Compassionate Society

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The Natural Environment

In this course we have seen how ethical conduct is not simply a matter of following strictures of right or wrong but rather considering what is beneficial to all and acting accordingly. How does this perspective affect your attitudes regarding the affects of our actions on the natural environment?

At issue is not simply doing what is "right" but rather taking responsibility, as residents, for the survival of our fragile planet. The natural world is our home and therefore it is our own best interest to look after it.

How do education and the media affect how we act in regard to protecting our natural environment?

Understanding the effects of our policies and way of life are critical to any sustainable effort to reverse our current policies. Here media and education play a critical role. The Dalai Lama uses the environmental degradation now occurring in Tibet as an example, and notes the efforts of the Tibetan government in exile to introduce children to their responsibilities as residents of this fragile planet.

How is creating an ethical relationship with our environment a prime example of the importance of compassion?

Obsessed with economic and political strength, we lose sight of the effect our actions have on others. Our narrow and self-centered focus results in widespread suffering and destruction of the environment.

Ultimately, the Dalai Lama stresses, the decision to save the environment must come from the human heart. The key point is a call for a genuine sense of universal responsibility that is based on love, compassion and clear awareness.

How is creating an ethical relationship with our environment a prime example of the importance of knowledge?

Knowledge is critical to our understanding of the effects of our actions and it is our sense of universal responsibility that will spur us to ethical action.

The Dalai Lama also distinguishes between different levels of knowledge:

Even if we cannot say for sure what the ultimate effects of, for example, deforestation might be on the soil and the local rainfall, let alone what the implications are for the planet's weather systems. The only clear thing is that we humans are the only species with the power to destroy the earth as we know it. The birds have no such power, nor do the insects, nor does any mammal. Yet if we have the capacity to destroy the earth, so, too, do we have the capacity to protect it. Ethics for the New Millennium

While the Dalai Lama suggests that we develop methods of manufacture, transportation and energy generation that do not continue to destroy nature, he also warns against relying on technology to overcome all our problems. Rather we need to recognize the universal dimension of our actions and, based on this, to exercise restraint.

From the perspective of universal responsibility and an ethic of compassion, do individuals in the industrially developed nations have a particular responsibility to change their lifestyle?

Do you agree with the Dalai Lama when he says:

Again, this is not so much a question of ethics. The fact that the population of the rest of the world has an equal right to improve their standard of living is in some ways more important than the affluent being able to continue their lifestyle. If this is to be fulfilled without causing irredeemable violence to the natural world — with all the negative consequences for happiness that this would entail — the richer countries must set an example. Ethics for the New Millennium 


The world  is becoming one community.

The world  is becoming one community. We are being drawn together by the grave problems of over population, dwindling natural resources, and an environmental crisis  that threaten the very foundation of our existence on this planet. Human rights, environmental protection and great social and economic equality,  are all interrelated. I believe that to meet the challenges of our times,  human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility.  Each of us must learn to work not just for one self, one's own family or  one's nation, but for the benefit of all humankind. Universal responsibility  is the key to human survival.