As protests against political inaction in the face of the climate crisis continue around the world this month, many Buddhists have joined Extinction Rebellion (XR), an environmental pressure group known for bold acts of civil disobedience. In the UK, an “International Rebellion” has been declared with protesters planning to create what organizers call a “peaceful shutdown of Westminster, London” by blocking traffic at key points in the city. Events began Monday, 7 October and are expected to continue until 20 October. (Rebellion)
The protests follow last month’s youth-led global climate strike, which also saw participation from Buddhist groups around the world.* That strike featured the Swedish youth activist Greta Thunberg, who visited the UK before sailing across the Atlantic to attend events across North America.
In a tweet last month, His Holiness the Dalai Lama voiced his support to those in the streets, saying, “It’s quite right that students and today’s younger generation should have serious concerns about the climate crisis and its effect on the environment.” He continued, “They are being very realistic about the future. They see we need to listen to scientists. We should encourage them.”**
Those involved note a series of disappointing climate commitments from rich world countries at last month’s summit in New York along with a major report from the UN’s expert science panel warning of unprecedented consequences to ecosystems around the world if strong measures are not taken soon to reduce greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere.
On their webpage, XR Buddhists write, “The climate emergency brings both the most terrible of possibilities and the most transformational. The possible of mass extinction of life on this planet is forcing upon us a truth long forgotten by the so-called developed world: that all things are connected. We have lived too long in the delusion of separation, isolated from the astonishing grace and beauty of the life forms with which we share our world.” (Rebellion)
Their statement continues, “This delusional state has paved the way for the mortal damage our economies have visited on the Earth. And in our hearts we have also paid a heavy price: a sense of meaninglessness, and of personal and spiritual loneliness has become pervasive. The climate crisis demands that we choose between waking up to the truth of interdependence on each other and the non-human world, with all the beauty and gratitude this brings, or face terrible consequences.” (Rebellion)
Satya Robin, a writer, psychotherapist, and Buddhist priest in the Pureland tradition in Malvern, England, is one of the organizers of Extinction Rebellion Buddhists. She traveled this week to London to take part in events, writing on Facebook on 8 October, “The most intense day of my life. We held the bridge this morning with prayer—Christian, Muslim, Buddhist. At least 30 friends were carried away by the police around me. I flipped with my co-coordinator about which of us would be arrested—he won. My little nieces sent me a video message telling me they were glad I was saving the trees. I have cried on and off all day. So much love. So much love.”
One of the members of Christian Climate Action who marched alongside the XR Buddhists, Holly-Anna Petersen, said: “Shutting down roads around Westminster may seem like a drastic step but we believe it’s necessary because of the drastic state of the global climate. Extinction Rebellion began last October because it was clear we needed to take urgent action and since then the climate crisis has only got worse. We’ve had UN science reports showing the damage of climate breakdown is causing to our land and oceans, and we’ve seen climate impacts causing drought and devastation from Africa to Australia.” (Ekklesia)
In May of this year, a profile of religious aspects of Extinction Rebellion events in the UK and beyond found Pagans, Muslims, Christians, and Buddhists taking part in non-violent action, writing that “Climate change is increasingly seen as a spiritual crisis that requires a spiritual response.” (Open Democracy)
XR Buddhists at the Extinction Rebellion, UK (Rebellion)
Christian climate protestors to turn Lambeth Bridge into ‘Faith Bridge’ (Ekklesia)
Extinction Rebellion and the new visibility of religious protest (Open Democracy)