As a yoga and meditation teacher since 1973, I am getting many questions about why I’m talking about climate change and civic engagement these days instead of yoga poses and philosophy. To my mind addressing climate and being involved in our collective life is yoga! It’s taking yoga off the mat and into the world, seeing The One in The Many, which is the heart of the non-dual philosophy I’ve studied and taught. This perspective goes to the crux of the crises we are facing: thinking that we are separate beings rather different manifestations of One Spirit. We are in the midst of a tremendous shift in consciousness on the planet ~ from the love of power to the power of love. As Martin Luther King, Jr. says it so eloquently,
“It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality.”
I have loved yoga, and taught classes, workshops, and trainings for decades, and am now expanding to speak about one of the most urgent and serious issues of our time: climate change and how close we are to irreversible tipping points. I fully believe that yoga practitioners and all spiritual practitioners have immense gifts to offer this unfolding emergency: to honor the Earth, to show compassion for all creatures, especially those weakened by climate stress, and to be courageous in living the deep values of our One Humanity.
So, that said, here’s the latest on climate science …
A recently published study states that the world must set greenhouse gas emissions on a downward path by 2020, or risk not being able to contain the temperature rise within what is considered the safe limits of 1.5-2.0 degrees Celsius, according to the Paris Agreement.
To get a clearer idea of how much warming we’re talking about, convert the temperature in Celsius to Fahrenheit by multiplying the Celsius temperature by 1.8. So that 1.5-2.0 C becomes 2.7-3.6 F. That’s quite a bit warmer that many people may have realized.
One helpful way to get a handle on our climate situation is to consider our ‘carbon budget’, as reported in the Nature article noted above:
"The magnitude of the challenge can be grasped by computing a budget for CO2 emissions – the maximum amount of the gas that can be released before the temperature limit is breached. After subtracting past emissions, humanity is left with a ‘carbon credit’ of around 600 Gigatons (Gt)."
- Clearly we cannot continue to burn fossil fuels at the current rate until we spend the 600 Gt budget and then stop on a dime. We must begin as soon as possible to lower our global carbon footprint in order to reach net zero emissions when our budget runs out. See the graph below:
Clearly we are in a climate emergency of mammoth proportions and this should be an "all hands on deck" moment,
… but it isn’t.
This could be a time when the entire country comes together to address an enormous problem, that left unattended will ruin the lives of your children and grandchildren (and my niece and nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews and my new grandnephew born less than a week ago),
… but it isn’t.
Many scientists and researchers point out that we have the tools and the technology to shift from fossil fuels to renewables in time to avoid the worst damage of climate change. Mark Jacobson at Stanford University has a detailed plan for our country to get to net zero emissions that we could be following,
… be we aren’t.
This could be a moment that the entire country goes on high alert to address a major risk to the continuation of our civilization as we know it,
… but it isn’t.
It’s clear that waiting for the government to act will be too late, working alone will be too little, and the media has failed us by not reporting on the severity of the climate story.
Why aren’t we on high alert to this climate emergency?
- Lack of political will. Extreme amounts of money are given to members of Congress to ensure their favorable vote, from corporations like the Koch Brothers, Exxon Mobil, Shell Oil, BP, and the auto industry, among many others. They are pros at climate denial.
- This "influences" mainstream media, including CNN, CBS, NCB, ABC, the New York Times, and The Washington Post, etc. in what stories they will cover, because of the advertising dollars at risk if they cover stories negatively affecting their advertisers.
- Check here for independently owned media that do not have the biases of corporate media.
So, it is up to each of us to get engaged in protecting Earth and our future! What can you, as one single person, do to make a difference? Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Align your actions with your values and lower your carbon footprint. The U.S. uses the equivalent of 5 earths each year, so we all have room to improve! We can simplify and de-clutter our lives and in the process lower our footprint. Compute how many earths you use each year with this Ecological Footprint Calculator. It’s fun, informative and also humbling! However, it’s easy to start with the low-hanging fruit, whatever is easiest to change.
- Educate yourself on climate change. Here’s a 13-minute series of 3 videos to bring you up to date:
Surprisingly one important thing you can do is to talk about climate change!! Talk with friends, neighbors, family, store clerks, everyone! Share the videos above! Forward this email to friends and family.
- Research shows that 70% of people now believe climate change is happening and think that the government should do something about it! However, most people do not hear anyone talking about climate change in a given month. Talk about it! Speak up!! Let’s each do our part to bring the collective awareness of our impending climate catastrophe to the level of the national emergency that it is!Individual actions are important but are not enough! We must work together in groups.
Especially note The Climate Mobilization, which along with many climate scientists, is calling for a WWII-scale mobilization that restores a safe climate by reaching net zero emissions within a decade.
- "The climate crisis is causing immense human suffering and damage to the natural world. It threatens to destroy civilization and kill billions of people. Overcoming the climate emergency is the great moral imperative of our time."
See their Blueprint for a Climate Emergency.
- Increase your civic engagement! Call your MOC’s (Members of Congress) regularly. Let them know your opinions. Repeat!
- Join Daily Action and get a single action to do daily that focuses your civic activity!
One recent report said there were hundreds of thousands of calls to Congress demanding health care, and thousands attending town hall meetings (I was one of them!) Joining together in civic engagement made the difference! …and the healthcare repeal was stopped.
Finally don’t forget to take care of your most important asset: YOU!
- Take good care of yourself. Many people are feeling overwhelmed, depressed, sad, angry, and/or grief over what has happened and is happening to our Earth. Accept your feelings. Sit and experience them. Journal or talk with a friend. Get help if you need it. Get moving, breathing, eating well, resting, & sleeping well. Don’t forget to play and have fun!
Hold the most expansive perspective you can … This is about a deep shift in consciousness, from seeing ourselves as separate individuals to being an integral part of the Web of Life, embracing our One Humanity.
"It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good… We are needed, that is all we can know".You were made for these times! You would not be here otherwise…
With love & appreciation for our Earth and all her inhabitants,