We Need to Use a Different Part of our Brain to Crack the Sustainability Challenge. Blog by Pooran Desai.
Former UN climate change negotiator Christiana Figueres has credited the teachings of Zen Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh for giving her the strength to play a leading role in last year’s grueling international climate talks.
Figueres was praised for her ability to bring warring factions together with warmth and calm, and for the pivotal role she played in securing agreement to limit global warming to below 2oC.
Buddhist meditation — and its recent secular incarnation in mindfulness — is clinically proven to help build resilience to cope with life’s stresses. It’s inspirational to know that it played a part in ensuring December’s historic deal in Paris.
But Buddhists may also be on to something else very important for those of us interested sustainable living: we may have been using the wrong part of brain to crack the sustainability challenge.
I spent a month earlier in the summer as a guest at the San Francisco Zen Center – a monastery in the heart of the city.
I have had a long interest in Buddhist meditation, having sat a number of intense Vipassana meditation courses. I also have an academic background in neuroscience, so have followed the increasingly strong evidence for how meditation changes the structure of our brains and so how we perceive the world and behave in it.
I was staying at the Zen Center as part of a trade. It is buying land to build 200 or so ‘Zen-inspired Senior Living’ units at the brilliant SOMO Village under development in Sonoma County, specifically Rohnert Park CA.
SOMO Village’s developers have created a visionary sustainability plan for the community, using Bioregional’s One Planet Living framework. This is a set of ten intuitive and interrelated sustainability principles, from ‘zero carbon energy’ to ‘health and happiness’.
For the Zen Center to be eligible to buy land in SOMO village, it must also create a response to the challenge of One Planet Living.