"The Tibetan Buddhist attitude
is one of contentment, and there may be some connection here with our
attitude toward the environment. We don't indiscriminately consume. We put
a limit on our consumption. We admire simple living and individual
"But everything has its limit.
Too much consumption or effort to make money is no good. Neither is
too much contentment.
"In principle, contentment is a
goal, but pure contentment becomes almost like suicide, doesn't it?
I think the Tibetans had, in certain fields, too much contentment.
And we lost our country. These days we cannot afford too much
contentment about the environment.
"Peace and survival of life on
earth as we know it are threatened by human activities that lack a
commitment to humanitarian values. Destruction of nature and natural
resources results from ignorance, greed, and lack of respect for the
earth's living things. This lack of respect extends even to the earth's
human descendants, the future generations who will inherit a vastly
degraded planet if world peace does not become a reality and if
destruction of the natural environment continues at the present rate
"Our ancestors viewed the earth
as rich and bountiful, which it is. Many people in the past also saw
nature as inexhaustibly sustainable, which we now know is the case only if
we care for it. It is not difficult to forgive destruction in the past
that resulted from ignorance. Today, however, we have access to more
information. It is essential that we reexamine ethically what we have
inherited, what we are responsible for, and what we will pass on to coming
"Clearly this is a pivotal
generation. Global communication is possible, yet confrontations
take place more often than meaningful dialogues for peace. Our
marvels of science and technology are matched, if not outweighed, by many
current tragedies, including human starvation in some parts of the world
and extinction of other life-forms. Exploration of outer space takes
place at the same time the earth's own oceans, seas, and freshwater areas
grow increasingly polluted, and their life-forms are still largely unknown
"Many of the earth's habitats,
animals, plants, insects, and even microorganisms that we know as rare may
not be known at all by future generations. We have the capability
and the responsibility. We must act before it is too late."
- Tenzin Gyatso
Dalai Lama of Tibet
Condensed from his address
Universal Responsibility and the Environment.
Photograph: A view of Lhasa, with
Buddhist pilgrims making a burnt offering in front of the Potala Palace.
Photo by J. Unrau.