

    There is also a branch of this movement which is beginning to focus on “economic justice”, attending city council to represent the moral and compassionate point of view. This is in part an effort to round out the dollars-and-cents point of view that comes from taxpayers and the business community, who tend to be vocal at civic meetings. The church group is focused around providing a non-materialistic view.

    Many of the churches just completed an energy audit, and a subgroup of the climate action committee is meeting to talk about specific building issues. Our annualized heating bill is about $100/month for about 2600 sq ft of well insulated building, but for some of the churches in heritage stone buildings, it’s situation critical. Their bill is well north of $1000/month. We are investigating block grants for demonstration projects for the whole group of churches. We are also looking into bulk purchases of LED lights, heat pumps, heating system updates and so on. The churches in our group have signed a commitment to be carbon neutral by 2050, a big promise on a practical level, especially for old buildings.

    Our Centre has a 30 year old gas furnace, and we are weighing the expense of converting to either a high efficiency gas with an auxiliary air-source heat pump, or electrical heat plus air-source heat pumps. Most of Nelson’s electrical power comes from renewable hydro sources, so we are in a fortunate situation there.

  2. Christine Heming
    Oct 10, 2017


    Thanks so much for sharing this story of the Eagle Rock gathering. We at the Centre for Local Prosperity in Nova Scotia are also about hosting conversations about the urgency we face with Global Warming and as well the opportunities we have to engage and find solutions. Are you familiar with Project Drawdown? You might want to look there.

    I hope to write up our recent retreat with 22 Thinkers in Pugwash, NS, at the Thinkers Lodge which was focused on climate change and the human prospect. Let’s keep this conversation going within Shambhala.


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