Great Law of the Iroquois

Our planet is in crisis. After decades of denial financed by the fossil fuel industry and their political lackeys, there are no reputable sources left to argue that climate change is not real. The primary contributors are fossil fuels and destruction of the rain forest that absorbs carbon.

Scientists have set a goal of returning to 350 ppm (which is parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere). This is considered the maximum level that the atmosphere can absorb before triggering dramatic changes to our climate. Currently we are at a level of 400 ppm which is leading to the warming of our planet.

400 ppm of carbon dioxide has led to a dramatic melting of glaciers and the resulting rising of sea levels. As the planet heats up more areas breed mosquitos resulting in a world-wide increase in malaria and dengue fever. The poorest countries with the fewest resources to deal with the consequences are affected the most.

Currently world leaders have gathered in Paris to seek changes to decrease the level of carbon dioxide emissions. Most expect modest improvements. What is needed however is massive change for the sake of the planet.

Where then do we turn for wisdom and hope?

The Iroquois Nation live in the northeastern portion of Canada and the United States. The Iroquois rely upon what they call the Great Law of the Iroquois. The Great Law says: “In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation… even if it requires having skin as thick as the bark of a pine.”

Imagine. Before a decision is made one must first ask: ‘How will this decision affect my neighbor seven generations in the future?’ In a world that rewards corporations and political leaders to bring about immediate financial and political returns, the wisdom of the Iroquois is profoundly counter-cultural. Yet it is this focus on financial gain and political expediency that has led to the violation of our planet.

As a result our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will inherit a planet that has been dramatically degraded. The quality of life of unborn millions will be adversely affected by this current generation’s greed and lack of will. Those of us in the developed west will be able to mitigate the affects of climate change more than our poor neighbors (particularly in South American and Africa) but in time all will suffer.

Do we give in to despair? No! That is a luxury that none of us can afford. What can we do? Get involved. Work in solidarity with others who continue to be inspired by the Great Law of the Iroquois. Go to 350.org and get involved with your local chapter. Demand that your city, elected officials and community of faith take a stand.

Iroquois Elder

It took decades of greed to get to where we are. It will take decades of concerted effort to begin cooling our planet.

The seventh generation yet born is hoping that you and I will do the right thing. Hope for the future rests with persistent efforts by every day people like you and me. Theologian Jim Wallis puts it this way: “In the midst of overwhelming need, we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” Hope is found in people of good will not giving up but working together for the common good. Let the healing begin.

Hangin with the Dalai Lama

A few weeks back I gathered with 11,000 of my closest friends to see and hear the Dalai Lama.   His Holiness the Dalai Lama is not only the spiritual head of Tibetan Buddhism but also a spiritual leader for people of many faiths and no faith tradition in particular.  He projects a sense of centeredness that grows from a life of being intentionally rooted in that which is eternal….that which is good and true.

The Dalai Lama was the keynote speaker for a conference that focused on climate change. During a Q and A time a person asked:  “Given that humanity has recently reached a carbon output of 400 parts per million (ppm) and given that 350 ppm is considered the maximum level before escalating global warming is unleashed, how can we have hope for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren?  How can we not give in to despair?”

The crowd waited expectantly for his answer but the Dalai Lama was distracted.  It seems a girl to the side of the stage, perhaps 5 years old and sitting on her Dad’s shoulders was having a hard time.  Clearly something was bothering her.Dalai Lama and child

As 11,000 of us waited, the Dalai Lama walked over to the girl and whispered in her ear.  She then whispered back a response.  His Holiness then walked across the stage to a bag that lay by his chair.  He rummaged through the bag for sometime and then slowly walked back to the girl.  Once again he whispered in her ear and placed in her hand a small item he had taken from the bag.

She smiled and skipped off the stage.   Then and only then, did the Dalai Lama turn to the question from the audience.  For me the answer was already given.  Hope is found in the smallest act of compassion, in this case on behalf of a little girl.  It is through compassion that we bless others.  It starts with the need that is right in front of us. 

Translate such small acts of compassion to the needs of our home planet.  Consider what happens when compassion gives way to acts of advocacy on behalf of our natural world.  Is it not a compassionate act to work for minimizing and in the long run even rolling back the level of carbon being emitted into our environment?  Knowing climate change has the greatest impact on those least able to cope, is it not an act of compassion to work within our political and economic systems to bring about change?

Having tipped over the 400 ppm level where do we turn for hope?  The answer the Dalai Lama reminds us in the every day acts of compassion.  In closing His Holiness blessed us and sent us forth to bless others.  For the sake of this planet we call home, may it be so.