Engaging with climate change as a Buddhist

In Totnes I had my first introduction to DANCE – the Dharma Action Network for Climate Engagement. Dharma is an Indian word and concept that has many meanings and nuances in different religions but in the context of Buddhism my understanding is that a simplified definition would be the teachings of Buddha and a ‘right way of living’.

One of the founders of DANCE, the inspiring Rob Burbea, kindly explained what had driven him to start the network. The interview will be in the documentary we are compiling of the journey. The idea behind DANCE is to create a space where people can connect and explore a wider range of possible responses to climate change within Buddhist teachings, and to discuss their feelings.

Upon arriving in Bristol I met my first DANCE member. Lindsay Alderton and I crossed paths through her work in Global Power Shift UK, where many climate change groups are coming together to form a larger movement. In conversation it turned out she was also a member of DANCE in Bristol, as was her friend Julia. They had done a range of activist actions that you might expect from other climate change groups, but the thing that struck me as noticeably different was the manner of contemplation. Conversations were much more present, listening and open, more contemplative and exploratory. Their behaviour suggested little attachment to tactics and more of a focus on a process of development and openness. Lindsay kindly did an interview for me and it was very obvious to me that she had emotionally processed a lot more of the trauma of climate change than the vast majority of people I have met, it was not an abstract intellectual concept, but an emotional reality that was driving the motivations of her life.

The purity of her intentions and statement of her truth was very moving and inspiring for me, leaving me feeling strengthened. When you meet someone with a pure intention to reduce suffering and protect our future it restores your trust and your faith, it is easier to connect and to bring out those things within yourself.

The teachings which arise out of Buddism have brought a great deal to the world and I look forward to them bringing a lot more to the responses to climate change.

 

Give us a smile Oxford!

out of oxford

We realised during our practice walk through Oxford that it is packed with people taking action to protect the environment. We spoke to Rupert Griffin about his achievements in getting more local food available in Oxford.

Rupert now runs his own business providing local apple juice and honey.

You know when you smile at a stranger and they smile back, then you smile more, and there’s a shared moment. Those are the moments I wait for but strangely there was only an average of 10% smile return rate through Oxford. One man surprised me by cycling back to me to thank me for smiling at him and it made my day. Just keep smiling people, sometimes they smile back. 🙂

keep smiling

 

Reclaiming our culture from fossil fuels

The Reclaim Shakespeare Company is part of a growing movement of artivism – using the art form in the activism. The group challenges the sponsorship of the arts by fossil fuel companies with protest performance pieces. The subversive plays based on the form of art that is being sponsored are performed just before the official productions are due to begin. I spoke with writer, climate change researcher and artivist Danny Chivers about the group.

The Reclaim Shakespeare Company and Danny are now themselves portrayed as part of a new play about taking a stand for your conscience. You can watch performances of STAND at the Oxford Playhouse until the 8th of June.

What them in action at the British Museum.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXHJxTFTsj4

A new group BP Out of Opera recently did a lovely dance under pressure in London.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7eZrTbTMtg

Shell Out Sounds successfully sang songs at Shell sponsored events resulting in Shell’s sponsorship not being renewed.

If you are feeling inspired there are a number of groups under the Art Not Oil Coalition that you can join, or they can help you form a new one of your own!

Out damned logo out!

 

 

A walking university

During the tour walkers will be offering free courses and sessions. Here are some that we’ve got coming up!

If you’d like to offer a session or attend just email us.

What’s the law? – Knowing your rights, property law and the new civil rights movement. The first of these sessions will run around the 24th-26th May near Aylesbury/Milton Keynes with another at a later date.

Introduction to Mindfulness – Mindfulness is a way of changing your thought patterns and behaviours to influence your emotions and improve your life. In this weekend session, the first day will be an introduction to some aspects of the practice and the second will be a facilitated silent walk. End of June.

Poi – poi is a performance art where balls on cords are swung in intricate patterns. You can learn this at any point on the walk up until 6th June and possibly at later dates as well.

Conflict resolution – the methods and processes for peacefully resolving conflict. This one day session will run at some point before the 6th of June with the date depending upon interested persons.

Project management – a process and skills to help you get things done and organise your projects. This course can run at any point during the walk according to interest.

Banner making – what’s a good event without a banner? Practical chance to make a banner, please bring a sheet.

Campaign planning – what are some of the processes to go through when planning your own campaign?

Ethical investment – divestment

A cancer research charity would not invest in tobacco, it would be unethical. A peace group would not invest in arms. Where you put your money is where you put power, so if we want to create a healthy future we can’t invest in unhealthy things.

Money is a bit like energy, it’s only doing something when it’s flowing, so organisations and banks are constantly investing, and some of that money is going to fund the expansion of fossil fuel drilling. Even if we spend all day campaigning against climate change, our money may be quietly funding climate change. The process of removing money from unethical investments is called divestment.

The campaign for fossil fuel divestment worldwide is Fossil Free, and there are campaigns all over the UK. I spoke with Al about her work on the Fossil Free Oxfordshire campaign.

In Oxford on the 31st of May will be a rally to call for the City Council, the County Council and the universities to divest.

 

 

A very respectable no-water closet

Near Northmoor Lock on the river Thames we came across Barefoot Campsites, with picnic tables, yurts, small sheds, and two very presentable composting toilets made by Free Range Designs. A common concern with composting toilets is that they might be considered unpleasant to use but I suspect these will please and surprise many a person.

William Morris and the floating forge

William Morris was a multi-talented and political theorist, fantasy writer and artist who lived in Oxfordshire in the late 1800’s. He believed in equality and socialism. Journeying into Oxfordshire we encountered our first William Morris reference… on a boat…with a forge in it. Brian Greaves kindly told us about his work.

Continuing towards Oxford we encountered a modest and welcoming 11th century church in Inglesham which had been supported by William Morris. William Morris founded the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, one of the worlds first preservation groups. Within are old wooden pens containing the pews and wall paintings from across the centuries.

In Kelscott we saw the manor that had been William Morris’ home and continued along the beautiful Thames Path to Newbridge and Shifford. It’s been a great privilege to walk the path all the way from it’s source near Coates and to see the river change. And it doesn’t hurt that we’ve had glorious sunshine the whole way!