慈濟傳播人文志業基金會
Sharing in Happiness and Sorrow

Words From Master Cheng Yen

Every time I see images of natural disasters, a heaviness settles in my heart. I find it hard to lighten up as I think of the people plunged into fear and hardship. Regardless of what country is affected, I know that what the victims are going through is unspeakably painful. Natural disasters are often a result of extreme weather, which in turn is due to changes in the Earth’s environment, such as the worsening of the greenhouse effect and the melting of polar icecaps. Many of these changes can be traced to the doings of mankind.

Human beings are often so focused on personal gains that they overexploit the Earth’s resources while churning out goods, disregarding the impact such behavior has on the planet. This, however, has harmed the Earth and led to the worsening of global climate conditions. Drought-prone places are becoming drier, and flood-prone areas are becoming wetter. What’s more, storms and floods are destroying crops that humans need to sustain themselves. All this is very worrisome.

Some people are so used to an affluent, cushy life that they refuse to believe in the need to lower carbon emissions for the sake of environmental conservation. Yet when they are hit by a disaster and lose much of what they have, they too are at a loss for what to do. If people continue to ignore the warning signals that a natural disaster sends us, the intensity of such disasters will only increase. With the indomitable force of Mother Nature unleashed on us again and again, many countries around the world are investigating and discussing ways to reduce carbon-induced pollution. I sincerely hope that everyone in the world can be well informed about the global environmental conditions, reach a consensus to improve them, and then act together on that consensus.

Earth Overshoot Day is the day by which the human race has used up more natural resources than can be replenished in a year. With the global population rising and with people getting more wasteful, this day has been arriving earlier year by year. In 1993, the day fell on October 21; by 2017, it had moved up to August 2, after which our planet became resource deficit for the rest of the year.

To slow the consumption of natural resources and thus lessen the impact of overdevelopment, scientists have been calling on the public to waste less and eat less meat. This is also what Tzu Chi has been urging everyone to do for years. Some people have accepted the idea and changed their lifestyles accordingly, but even more people have stuck to meat, unable to overcome their cravings for it. In fact, the duration of gastronomic satisfaction is very short. Food remains in the mouth for only a short time before it travels to the stomach and the intestines and is ultimately expelled from our body as waste. Yet many people still find it hard to change their diets. Because of humanity’s demand for meat, 150 million animals are slaughtered every day. On top of that killing, it is staggering to think about the amount of grain and water needed to raise such a large number of animals and the great quantity of greenhouse gases that they emit.

The mouth is just a tiny hole, yet it can devour countless lives. No matter how much food goes down it, it can never be filled up. In Buddhism, we often talk about collective karma. Due to the generally misguided minds of people, the larger the global population is, the more bad karma is created. When we come down to it, everything has to do with human hearts and minds. To have a better and cleaner Earth, we must start by changing people’s ideas and lifestyles. I’m happy to see Tzu Chi volunteers around the world promoting a vegetarian diet and the importance of doing good deeds. The light of hope shines from such efforts.

To save the world, we must urge people to do good and eat vegetarian. Such acts nurture compassion and lead to the purification of hearts and minds, thus preventing the creation of bad karma. Never underestimate the power of a good thought. When we act on a kind thought, we contribute to the peace and welfare of the world. Share compassionately in the suffering of others and give with empathy. When we show our love for the Earth and all living creatures on it by being eco-friendly and eating vegetarian, we’ll be able to mitigate climate change.

Hsiao Yiu-hwa

 

November 2017