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Sanity, Compassion, and Sustainability
"If you lose your mind, come back."
-- Shambhala Buddhist Slogan

Discovering, preserving and making available ancient and modern wisdom of all sorts, practical or profound, arising from whatever tradition, is the general goal that inspires the Dharma Haven Web site. We keep coming back to a basic truth of the ancient Shambhala teachings: We all want to lead sane, dignified and confident lives, and this is possible.

This particular page focuses on our relationship to our environment. We're looking for examples of sustainable, effective practices that could serve as components of a sane and compassionate relationship with the natural world that we all share. The health of our environment is inseparable from our own health.

We begin with resources for understanding the current deteriorating condition of the environment, the human actions and other factors that have lead to the situation we find ourselves in, and the scientific forecasts of what we can expect in the near and more distant future. Many people claim that the available scientific models can't determine whether climate changes like global warming are the result of human activity or are merely examples of natural variation. However, recent reports seem pretty clear -- we are the primary cause of the changes we are experiencing.

Once we begin to face our various facts, it's natural to wonder what we can do to improve the situation. Our overarching assumption, in looking at all these various problems, is that truly effective solutions will improve not only projections of what life may be like in the future, but the reality of what life is like in the present.

Fortunately, solutions are available -- not easy ones, necessarily, but workable ones, that do indeed immediately improve the lives of the people who understand and practice them, and at the same time make obvious contributions to the long-term well being of human beings and all the rest of the natural world. 

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Physics Disturbs Dreams of Endless Growth
Visionary thinkers, humanitarians and environmentalists have been trying to tell us for decades that our way of life, focused so intensely on the production and consumption of an endless array of disposable products -- and consumable products in disposable containers -- powered by the burning of prodigious amounts of oil and coal, just cannot possibly be sustained for much longer. However, we and our multinational corporations, rather than altering our rates of consumption to fit the physical realities of our planetary situation, are working hard to export our ways of living to "developing" countries as rapidly as possible. But now the scientists are telling us that they, and we ourselves, can see clear evidence that nature simply won't tolerate this orgy of consumption for much longer.

Our climate is changing in ways that is already having very unfortunate consequences for human beings, all over the world; and it's changing because of the actions of human beings -- primarily the burning of fossil fuels and the destruction of forests. Fortunately, as we come to better and better understanding of what we are doing to our world, we also can see clearly how to modify our habits and reverse this warming trend. We've developed a separate page on the climate crisis:

Global Warning

This warning of the global disaster that will certainly result if we don't change our ways focuses on just one many problems. Our oceans are dying, our topsoil is washing away, thousands of species of plants and animals are becoming extinct, and the human population is going to double again in just about 30 years.

The clearest discussion we've seen of the overall picture comes from the ecologist David Suzuki. His book, From Naked Ape to Superspecies, written with Holly Dressel, is a comprehensive overview of the current situation, and what can be done about it.

From Naked Ape to Superspecies:
A Personal Perspective on 
Humanity and the Global Ecocrisis

David Suziki and Holly Dressel

Hardcover -- Audio Cassettes

"For millennia, we lived in harmony with the Earth, taking only what we required to survive. But in just the past few centuries, we have used our powers to thrill and amuse ourselves, to satisfy our obsession with consumption and new technology, without regard for the consequences. And in doing so, we have exploited our surroundings on an unprecedented scale."

The book describes how "we have evolved beyond our needs, trampling other species, believing that we can make the Earth work the way we want it to," and how "human arrogance -- demonstrated by our disregard for the small and microscopic species that constitute the Earth's engine, and our reckless use of technological inventions like powerful herbicides or genetically engineered crops -- is threatening the health of our children and the safety of our food supply." 

We are now at a turning point: "we can either push ahead on our path to destruction, or we can reshape our place in nature and prosper." Inspiring us to believe that taking the latter choice is possible, the book introduces us to "people who are fighting back, those who are resisting the inexorable advance of the 'global economy' juggernaut, the people whose voices are difficult to hear over the din of corporate PR machines."

In You Are the Earth, David Suzuki strives to help young people understand that we need to take care of the earth and thus ourselves before it is too late. This is not doom and gloom preaching, but a clear description of the actual situation and a positive  statement of what people, including young people, can do about it.

The book begins with the simple facts of human existence -- how we are made of and depend on the different elements of the environment -- earth, air, water, and energy. The picture then expands to include relationships: Our bodies are an ecosystem for many life forms, just as the earth is an ecosystem for us and all other living organisms. The interrelationships are so complex that it is ridiculous to think that we can manage the earth. Biodiversity, of life forms and of cultures, is vital. 

