The Lerab Ling community is the custodian for a small, beautiful piece of land on the remote Larzac plateau in Southern France. As the custodian, it has a responsibility to protect this unique environment, and many steps have been taken in recent years to do just this. But the community, like each and everyone of us, also has a wider responsibility - what His Holiness the Dalai Lama refers to as a 'universal responsibility' - to protect the environment and respond to climate change. His Holiness always emphasises the need for us to develop this kind of responsibility while acting personally for the benefit of all beings and future generations.
Many other Buddhist masters have also emphasized how important it is to become more aware of environmental issues, and to make a real change in our personal and collective behaviour.
The 17th Gyalwang Karmapa said:
We humans have already done such immense damage to the environment that it is almost beyond our power to heal it. The challenge is far more complex and extensive than Buddhists can tackle alone. However, we can take a lead, and to do so we must educate and inform ourselves. This is the time when our pure aspirations and our bodhisattva activity must come together. Good wishes alone are not enough to bring about change. We have to assume active responsibility.
And, as Sogyal Rinpoche said recently: “We urgently need the vision and the courage to overcome our narrow, selfish interests. Our old attitudes and shortsighted ways of treating people and the planet have to change: they have brought us suffering, and they lie at the root of both the economic crisis and the destruction of the environment.”
In September, Rinpoche joined many other Buddhist teachers in signing the Buddhist Declaration on Climate Change, which was presented at the Copenhagen Climate Conference in December 2009. The declaration is a commitment to help reduce the world's 'carbon footprint' so that the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere falls from its current level of around 390 parts per million (ppm) to 350ppm, which is increasingly being accepted as the maximum level to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted.
Recognising its responsibility and, as Buddhists, the need to lead by example, Lerab Ling has made many changes to the way it governs its land and buildings and its patterns of consumption and use of resources. And, for the first time, it has also adopted the following six environmental principles which will guide all its future activities:
1. Integrating environmental sustainability and climate change responses in all our policy making;
2. Implementing energy efficiency measures and maximizing the use of renewable energy;
3. Adopting environmentally friendly design, products and building materials;
4. Supporting sustainable food production;
5. Protecting Lerab Ling’s environment—its air, water, land, flora and fauna;
6. Implementing best waste management—the 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse & Recycle.
As Sogyal Rinpoche has said:
We have to put our minds and hearts together, with vision and with courage, for the future good of humanity.