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Sep 29
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On the Shoulders of Giants

A Harvest of Peace talk on themes of climate change and environmental activism 

by David Takahashi

First I need to acknowledge that the work we are doing here began quite a while ago.  We are standing on the shoulders of giants.  I have to acknowledge my wife, Emily, who has been a climate champion here for many years.  I also have to acknowledge the inspiration of Irene Woodard who toiled for years alone in the Shambhala Climate wilderness silently going about her passion for a just and equitable world.

We have wildfires blazing on the west coast, we have ground baking under drought in New Mexico, we have hurricane Florence flooding in the Carolinas, we have island nations being submerged, and polar ice is receding into the ocean.  Natural disasters are not new: the frequency and intensity of them are new.  When disaster strikes, what I find notable is the community building that occurs in the wake of the disaster.  It is a well-known fact that Paradise can be built from Hell.  Rebecca Solnit has written a book that informs this:

The possibility of paradise hovers on the cusp of coming into being, so much so that it takes powerful forces to keep such a paradise at bay. If paradise now arises in hell, it’s because, in the suspension of the usual order and the failure of most systems, we are free to live and act another way.” ― Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell

Together, at this Harvest of Peace gathering, we have just concluded the Sadhana of the Great Eastern Sun. In it, the dawning of Great Eastern Society sounds very much like the heartwarming, selfless, courageous “we-ness” of the people who flocked to Katrina-torn New Orleans to save lives, to comfort and repair.

The Path

Emily and I recently attended the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco.  At it, we attended an event sponsored by the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance (CNCA).  There are 22 cities in the Alliance, including Berlin, Copenhagen, London, New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Yokohama, and Boulder.  Some of these are cities of 4 million people!  They are all committed to 80×50: 80 percent reduction in Greenhouse Gas Emissions by the year 2050.  We found that on the subject of decarbonization, the cities in the alliance are looking toward Boulder for guidance.  If you look at the CNCA site for Boulder, at the bottom, you will find that Boulder is looking to Faith Communities to lead the charge.  Boulder is looking at the Greening of the Boulder Shambhala Center as leading the local Greening initiative.  The world is watching the people in this room.

The Boulder Shambhala Center is considering how it might decarbonize its building, built in 1904.  The Green Team has goals of going Carbon Neutral, increasing comfort levels, and doing it in a revenue-neutral manner.  These are challenges (and there are others), but we have a great team at work on it.  Moreover, we are looking at this as living proof that the work can be accomplished.  The first challenges are the hardest: the abolition of slavery was once considered impossible.  Barriers to the women’s vote seemed insurmountable.  We can, and will, engage our Climate challenges as well.

The Fruition

We are Warriors of Shambhala.  Perhaps we don’t need the occasion of disaster to take our place in this troubled world.  We have trained in engaging our basic goodness with wisdom and compassion, for decades.  It is time to show the world what we are made of.  There are numerous opportunities.  Climate happens to be an important one.  Choices we make today affect lives that have not yet manifested.

For me, success is 200 years down the road, young people wake up to a livable world as envisioned in the Sadhana of the Great Eastern Sun.  Success is them smiling, and looking back, thanking those that worked so diligently to give them a chance.  In it, their culture will be one of community.

I leave you with a quote from a song sung by one of my teachers, Louis Armstrong:

I see skies of blue and clouds of white,

The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night,

And I think to myself, what a wonderful world

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