The Dalai Lama Sounds the Alarms for Sustainability

Natalie Pace

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There are certain occasions, which lift off from the gravity of the moment and become a time stamp for the centuries. Amidst the fun, the celebration, the singing and the gifts present at the 80th birthday of His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet (which I was fortunate enough to be present for at University of California, Irvine on July 6, 2016) there was a loud and clear call to action on behalf of our planet and humanity. The speakers were united in the message that if the wisdom of our treasured peacemaker is not embodied and enacted now, if we do not collectively shift our focus to reversing the effects of climate change, the consequences could be dire and irreversible. See below for quotes of their collective wisdom, research and experience and the call to action for each of us.

1. "Drastic climate change is not going to happen 100 years from now, or 200 years from now. We're talking 30 years from now. This change within 30 years will be so large that it will be felt by everyone. If you wait for that to show up and to have universal acceptance of climate change, we won't be able to protect a large fraction of humanity." Professor Veerabhadran Ramanathan (who was part of the scientific team who worked with Pope Francis on his Climate Encyclical).

2. "Nations take interest in their own nation first and then global interest," the Dalai Lama told everyone in attendance. "They should take global interest first, and then national interest. Serving humanity means that each nation gets the maximum benefit. We have to look at this holistically," His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet.

3. "Most climate scientists agree the main cause of the current global warming trend is human expansion of the "greenhouse effect" - warming that results when the atmosphere traps heat radiating from Earth toward space." NASA

NASA Scientific-Consensus

4. "We have to make choices to become active people in our own destiny and the destiny of the world. You can be part of change. It is not magic. It is not something that only people with Nobel Prizes can do or His Holiness does. We have the power to make decisions about what we want to be in the world. It doesn't matter what act of good you do. Imagine if everybody had the courage to get up off of their butt and volunteer a couple of hours a month." Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Prize winner

During lunch, I randomly selected a student to discuss climate change. Raphael, who was born in The Philippines, was completely unaware of the gravity of the situation, though he wishes he could have gone to see the Dalai Lama. "I'm not really aware of climate change issues, other than the rising sea levels," Raphael told me. "My classes focus on cultural and economic issues." Raphael made it clear that he wants to get more involved on environmental issues, but he just doesn't feel very knowledgeable about what's going on or how to have an impact. (As a reminder, The Philippine Islands have already experienced one side affect of global warming - an increase in severe weather. In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan killed at least 6,300 people living there.)

Like so many of us, Raphael is hearing a call to action somewhere off in the distance. In fact, each one of us can start here and now with sustainability, even without complete awareness of all of the facts and solutions. If you want to give His Holiness, the Dalai Lama a special and priceless gift for his 80th birthday, begin by sharing the information and wisdom compiled by sustainability leaders in the free Earth Day Gratitude ebook. There you can also sign up to be a part of the change each #SustainableSunday (the 3rd Sunday of each month).

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