AIC ►1.05 ►Paper ►Bernie Meyer ►Ecology and Conservation of the Environment

Published: 14.10.2014
Updated: 27.10.2014

Anuvrat International Conference


Anuvrat Address On Theme

"Ecology and Conservation of the Environment"

For First International Anuvrat Conference, September 26, 2014

My favourite story about Acharya Tulsi is his announcement that "I do not believe in world peace!" which surprised the people at the conference. How could it be possible that the leader of the Jain Terapanth Sect does not believe in "world peace?" They questioned him, "What do you mean?" His Holiness explained that for world peace to happen at a particular time every person would need to be enlightened at that time. That is not possible. Each person becomes enlightened at his or her own time, as consciousness becomes enlightened to truth and reality.

If the Anuvrat movement, the short vows, were in every person's mind and heart, we might have world peace. I think we would. However, because it is impossible for every person to become enlightened at the same time as Acharya Shree Tulsi said, we cannot wait for that time. Therefore, we must address peace as a systemic problem. We must work for systems that do no harm. We must work to end nuclear weapons and work to prevent the worst effects of climate change. We must create laws and ways of life that do not destroy life on earth, ways of life that make it possible to go on.

Look around the world today. Seven billion people populate the earth in hundreds of nations, many of them at war. The most powerful nations militarily and financially dominate most events. And, we look at the situation: Despite the United Nations Non Proliferation Treaty which requires nuclear nations to abolish nuclear weapons, the Cold War is reviving between the West and East due to conflict in Ukraine, led by the United States. And, an arms race begins again. Then, we have the Climate Crisis growing daily with estimates that the earth's temperature will increase by six to eight degrees Centigrade in the 21st Century unless measures are taken immediately to reverse course. These two realities are only the most prominent challenges. Natural resources, food, water, and other needs are causing hardship and death around the world. The United Nations appears near helpless.

On August sixth of this year, the 69th anniversary of the Bombing or Hiroshima with the Atom Bomb, an 86 year old victim of the bombing, a hibachusha, said

K0JI HOSOKAWA: [translated] "War makes people crazy." "The A-bomb was dropped in Hiroshima and also one in Nagasaki. And I think that atomic bombs were dropped not just on our cities, but on the whole human beings. And so, I have many things to talk about, about my experience of the A-bomb, but if the next one, the third A-bomb is to be dropped, then the Earth will be annihilated. I want people to understand, this is going to be - you know, the Earth is going to be annihilated. So whenever I talk, I want them to understand this."

Natural catastrophes have always challenged humans: earthquakes, flooding, volcanoes, storms, asteroids. Now we have the human caused threats: massive threats from nuclear weapons and nuclear power, and intolerable heat causing draught, fires, sea level rise, ocean acidification, massive storms. The Age we live in is called the Anthropocene Age. We are causing our own life threats, destruction of our own environment, and destruction of our own lives along with all living species. The Sixth Extinction is underway.

Since we have caused this age, we can cause it to change. Theoretically. Here again His Holiness Acharya Tulsi's observation is relevant. Will enough people become enlightened in time to prevent the worst effects?

I do not know how these realities will play out. Will there be any life left on earth in the 22nd Century? Hopeful signs are present. They conflict with these destructive forces. I have spent most of my adult life resisting violence and seeking justice, peace. Ahimsa has been at the core of my efforts. I will share my experience and beliefs. I will then offer some direction for your consideration.

