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Daily Connect: Taking the Long View


The Ecuadorian rainforest contains massive oil reserves which are worth at least $7 billion, but Ecuadorians would prefer to preserve their land and environment for future generations rather than have it destroyed by a multinational industry.    So the country of Ecuador has offered to protect 4,000 square miles of its rainforest for only $3.5 billion dollars.


Ecuador made this offer to the entire world several years ago but so far has only been offered a fraction of  its value;  Chile $100,000, Spain $1.4 million, and Germany initially offered $50 million but later rescinded their offer.  Unfortunately, Ecuador can't wait much longer, as it is a very poor country and they need to exploit their natural resources soon in order to bring jobs and money to their people.  Their president announced that they will need at least $100 million in contributions by the end of the year or drilling will begin.  

If they find a buyer, it seems like a win for everyone:  the Ecuadorian people will keep the money paid for the rainforest in their country, as well as any revenues the rainforest may generate for them in tourism; all beings on the earth will benefit from the rainforest's ability to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and help prevent global weather changes, and its diverse and multitudinous flora and fauna will be saved from annihilation.   It appears to be the best long-term solution from which we will all benefit.  So why don't we do it?  Why do we keep destroying our own backyard?
For some time, our society has been sacrificing long-term stability for short-term gains.  Though this can be seen in many aspects of our culture,  (financial marketsmental health treatment, education), no where is it so obvious as it is in the environment.   The New York Post recently lambasted the Attorney General of New York for opposing fracking, a method of gas drilling which contaminates drinking water, and President Obama abandoned his promise to cap carbon emissions to a level that scientists say is necessary to curb global warming.  
The global Buddhist community has specifically addressed this problem in the Buddhist Declaration on Climate Change, citing humanity's unwillingness "to put the long-term good of humankind above the short-term benefit of fossil-fuel corporations", and the Karmapa said that “we humans have already done such immense damage to the environment that it is almost beyond our power to heal it.”  Ethan Nichtern often asks his students to consider the outcome of their actions five years from now, 10 years from now, and 50 or 100 years from now. Of course it's not only Buddhists who understand the importance of taking the long view; the National Science Foundation urges it, and  in a recent interviewJane Goodall, the great primatologist and conservationist, wonders how such an intelligent life form as humanity has not understood this: 
Think of what we’ve done. Think of our technology. We’ve gone to the moon. We’ve got little robots running around Mars. I mean, it’s extraordinary what we’ve done. So how come this most intellectual being, as far as we know, to ever have walked on this planet is destroying its only home? I think E.O. Wilson was the first to say that if everybody on the planet had the same standard of living as us, then we would need three new planets. Some people say four or five to supply sufficient nonrenewable natural resources. But we don’t even have one new one; we’ve got this one. So do you think we’ve lost something called wisdom? We are not asking: “How does the decision we make today affect our people generations ahead?” Is there a disconnect between this incredibly clever brain and the human heart?
So long as we feel separate from each other and lose sight of the fact that we are interdependent, we will continue to act against our own self-interest in impulsive and short-sighted ways in our bungled attempts to alleviate our suffering through consumption and greed.   Ponlop Rinpoche chuckled perplexedly last month when he noted that our western culture places such emphasis on "independence" - yet the only people he could see in the U.S. who might plausibly be considered independent are farmers!   We exist together in a mutually interdependent web of cause and effect which we are denying at our peril.   Learning mindfulness and compassion can open our hearts and help us re-connect them to our "clever brains".  
Ecuador's sale is not unprecedented;  recently Norway paid $1 billion to protect Indonesian rainforestsI don't have $3.5 billion dollars right now, but I know someone who does; Apple announced in April that they have over $65 billion dollars of cash reserves.   What better way to promote their new iCloud than saving a rainforest? 
Peace to Everyone Everywhere!
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Great Artcile Here Kim.  I can't believe the way the NY Post frames the environmental debate.

It's good to know that there is some momentum being built to acknowledge the value that unharvested natural resources have for EVERYONE, and not just the companies who might want to cut them down one day.

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