December 29, 2016

Religion, morals, ethics, the Gaia hypothesis and being green.

There are many who believe that ‘green’ is a religion. Others even add it to the list of stringent ethical mores by which they live, ‘non-green’ behaviour taking on the gravity of a sin. It can be a serious business.
I have never forgotten a discussion I had with a local Buddhist monk in Chiang Mai, Thailand, at a ‘Living with HIV/AIDS’ conference which we were filming.

I expressed surprised that he was there. ‘Surely,’ I said, ‘there is no HIV in the Buddhist way of life? Isn’t it forbidden for monks to indulge in sexual activity or drug use?’ He then informed me that there was at least one temple in Thailand in which every monk is HIV positive, that monks are not saints but that the HIV positive monks are not sinners.

He then made a key statement: that every aspect of life is a mirror of nature – there is rational, non-rational, destructive and constructive, opposites and contradictions in every aspect of humanity. That we should look at the human body as a miniature version of a larger world or universe in which there are aspects feuding. He said that community is an amplification of this and the world a still greater one. I thought that was deeper by far than anything that has to date been said publicly by the Dalai Llama or the Pope.

It fits well with the Gaia theory of James Lovelock, (the earth feedback hypothesis) – a belief in its simplest form that the world is an entity on which crawl and exist a range of parasites: humans and all life forms. The name of the theory was proposed by William Golding, writer of ‘Lord of the Flies’. In other words, the world is one single organism (a body) and we, the parasites can support it or threaten it. This,of course, is very 1960s-70s in its science, and I wonder whether the theory stands up today. A pretty good summation of Lovelock’s theory can be found here:  www.gaiatheory.org

In the light of Iceland’s volcanic eruptions, and the understanding that volcanic activity is the only natural significant and impactful source of carbon dioxide (kind of like the bad breath of the earth) and carbon removal is through precipitation of carbonate rocks, we perhaps should be examining the volcanoes with care to see how nature handles this sudden excess.

The Gaia theory is intriguing and there is a lot of logic, albeit in a hippie way, in its laying out of data. Unfortunately, many devotees did smoke a lot of weed and wear flowers just a bit too much and this had a negative effect on credibility. People either clung to it or discredited it very fast at the time, just like a religion. Passions were aroused. It WAS, in fact, unrolling just like many ‘religions’ including Christianity, Scientology and other belief systems that hook masses in and rile many others.

However, it did start me thinking that ‘religion’, no matter what the brand, because ultimately they are all about organizing and regulating society, could be USED by the green movement in order to scare people into taking more care. ‘Love thy neighbour’ is a good beginning because if we do this, no way are we going to make life uncomfortable for that person! Existentialism is a useful set of rules: ‘you are what you do’ being the pared down version. Smoke, drop a paper in the street, spit gum, use throwaway plastic water bottles, waste stuff, use carbon to excess, leave the hose running or have a thirty minute shower – you are a profligate! The prodigal son (called ‘prodigal’ not because he went away and came back as some believe, but because the word means ‘wasteful’) returned home and turned over a new leaf.

Maybe these stories and fables, told to us by the principals of the main religion in the world, can be used, selectively, to give the green movement the gravity required to be a religion!

Let’s start with a list of sins…

Aaahhh…garbage. Thou shalt not throw it in the street. Thou shalt recycle. And so it goes! But I wonder whether the world is running out of time for people to be ‘prodigal’. We need to live religiously green NOW.

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  1. […] There are many who believe that ‘green’ is a religion. Others even add it to the list of stringent ethical mores by which they live, ‘non-green’ behaviour taking on the gravity of a sin. It can be a serious business. I have never forgotten a discussion I had with a local Buddhist monk […] My Green Australia […]