I became a Catholic priest in 1965 when the Vietnam War was growing, when the Civil Rights Movement was reaching its highest moment in the United States, and when the United States government declared a War on Poverty. Martin Luther King Jr. named racism, militarism, and poverty the three evils to overcome. He was assassinated in 1968. I joined these struggles and was arrested by the Catholic Church for challenging its leadership and also by the United States government for challenging the Dow Chemical Co for its moneymaking of weapons. I went to prison in 1970. The Prophet Isaiah said 'Turn your swords into Ploughshares." Jesus said "Love your enemies/' Gandhi saw truth in everyone and founded a modern way of nonviolence, an inadequate translation of ahimsa, but brought independence for India. These were my sources for direction and my sources of power. In 2009 I went to Vietnam to remember the 1969 Dow Chemical action by visiting the victims of Agent Orange/dioxin. I met the victims of the 1960's and the victims of 2009, children. The third and fourth generations are the new victims of the Vietnam War that ended in 1975. The United States and South Vietnam used more chemicals to defoliate the jungles than have been used in history: 5.6 million acres were sprayed in South Vietnam, affecting an estimated 4.8 million people.

In 1974,1 began participating in the Rocky Flats Action Group concerned about the making of nuclear weapons in the State of Colorado. I have learned that the weapons are killing people without even being used since the atom bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Radiation kills in the extraction of uranium from the earth, in the production of plutonium and U 235, and in the nuclear weapons waste. There is not nuclear stage that radiation does not kill living beings and damage the environment.

Since 1978 I have been participating in citizen actions at Sub Base Bangor on the Hood Canal in the State of Washington where I live. Along with others I have been arrested many times. If Washington State were a nation it would be the third most powerful nation on earth with over 2000 nuclear weapons. Here are two of my legal defences for Mother's Day actions in 2010 and 2013. One is based upon citizen's obligation to intervene. The other is based upon International Humanitarian Law. The Court would not accept either defence. I was found guilty in both cases for breaking a local law along with other people.

Now I also participate in the Fellowship of Reconciliations Climate Crisis Group. I wonder: will we destroy life on earth by heating the climate or by nuclear weapon use. The US is challenging Russia, causing a new nuclear arms race, instead of pursuing nuclear disarmament. India and Pakistan could cause untold destruction if they turn loose their nuclear weapons. We live in a very insecure world. Yet, "national security" is the reason given by the government (I do not accept national security as real security.) for the weapons and for the way of life causing destruction of the environment. In June I fasted for a week outside the Port of Olympia inviting the Port leaders to stop importing ceramic sands used to extract oil and natural gas from North Dakota wells. Using oil and natural gas, or fossil fuels, adds carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. These fossil fuels are making the climate warmer and may lead to the end of life on earth if we do not stop using them.

I offer you some reason for doing all you can to help the world, our Mother Earth, continue life on this precious planet. Since the First Gulf War in 1991,1 have been studying the human motivation for violence. Also, I have been benefiting from the spirituality of the East by coming to India since 2005, even portraying Gandhi in India 14 times since 2005.

Why are humans violent? What motivates human violence? What are the consequences of human violence? How can we learn to be non-violent? These are the questions I asked at the start of the First Gulf War in 1991. The United States led a "coalition of the willing" to reverse Iraq's war on Kuwait. Before the war began it appeared that the American people were against the war, then, when the war began, it seemed that the people were in support of the war.

I cannot answer these questions fully in this short address. I will offer you two major resources for your own study. I have been studying human violence and how to be non-violent now for 23 years.

The first resources are the works of Ernest Becker and the Ernest Becker Foundation. In 1974 Ernest Becker, a cultural anthropologist, received the Pulitzer Prize for his book, The Denial of Death. Through multi-disciplined research Becker came up with the theory that human primary motivation is immortality, the need of the human conscious mind to live after physical death. The effect is to deny one's own death. This was a major

step beyond Sigmund Freud's theory that human's are motivated by the oedipal drive. Becker used Otto Rank's insights which revolved around "the trauma of birth" and the need to live. Becker collected the insights from theologians, sociologists, psychologists, anthropologists, and other human scientists to develop his insights. And, for the last twenty-one years, the Ernest Becker Foundation has been working with experts who have tested Becker's insights using clinical studies. I think these are most critical to addressing human violence.

One of Becker's overarching observations is that humans have not changed in their motivation for violence since their origins, only the means of violence have changed. Ponder that.

