Forum on Ethics and the Environment

March 1, 2016

7.45-9.00pm, Tuesdays on February 2, 9, 16, 23 and March 1
DRBU Conference Room

In this forum series, we will first learn about the present situation around climate change and biodiversity loss–two great issues facing the Earth and its inhabitants–by drawing on recent science. We will then turn towards spiritual roots and solutions for these ecological crises. 'Spiritual' here refers primarily to the workings and manifestations of the human mind: from each individual and out into the world. Our premise is that exploring this area could yield novel and powerful new approaches in tackling these issues. Finally, we will look at relevant current and future initiatives at CTTB.


Feb 2‚Äč: Climate Change: A Planet-Scale Issue
Climate change, also known as global warming, is an unfolding ecological crisis that will likely be one of humanity’s greatest challenges in the 21st century. As its effects ripple out through physical systems and into the lives of plants, animals and humans, they will be felt by many throughout the world. The forum series begins with a talk by Dr. Jennifer Riddell, a plant biologist, who will draw on current science to provide an overview of this issue.

Speaker: Dr. Jennifer Riddell
Host: Meghan Sweet

Feb 9: Mass Extinction: The State of Sentient Life on Earth
Science has shown that we are in a period of human-induced mass extinction. The current rate of species extinctions is estimated at between 100 to 1,000 times greater than prehuman levels, and moving towards a rate 10,000 times greater [1]. From 1970-2010, Earth’s wild vertebrate population declined by over 50 percent [2]. Beneath these numbers lies the suffering experienced by numerous living beings as they struggle against forces such as climate change, habitat loss, overexploitation, and others. We will explore this issue in a discussion with Dr. Adina Merenlender, a conservation biologist and founder of the UC California Naturalist Program.

[1] Chivian and Bernstein. Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity. Oxford UP, 2008. pp. 18.
[2] WWF Living Planet Report 2014.

Speaker: Dr. Adina Merenlender
Host: Yuen-Lin Tan

Feb 16: Environmental Inspiration from the Great Books: Approaching Modern Issues with Wisdom from the Classics
This panel consists of students from various educational programs at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. They will each bring a passage from a spiritual classic that inspires environmental awareness, elucidates the causes of environmental problems, and/or points to solutions to the issues. Together we will explore the insights from these ancient sources of wisdom to see how they apply to our current-day challenges.

Panelists: TBA
Hosts: Fedde De Vries, Thao Phi

Feb 23: Wisdom of the Heart for Problems in the World: Contemplating the Spiritual Causes of the Environmental Crisis
This panel will probe further into the causes of the environmental crisis. Various speakers, mainly faculty from Dharma Realm Buddhist University, will apply a Buddhist lense to the problems we face. Going underneath the surface of the environmental crisis, this panel will reflect on the question of what philosophical and spiritual orientations have created it. How did mankind come to lose touch with nature? How is it that we fail to take into account the lives of those we don’t see or are not of our species? And, just as important, what tools do Buddhist and other spiritual traditions offer us that can help us overcome environmental challenges.

Confirmed speakers: Dharma Master Heng Yin; Martin Verhoeven; Doug Powers
Host: Ron Epstein

March 1: Environmentally Engaged Spiritual Action: Making a Difference in Our Lives, Community, and the World
In our last evening we will focus on the positive actions we can take in our lives and our community. The session will open with a presentation by Dharma Master Jin Rou. She will share current and upcoming projects at CTTB to protect the environment. The presentation will be followed by a panel that will share projects surrounding wildlife, recycling, fire-safety and landscaping.
Hosts: Jin Rou Shr, Fedde De Vries, Angela Morelli