The view expands again to include two more "elements" of who we are: love, and spirituality. Love is traced from the attraction of one cell to another, through the love needed by a developing child, to the need for family, community and companions of many species. Spiritually, many of us have lost our feelings of kinship and connectedness with all living things, treating living things as commodities instead. Dr. Suzuki invites us to renew our spirituality by holding all places and all living things of the earth as sacred. Then we can be assured that nature will continue to be there to lift us spiritually and to support us physically. 

The last chapter tells how some Canadian children have significantly helped our world and gives ideas how others can help. 

We are now, as governments, as corporations, as communities and as individuals, making important choices that will affect our environment, now and in the future. The David Suzuki Foundation is one of the groups helping people who are making these decisions understand what is at stake, and what real, effective options are available.

Climate Change -- Links

Turning Down the Heat -- Energy without greenhouse gasses

Articles by David Suzuki on various topics

Who Are the Real Survivors? -- The "contestants and crew of Survivor complained about the lack of hot showers and gourmet food;" but "1.4 billion people still do not have access to safe drinking water." ... perhaps the next Survivor should take place in the slums of Calcutta or Manila ...."

More articles

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Models of Sustainable Living
"Do you want to be happy? It's so simple: Help others."
-- Thrangu Rinpoche

Here we are pleased to list a few superb examples of sustainable, effective practices that could indeed serve as components of a sane and compassionate approach to living.

 gaviotasshambhalatibetan medicine

Gaviotas: The Village Who Planted Trees

In Gaviotas, Colombia, and the surrounding region, the appropriate technology movement is thriving. An experimental community in the wastelands has accidentally restored a rain forest, along with the hearts of its people.

"Gaviotans live in peace surrounded by narcotics dealers and guerillas. They live without guns, without pesticides, willing to serve and teach all comers. They count their wealth in sun, water, and community."

The Ancient Wisdom of Shambhala

Unbiased awareness of what is actually going on, within ones own being and in ones environment, automatically leads to appropriate action. When ones mind and body are synchronized, when what is actually happening is experienced on the spot, actions mesh with situations as they truly are. Developing such basic sanity, such authentic presence in the actual situation, is possible for all of us.

Tibetan Medicine: The Wisdom of Natural Healing

Imagine a medical tradition, highly effective, offering medicines that produce no lasting negative side effects, sustainably using resources of the natural environment, and fostering basic sanity and compassion as the essential basis of health and well being. It seems that several classical Asian cultures embodied such traditions, and elements of those medical traditions, in the form of Chinese herbal medicine, Indian Ayurvedic medicine and Tibetan medicine, are now beginning to gain respect in the West.

Through the link given above, Dharma Haven offers Web pages on many different aspects of Tibetan medicine.

We'll be continuing to look for projects and methods that can serve as models, and for specific practices that solve certain specific problems in ways that may be generalizable to other problems. Suggestions of appropriate examples would, of course, be warmly welcomed.

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More Resources 

Net Quest Earth Links

Haven Home: Community

Work Haven: Sustainable Economies

Net Quest Work Links: Sustainable Economies


See also the Books section of Earth Haven

50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth -- Earth Works Group

Beyond Growth : The Economics of Sustainable Development -- Herman E. Daly. 

Cool Companies:  How the Best Businesses Boost Profits and Productivity by Cutting Greenhouse Gas Emissions -- Dr Joseph Romm. Looks at 100 Canadian and US companies that reduced greenhouse emissions by more than 50 per cent and made millions. 

The Ecology of Commerce: A Declaration of Sustainability -- Paul Hawken.

From Naked Ape to Super Species: A Personal Perspective on Humanity and the Global Ecocrisis -- David Suzuki and Holly Dressel. 
Hardcover -- Audio Cassettes

Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World -- Allan Weisman.

God's Last Offer: Negotiating for a Sustainable Future --  Ed Ayres.

Going Local: Creating Self-Reliant Communities in a Global Age -- Michael H. Shuman.

How to Make the World a Better Place: 116 Ways You Can Make a Difference -- Jeffrey Hollender

The Sacred Balance: Rediscovering Our Place in Nature -- David T. Suzuki and Amanda McConnell.

You Are the Earth -- David Suzuki & Kathy Vanderlinden. Everything on Earth is connected: Here are science, activities, ideas and stories to help children understand the relationship between human beings and the environment, and what they themselves can do to improve things.

Systems of Survival: A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations of Commerce and Politics -- Jane Jacobs.

Whole Earth Magazine

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Revised on November 10, 2000

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