My second group of overarching resources is the works of psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton. He too centers his work on the understanding that the ultimate human motivation is "continuity of life". But, Robert Jay Lifton finds his insights by using a different approach, which is by using interviews of people. In terms of human violence, Lifton has interviewed the victims of human violence over the last half of the Twentieth Century, as well as by interviewing the victimizers. The result is a rich literature about human violence.

Beginning with the end of World War II when Lifton interviewed the victims of Chinese mind control experiments; later he interviewed the victims of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; proceeding to the victimizers of the Holocausts in Germany (Nazi Doctors); then to the US soldiers of the Vietnam War; and the Aum Shinrikyo who released the sarin gas in Japan to "destroy the world to save it," along with other studies.

For me, his books explaining the behavioural insights behind these horrendous events are even more important because they outline more clearly why people participate in them. What brought me to study Lifton's works and to attend his conferences and workshops is my participation in resisting nuclear weapons. Lifton titled the work of people creating and using nuclear weapons, "nuclearisation." Last year I completed my study of human violence, but not my continued efforts to understand how to apply the insights to the urgent issue of today: prevent nuclear war and prevent the climate crisis from getting much worse. I am not hopeful. But, I must continue. We all must continue to seek a healed human race.

My long-time teacher, Thomas Merton, captures the meaning of nuclear weapons (and by inference, the climate crisis) with this quote:

"The great sin, the source of all other sins, is idolatry. Never has it been greater, more prevalent than now. It is almost completely unrecognized - precisely because it is so overwhelmingly total. It takes in everything. There is nothing else left. Fetishism of power, machines, possessions, medicine, sports, clothes, etc., all kept going by greed for money and power. The Bomb is only one accidental aspect of the cult. Indeed, the Bomb is not the worst. We should be thankful for it as a sign, a revelation of what all the rest of our civilization points to: the self-immolation of man to his own greed and his own despair. Behind it all are the principalities and powers whom man serves in his idolatry. Christians are as involved in this as everyone else." THE INTIMATE MERTON, p. 140.

Thomas Merton was a Christian monk who died in 1968.

Robert Jay Lifton did not want to leave his readers without a hopeful outlook. One of his key books is THE PROTEAN SELF. Proteus is a Greek God who changes constantly to cope with external conditions. Lifton's Book is about the human ability to change by creating ways to survive and to thrive. Humans can live by changing. The question is: Will humans change enough to prevent nuclear war, to stop global rise in temperature, to preserve life giving water, air, land?

However, before closing I must mention one more related subject. We could and in some way must spend conferences on this subject. The subject is about two realities, about in a broad and a narrow sense political reality and about physical reality. These two realities at times converge and at times diverge. In a simple statement we are at the limits of physical growth underlying the economy. The economy assures endless resources. The GDP must continue to grow to accomplish all that we think must be done. And, the other reality, the political reality, states that politics require endless growth. I know that I am saying too little about this highly emotional subject which affects all that we do, including this conference. All I can do is suggesting that you study these realities and recommend that you read the writings of Richard Heinberg: for example his essay at  www.resilence.org and his book, The End of Growth, among others. Also, Gail Tverberg does a different analysis that says the same thing: "Energy And The Economy-Twelve Basic Principles". www.countercurrents.org. August 15, 2014

This is why I am here. I want to contribute to ANUVRAT'S efforts to create "ahimsa" way of life.

2014.09 Anuvrat Int. Conference Day1 0350 Bernie Meyer 2014.09 Anuvrat Int. Conference Day1 0070 Bernie Meyer, Chris Geerdes2014.09 Anuvrat Int. Conference Day1 0095 Bernie Meyer

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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Acharya
  2. Acharya Shree Tulsi
  3. Acharya Tulsi
  4. Ahimsa
  5. Anuvrat
  6. Anuvrat International Conference
  7. Anuvrat Movement
  8. Aum
  9. Consciousness
  10. Ecology
  11. Environment
  12. Greed
  13. Nonviolence
  14. Terapanth
  15. Tulsi
  16. Violence
  17. Washington
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