Thich Nhat Hanh and David Suzuki on How Individual Frame of Mind Has Everything To Do With Saving the Planet

Getting people to believe that they really can make a difference in the struggle to the save the planet from human folly can be just as important as encouraging them to take action, according to one of the world’s leading Buddhist scholars.

In Vancouver for a week of teaching and lectures, Buddhist monk, poet, peace and human rights activist, Thich Nhat Hanh, sat down with David Suzuki and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson for an hour-long conversation on what it’s going to take to bring about the change in human behavior that is needed to put the world on a path that will ensure a healthy planet for future generations.

Faced with the question “What gives you hope that we can bring about the collective awakening needed to restore health to the planet? the three discussed a range of issues and ideas centred on actions that can make a real difference.

Their conversation, based on the premise that it is well known that humans are harming the earth, destroying its ecosystems and disrupting the climate, focused on the path forward to a more sustainable way of living.

Thich Nhat Hanh warned against the danger of people becoming overwhelmed by a feeling that the challenges are too big to overcome and therefore doing nothing to address them. Individuals need to know that they can make a difference if they remain hopeful and develop their inner strength.

Two short segments from the conversation are available here.

The conversation was structured around the following questions:

1.      I would like your reaction to this economic advice a Lehman Brothers banker, named Paul Mazer, gave American business in 1930 when the age of consumerism was beginning: “People need to be trained to desire, to want new things even before the old have been entirely consumed…..Man’s desires must overshadow his needs.”

2.      What gives you hope that we can bring about the collective awakening needed to restore health to the planet? Most of us know we are harming the earth, destroying its ecosystems and disrupting the climate. But we act as if it is not happening. How do we bring about the change in human behavior that is needed to put us on a path that will ensure a healthy planet for our children and grandchildren?

3.      Oil industry groups over the past few decades have financed misinformation campaigns to cast doubt on climate science. Today 45 per cent of Americans mistakenly believe there is disagreement among climate scientists that global warming is even happening, this number is up 12 per cent since 2008. The number of climate scientists saying Climate Change isn’t happening is actually closer to zero. It seems to be very easy to pull the wool over the eyes of the public, why are we so gullible? What do you think we can we do to change from deniers of the environmental problems we face to responsible stewards of the environment?

4.       What responsibility does government have for solving these problems? How do we motivate government to do the right thing?

5.      Social science research in Canada and the US shows that public mistrust is at an all-time high. People believe Government and business say one thing and do another. They don’t trust Government; they don’t trust business and wonder about each other. This is particularly true when it comes to the environment. This mistrust has led to a kind of social paralysis where people believe their own actions won’t make a difference. How do we overcome this mistrust?

David Suzuki & Thich Nhat Hanh: Despair


I used to watch Suzuki many years ago but at some point he bacame a green holy man. The man is bigger than the message.

If he wants to reach the non liberal, pigment challenged individuals of the non female persuasion, he might consider shaving off all that scruff and invest in a comb.

okay Im just trying to be funny. Im actually interested in how they discuss the subject of general despair, or perhaps fear that the general public has developed. If I could read it I would but am not able to play a video now. later on I guess.

If they can look at a world of 7 Billion divided by nationalism and religion, greed, poverty, hatred and violence and come out of that with optimism that we are going to collectively sing Kum bye ya - well - medications may be involved.

Watch this video of Suzuki and tell me that massive amounts of recreational drugs *weren’t* involved in the formation of his nasty, misanthropic ideas:

Suzuki is a bitter, abrasive fellow:


The planet does not need saving.
That is simply a silly left wing mantra used to rally weak minded individuals to the socialist cause.

What needs saving is our freedom for religious zealots and Dooms day prophasies.

Absolutly right. The planet will be fine , it isn’t going anywhere, we are. Pack your shit folks we are going away. If the environmentalists are right, the only trace we leave will be plastic.

Fify million years or so, and everything will be back to normal. Not long in the lifespan of a planet.

Stolen from George Carlin

Desmog should comment on Rex Murphys latest climate column - take it part. Shoot him down if you can. It’s easily his best climate column yet. Obama does not escape his notice.

Al Gore’s rant is simply an expression of frustration at the incredible ignorance of the basic science of climate change demonstrated by politicians and the media in his country. He is absolutely correct in calling BS on the denier’s claims because they are simply that - BS. Try for an informative and un-threatening discussion of oft repeated misconceptions and misinformation. I doubt that Rex will ever be “out of gas” but in his understanding of Science, he is low on facts and short on logic.

If it’s simply a question of science, then why are they resorting to wooly-headed new-age pseudo-religion, as above?

