3 Questions to Consider When Contemplating Our Relationship to the Natural World

Some say we human beings are the custodians of this planet Earth. Many ancient traditions, both Asian and European, have held the view that the role of the leader includes harmonizing human life with the rest of the natural world. In ancient China, for example, the emperor could be held accountable for famine, plague, blight and other natural disasters. The leader’s role was to harmonize or join together “heaven”, a vast or higher vision, with “earth”, a grounded, everyday reality.

Of course, to some of us, the assertion that we can influence the course of nature through our actions might appear to be the ultimate hubris of the human race. But in the Buddhist view, and in sync with modern physics, science and, of course, environmental theory — the interdependence of all phenomena is considered to be a fact — not only in our environment but including our minds, emotions, society, politics, not to mention the full range of our actions with their inevitable consequences.

If we take a look, it becomes obvious that we live as part of a greater network, and that it is all interconnected and interactive — this is hard to deny no matter what personal philosophical or religious view we might hold. By studying even a small eco-system, it is possible to see the effect of every individual action on the whole.

You can see on YouTube— http://tinyurl.com/bjo64c — a story about a floating island of plastic refuse that is twice the size of Texas. If we wonder how it got there and feel no connection to that situation, we are unarguably asleep at the wheel as far as understanding its cause and effect. If we consider our environment and eco-sphere, at every level, from our individual bedroom, household, neighborhood, town, city, state, nation, continent, world, solar system, and the universe, we can and will develop a different outlook on how to be mindful and care for the whole situation.

This mindfulness falls into the category of what we used to call, back in the day, consciousness raising. Consciousness-raising has been and still is, one of the primary roles of media. The other, of course, is entertainment — but maybe we have overlapped these two functions a bit too much in our modern world.

The term “disaster porn” seems to have emerged from the recent natural and man-made catastrophes. Watching the powerful effect, in awe and amazement, of the recent earthquakes, hurricanes and fires look shockingly similar to various Hollywood disaster movies we have all seen. Possibly the effect is numbing to the actual reality of these situations.

Even though it can be overwhelming, it is important to still pay attention and work to prepare for and avert these kinds of catastrophes.

Here is a brief framework to consider when contemplating these issues:

-What can we personally do in our daily existence to minimize the causes and conditions for such horrific circumstances to arise?

-How can we prepare and react effectively and compassionately when disasters do happen?

-How can we use the whole picture to actively stimulate contemplation of our relationship to our natural world, at the individual, group, regional, national and global level?