Eco Crisis

I am fascinated by titles.  Book titles and titles for articles play a significant role.  They are revelations of what the reader might find if they were to read the book or article.  Sometimes I find titles are quite accurate.  They deliver what they promised.  Other times, I feel like titles are misleading.  They could be a kind of marketing---luring the reader to buy the book, but inside the book I find disappointing material.  Coming up with titles for my own books and articles is not easy.  Perhaps that is why I appreciate titles so much.
   
Recently, I saw a title that linked the eco crisis to an ego crisis.  I thought that was brilliant!  Immediately, I was drawn to read the text.  I assumed, correctly, that the phrase, eco crisis, referred to what more normally is discussed as the global warming problem.  I know there have been many debates about the reality of the climate challenge ahead of us this century.  I admit that I am persuaded by the scientists who point to the evidence that the average temperature of our planet is warming and that it may well cause precipitous problems. 
   
Humans are primarily to blame, it seems certain.  The use of fossil fuels and other human activity has had deleterious effects on our climate.  Because climate change on a global scale happens slowly, it does not seem to be real.  But the problem with this perspective is that once the bad news hits, it will continue to get worse and our options will be limited.  It will not be in my lifetime, but that is not a wild card for me to ignore the issue.  All I need to do is think of my grandkids and know they are sitting ducks for inevitable problems.
   
So we have an eco crisis.  The world is in trouble---but on a sunny day it does not seem like it is true.  Apparently, we know the culprit; it is you, I and the rest of humankind.  And the reason we have blown it is an age-old problem: our own greed.  Of course, greed is usually grounded in some kind of legitimate need.  For example, we need food, but we do not need so much food that we get obese.  We need energy for electricity, etc.  But have we misused nature in order to generate the energy?
   
As I read the article, the author helps me see that the human needs that become human greed is a manifestation of our ego---the “I” or “me” approach that drives so many of us beyond the legitimate need we each have.  Because we all do it, it seems perfectly normal.  And that is the problem.  Let’s trace some of the key points in the article that perhaps helps us see how we can become healers in our world.
   
The article talks about the action of Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, who is President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.  Annually, he writes to the Buddhists around the world.  In the latest epistle, he addresses the climate change problem.  He recognizes "a shared understanding that at the center of the eco-crisis is, in fact, an ego-crisis, expressed by human greed, anxiety, arrogance and ignorance," the cardinal said in a message marking the Buddhist celebration of Vesakh, the Buddhist feast celebrating the birth, enlightenment and death of the one called Buddha. 
   
The way forward, he claims, necessitates a “profound interior conversion.”  When he uses this kind of language, he makes it a spiritual issue.  I agree with this assessment.  An interior conversion is the way out of the ego crisis.  The ego crisis is an unhealthy focus on me and my desires.  An unhealthy focus on ego usually means I take it---the ego---to extremes.  I move from need to greed.  My needs are satisfied when I have enough.  When I go beyond enough, I enter the land of greed.  Taken far enough, this becomes a crisis.  This has happened with the climate.
   
Tauran says, "the crisis of climate change is contributed to by human activity, we, Christians and Buddhists, must work together to confront it with an ecological spirituality."  I am attracted to the idea of an ecological spirituality.  This is a spirituality that puts God and the world at the center and not ourselves.  If we can do this, then we cannot become egocentric---the ego at the center.  Of course, this is hard to do.  Of course, it does not feel normal. 
   
The inner conversion is the process by which you and I---all of us---begin to learn to live an eco-centered life.  This won’t seem normal at first.  It probably won’t feel easy.  And it is going to be a little disconcerting when others may have no interest in becoming less egocentric.  But some spiritual leadership will be called for.  We will need those early spiritual pioneers to step up and step out. 
   
My own way of trying to do this is to live more simply.  To choose to live a simple life does not mean we go without.  It does not mean we have to do away with ego---that would be impossible.  But we don’t have to have our ego at the center.  From a spiritual perspective, it is not normal to have our ego at the center.  When we do this, we participate in the actions that lead to the eco crisis. 

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