And speaking of science, what science supports the nebulous idea that humans are “destroying” the planet? What, exactly, would any planet look like in it’s “undestroyed” state? Jupiter is completely uninhabitable for humans – yet it is not “destroyed”, or is it?

How far back would we have to turn back the clock to satisfy crackpots like Suzuki, and his groupies like Hoggan, until we “undestroy” the planet? When we go back to living in trees and caves, subsisting off nuts and berries, naked and throwing rocks at each other? Or maybe when humans are completely wiped out? Will that make the Earth “pristine” enough for them?

These fools aren’t arguing science – they’re arguing aesthetics!

Yeah, the vast majority of scientists worldwide are caught up in
“wooly-headed new-age pseudo-religion”.

Your comments are whats wooly headed.

“”Yeah, the vast majority of scientists worldwide are caught up in
“wooly-headed new-age pseudo-religion”.””

AGW is now a religion. That is clear.
However, suggesting that Scientist around the world are members is as you said “Wooly Headed”.
The bulk of the religion members are regular people who have been misslead and the eco zealots who form such cults all the time anyway.

The Scientists are only guilty of wanting to continue being employed in their fields.
The AGW Gravy Train is the single most lucritive source of easy grants in the history of funded science.
They all have families to feed and employees that need pay checks.

Mix that in with the attitude that they are doing any specific harm, and you have yourself a pseudo concensus.

I sure hope for their sakes that they are making plans for jobs after the trough is closed.

Would those be the same “vast majority of scientists (tm)” who predicted an impending ice-age in the 1970s?

Argumentum ad populum.

Still flogging that dead horse, eh?

Of course, every time you repeat that, what you are really saying is, “I haven’t got the slightest shred of evidence to support my statement, so I will once again repeat an argumentative fallacy.”

It hasn’t worked yet, but maybe if you try it 10,000 more times?

Or, are you in fact claiming that “the vast majority of scientists (tm)” have made the scientific assertions that “human beings are destroying the planet”?

In what scientific journal can we find the experimental evidence to reach that conclusion?

There are many non-scientifically minded people whose response to human impact on climate is similar to religion, as are many whose denial has the same emotionally based motivation (beside the many paid whores of the energy industry).
I have no respect for weak minded decision making. Nevertheless, from an ethical and moral point of view, those who try to change their own behaviour for the benefit of many in ways detrimental to their immediate self interests do get my moral respect, while the truly weak in mind and self-control who try to maintain the status quo out of fear they may have to modify their behaviour and make some short term sacrifices get only my contempt.
On the point that climate science is a gravy train, anyone who understands proportion only needs to compare the financial gain made in the energy industries to the actual money spent on climate science and harm mitigation to see without any doubt which camp is riding what train. The first is a tram while the second is the worlds biggest freight train.
As long as the majority of the worlds population allows apathy to rule their lives and permit the privileged few to exploit them and the natural world which gives a free home and living to all, the human family does not have a long term future in this otherwise very hostile universe.
In fact there is far less time than even the climate change “believers” know. The laws governing our universe have feedback loops and non-linear and exponential changes built into them, and the mother of all non-linear planetary changes is on the horizon.
Both the believers and the deniers better fasten their underwear because it will be soiled soon.


thank you xman.

I think he adequately makes my case for me.
Clearly a religious type zealot preaching end of the world dooom if we don’t all accept his perticular form of socaliasm.

Please read and re-read his comment. I really could not make the case any better.

Plant Food may be in the paid services of energy or political interests, or could be one of the millions of modestly informed human beings on this planet who feel more threatened by loosing money and their illusion of personal freedom than being astute business people who invest in their own future wisely. In business, over-optimism leads to excessive risk taking and disastrous business decisions. The growth of this mentality throughout the 20th Century has partly led to the 2008 banking debt crisis and consequent un-repayable sovereign debt obligations. This crisis will lead, on the long-term, to a complete and unified reorganisation of international finance and governance with far greater consequences to personal freedoms than business and banking regulation would have had. This same principle will also bring far greater loss of freedom to the individual than any precautionary climate-related regulation would ever have.

As for any religiously coloured connections: there is a verse in the Bible which says that “God will destroy those destroying the earth”.

Apologies, for the unedited error: change the order of reference in the gravy train analogy.

How Liberal Westerners Distort Buddhism

In societies which hold the individual as the focus of ideological progress, many people become excited at the idea of becoming “different” or more “original.” Westerners tend to cherish individuality to the point of rebellion, attempting to stand out and draw attention to themselves by their lifestyle, clothing, hairstyles, or adoptive cultural tendencies. In the last few decades, a variety of people – from Christian apostates and atheists, to crypto-Marxists and reform Jews – have been part of an interesting current. Perhaps, in an attempt to reject the “old clothes” of Christendom, they have decided to take on the “new clothes” of Buddhism. In America and Europe, the s0-called “progressives” are attracted by the mere idea that it is a an ultra-permissive religion and the antithesis of Western thought. Those Western individuals find Buddhism “exotic” and are spurred on mostly by the superstitious, secret, and arcane qualities they perceive in this religion.

