Chakra Living

Devotees Respond to Climate Change

by Niscala dasi

Posted March 20, 2007

Since the debut of Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth the urgency of the state of the environment has moved up in collective public consciousness. The prospect of the world's major cities becoming the future ocean bed, and of severe natural disasters becoming a regular occurrence --along with unanimous consensus among the scientific community that this is certainty, not merely a probability -- altogether have made the issue vital when we consider the future of our kids.

"Okay," I hear you say, "there are numerous forums about the environment. Go post your article there. This one is about Krsna consciousness."

Actually, the two are inextricable. Krsna consciousness is not an otherworldly religion; the spiritual world is less a location than a state of consciousness. To focus on this world and its plight is to care for what belongs to the Lord, and the Lord Himself is ever-present in His innumerable energies, which include the fine ecological balance He invested within this planet. To worship Him but to neglect or abuse His property smacks of a criminal mentality, not a loving one. Imagine the servant who spends all his days glorifying the master, but never lifts a finger to clean the accumulating mess he makes in the master's house. Whenever we use electricity or petrol-driven vehicles, we are contributing to the mess in Krsna's house. The least we can do is clean it up.

That is where carbon credits come in. One who brings a dog into a public place must clean up his droppings. Either don't have a dog, or clean up his droppings. Similarly, either don't use technology or, if you do, clean up the equivalent of its "droppings": carbon emissions. Then you are carbon-neutral. To be a good servant, however, one had best actually clean more of the house than just one's own mess. That is to become carbon-negative. How could this not please the Lord? Conversely, without doing so, how could one expect to please Him?

The website www.climatecrisis.net is chockers-full of advice how to do it. Interestingly, if we were to follow our Founder Acarya's directions, we would be cleaning up the planet in a major way. He recommended much the same as this site: growing our own food locally, growing it organically, using alternatives to technology, avoiding artificially created necessities and esteeming the value of and protecting trees. His suggestions were seldom taken very seriously by his followers, perhaps because being environmentally friendly is not much written about in sastra, or perhaps because they felt it was like returning to the so-called "dark ages" before humanity learnt to rely on fossil fuels.

The reason for the sastric omission is obvious -- they were written long before the advent of technology. However, the essence is always preserved there: that the Lord and His energy are one. It's just applied differently according to time, place and circumstance, by those who represent the Lord and His teachings -- the acaryas. People have never abused the Lord's energy on the scale they do today. Thus, Srila Prabhupada chose to stress not just the nine processes of bhakti, but the need for returning to a "more simple way of life" andavoiding technology. He also many times mentioned that his time was limited, and he would not have been inclined to waste any time stressing an irrelevant principle.

How can one do it if one does not immediately have the means to return to a more simple way of life? There are many ways to reduce carbon emissions and become neutral, even living in a city. The details are on the website, but to become carbon-negative and actually clean up Krsna's house, we should redirect our farms towards self-sufficiency, allowing anyone who can contribute towards that end -- even so-called karmis -- to come and help. Srila Prabhupada predicted that in the future people will be flocking to our farms to learn a more simple way of life. That day is with us, but our farms are not ready. We are enmeshed in sectarian duality -- us and them. Until we realize that everyone -- not just the Hare Krsnas -- is Krsna's servant, and that the desire to be environmentally friendly is the desire to be Krsna-friendly, we will stay small, with our farms underpopulated and struggling just to survive.

We need to re-examine Srila Prabhupada's directions on self-sufficiency and, as much as possible, to follow them. They are our "dire-ections" out of a dire and bleak future on this planet, as well as a positive means to please the Lord. The direction to be self-sufficient is not less important than any other; we have just interpreted it that way, maybe because it is such a foreign concept to us. However, maybe it is the way we were intended to live in this world. How much stress is placed on the individual and on the family unit in the pressure to survive consumerism? We may indeed find it is far preferable and less stressful to make a radical change. Others have taken the plunge, and say it is so. Will we also find the courage to do it?