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"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 responsibility.

"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 generations.

"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 or misunderstood. 

"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.



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