Such people convert under a spell of delusion, because ultra-permissiveness is not inherently associated with traditional Buddhism, any more that it is associated with Christianity. In this sense, the when progressives attempt to incorporate Buddhism into their lifestyle, they are in reality attempting to hijack Buddhist ideas for themselves and make them fit into their secularist lifestyle.

Much of Buddhism in the West has been combined, in varying degrees, with the New Age movement. The New Age movement has little to do with any of the mainstream branches of traditional Buddhism. As the eminent scholar, A. K. Coomaraswamy once stated, Buddhism today is “most famous today for everything it originally never taught.” In the East, where Buddhism existed under the patronage of the Chinese, Indian, Tibetan, or Japanese cultures, there was a certain regard for tradition, self-cultivation, and a metaphor for the divergence of heroic spirit from the sentiments of modern people. According to these versions of Buddhism, a man can, as Evola describes it, “overcome the state of caducity, restlessness, ‘thirst’ and the forgetfulness typical of ordinary people” by his secession from the visible and material world. In this doctrine, there is a metaphor for the divergence of heroic spirit from the sentiments of modern people.

‘Western’ Buddhism – if there is even such a thing – is the exact opposite of this. In fact, it overtly panders to the sentiments of modernity. Buddhism, as practiced by many people in the West, exists in name only, attracting the most miserable ex-Christian rejects and atheists. It has degenerated into an extremely sick religion inhabited by atheists, agnostics, and at best, pantheists. These people congregate together at ‘dharma-centers’, which are little more than outpatient mental wards for depressed materialists, and engage in idle chatter about attainment of oblivion and the denial of all things spiritual. The crisis of Western Buddhism is therefore characterized only by secularism and its worldly character. This criticism is supported by clear textual evidence (atthakathas), which can not merely be explained away as a matter of diverging interpretations, or even the product of historical evolution. The modern, revisionist, version of Buddhism lends itself to an unspiritual historical exegesis according to the letter. It is an exegesis which virtually ignores a deeper meaning implied in the Nikayas and explained in the commentaries. As an example, Siddhartha said “the six senses and their world are not the soul” (cf. Chachakha Sutta, MN 3). It seems odd, then, that modern Buddhists should say of the Buddha that he taught the rejection of the soul, because this would mean clinging to the six senses. Rather than denial of the soul, the Buddhism does teach one to distinguish the distinguish predicates of the soul from the very soul itself, and thus transcend base instincts.

Western Buddhism is almost entirely modernist. Contrary to what its purveyors might believe, it is not ancient or traditional, and certainly not traditionalist. Western Buddhism has been heavily influenced by the concepts of freethought and secular humanism. It has become a platform for mundane social activists, who incorrectly fancy themselves “experts” on the topic because of their involvement in purchasing all manner of trinkets and implements. The fact is that Western Buddhists largely ignore any aspect of Buddhism which requires self-discipline, as they have distorted the original message of Buddhism into an amoral doctrine in order to mix politics and religion.

If the modern portrayal of Buddhism is representative of the teaching of the Buddha, then it is certainly an ingenious exposition which can prove war to be peace and freedom to be slavery. However, if the premises of this portrayal are flawed, then the modern explanation of Buddhism is certainly not worth studying except as a lesson regarding the famous “principle of degeneration” which was already well-discussed by other Traditionalists like Evola. Traditional Buddhists worldwide need to take back the religion from the modernist heretics, and not allow Buddhism to turn into a rubbish-heap of mystical spiritual suicide and nihilism.

Not really, but it sounds impressive at their cocktail parties.

White liberals will often say they are “spiritual” but not religious. Which usually means that they will believe any religion that doesn’t involve Jesus.

Popular choices include Buddhism, Hinduism, Kabbalah and, to a lesser extent, Scientology. A few even dip into Islam, but it’s much more rare since you have to give stuff up and actually go to Mosque.

Mostly they are into religion that fits really well into their homes or wardrobe and doesn’t require them to do very much.

“Popular choices include Buddhism, Hinduism, Kabbalah and, to a lesser extent, Scientology. A few even dip into Islam, but it’s much more rare since you have to give stuff up and actually go to Mosque.

Mostly they are into religion that fits really well into their homes or wardrobe and doesn’t require them to do very much.”

Like you mates on the other threads?

You guys just goop that stuff up.