Monday, 27 February 2017

Over Population & Inferno

I have been keeping an eye on the Current World Population figures with a view to writing an article when it reaches seven and a half billion.

I was going to wait but I recently watched the film of Dan Brown's book "Inferno" and was really, really disappointed.


The whole point of the book was that the "plague" that the "mad scientist" successfully releases turns out not to kill people but to alter their DNA so as to render a random third of the population sterile and thus limit our numbers relatively humanely.

In the film it is a killer plague but our heroes prevent its release just in time so that we can continue to breed our species and the planet to death. (Sorry, that's a bit dramatic, the planet will be fine and enough creatures will survive to carry on evolution's great experiment just without us and a lot of other species.)

Well we're almost at the seven and a half billion humans point, so here goes..............

The average human now consumes 100,000 tonnes of fresh water, 720 tonnes of metals, 750 tonnes of topsoil and burns 5.4 billion BTUs of (mostly fossil) energy. This is 10 times more than our grandparents.

It takes the Earth 18 months to regenerate what humans consume in a year.

Humans are presently engaged in the greatest act of extermination of other species by a single species, probably since life on Earth began. We destroy an estimated 30,000 species a year. In the last 45 years we have killed off 58 per cent of the world’s large animals.

We contaminate the atmosphere with 50 billion tonnes of greenhouse emissions a year for a total to date of 2 trillion tonnes. This risks accelerated planetary warming reaching 4-5°C by 2100. Under such conditions there will be widespread famines, threatening all of the, by then, 10 billion members of the enlarged human population.

We contaminate the biosphere with 250 billion tonnes of chemicals and wastes each year. These have spread all round the planet from the deep oceans to the highest mountains and most remote regions. The World Health Organisation states “An estimated 12.6 million people died as a result of living or working in an unhealthy environment in 2012 – nearly 1 in 4 of total global deaths”.

We contaminate the oceans with megatonnes of nutrients, CO2 and toxins. This is causing acidification, the collapse of ocean food chains and the spread of 470+ ‘dead zones’ around the planet. Ninety per cent of world fisheries are maxed out.

Global soil loss due to agriculture and development amounts to 75 billion tonnes a year and scientists warn we could run out of topsoil within half a century.

One in nine of us are starving. That's 795 million people.

Acute water scarcity faces 4 billion humans at least one month a year; a UN report warns that at present rates of use world demand for freshwater will exceed supply by 40 per cent by 2030.

At the time of writing the world's human population stood at 7,487,326,251

Where's a Mad Scientist when you need one?

Saturday, 25 February 2017

NEW MOON – Seeing the Real

Mistaking the false for the real
and the real for the false,
one suffers a life of falsity.

Dhammapada v. 11

We all make mistakes; the question is how to truly learn from them. Even after many years of practice we can still forget ourselves and misjudge situations. If this happens, we should not automatically assume we've been heading in a wrong direction. An oak tree is not failing because it takes years to grow. When we deny reality for a long time, inertia builds up and part of us resists change. On the surface we might feel we want to change, but on another level we prefer that which is familiar, even if it hurts. Hence the need for great skill and great patience. For those who have perhaps had a glimpse of 'the real', old habits can still return and trip them up. But with time, skill and patience, the momentum of running away from reality diminishes. This gradual wearing away of old habits might not sound as inspiring as a sudden awakening from our dream-world, but it's what really works that matters.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

More Children Learn About the Buddha

Yesterday I had the pleasure of teaching the basics of Buddhism at The Island Free School over in Ventnor, again it was a joint effort with Dave Downer from the Newport Soto Zen group.

The Free School is a smaller, somewhat more intimate school than the others on the Island, and we had taught a similar "Buddhism Day" there last year.

The difference this year is that coincidentally it was also Parinirvana Day, when Buddhists from the Mahayana tradition remember the death and enlightenment of the Buddha.

Here at the West Wight Sangha we celebrate this event in May. This has been designated by the United Nations as the international Day of Wesak to acknowledge the contribution that Buddhism, one of the oldest religions in the world, has made for over two and a half millennia and continues to make to the spirituality of humanity.

Wesak is the Buddhist festival that commemorates the Buddha's birth, awakening and final passing and is celebrated by millions of Buddhists around the world on the day of the first full Moon of May.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Parinirvana Day

Vishvapani's latest talk on Thought for the Day....................

Today Mahayana Buddhists mark the death of the Buddha in a festival called Parinirvana Day. Aged 35, 4 or 500 years before Christ, Buddhists believe that the man history knows as Gautama attained 'Enlightenment' or 'Awakening'. For the next 45 years he travelled continually across the Ganges Valley meeting people and sharing his understanding of life. He gathered a large following and was widely revered for his wisdom.........................

Saturday, 11 February 2017

FULL MOON - MAGHA PUJA - Moving Through the World

As a bee gathering nectar
does not harm or disturb 
the colour and fragrance of the flower, 
so do the wise move through the world. 

Dhammapada v. 49

The implication of this teaching by the Buddha is that wisdom is required for us to move through this world without causing harm. A bee can gather the nourishment it requires without disturbing the beauty of the flower. We won't cause disturbance to ourselves and others when we see that which is in front of us clearly. But because we don't see clearly, we readily misperceive the world with its sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touch and mental impressions - and then we tend to blame the world. It is not the world's fault, but our limited ability to see clearly. If we want to contribute to the beauty around us and not feed into the chaos, we need to work towards wisdom.