Finding the Roots
“Much of our ignorance about ecological degradation is the result of not seeing, not smelling, not tasting, not hearing, and not feeling the deeper impacts of environmental suffering. We are too busy or perhaps too afraid to pay attention to what is going on. It is easy to see suffering when it has gone to extreme levels...But we need to be able to see the causes of these environmental disasters, to see the suffering as it is developing.
Gardeners are well aware of this: if you see a plant with yellow leaves, you check the soil to see which nutrients are missing. When a plant is ailing, its failure to thrive signifies a weakness in the system that supports it. If the blossoms fall without setting fruit, you check for interfering pests. Learning to make the connections between individuals and systemic suffering is part of becoming a useful witness. This is one of the most basic practices on the green path: simply seeing what is going on and calling attention to what you see. By being keen observers for our planet, we are more connected to the world around us and in a better position to prevent harm and improve the health of the earth.
What we are able to perceive is strongly influenced by the conditioning of our minds. An experienced bird-watcher can distinguish many more birdcalls than the average person, for example. All observations are conditioned by the mental development of the brain and neural system of an individual, and every individual has been shaped by a unique set of influences, including gender, race, and culture...There is no such thing as “objective” observation. It is important to humbly acknowledge this fact to keep one’s observations in perspective.
When we ask difficult and sometimes uncomfortable questions, it encourages close scrutiny of the situation and reveals insight into what is driving the suffering. Good critical thinking depends on a well-developed analytical mind. Scientific training develops such analytic skills, and so do Buddhist practice and other disciplines of the mind. By naming the specific agents (people, corporations, governments) driving a specific environmental harm, we can begin to map out root causes and their relative impacts.
Source: Mindfully Green Shambhala Press