Open Access

Inner and Outer Ecologies: Contemplative Practice in an Environmental Age

Photograph by Alicia Brown

This essay also appears in the issue “Teaching Contemplative Environments” (Volume 4, Number 1). Click here to subscribe and download the entire issue

“I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” –John Muir

At first sight, it may appear that contemplative practices stand at odds with environmental protection efforts. After all, the word ‘environment’ generally refers to the natural world outside of us, rather than the internal one within us. Moreover, environmental work aims to change widespread behavior and thus focuses on government policies, economic incentives, technological innovation, cultural norms, and other structures of power. These operate in the political realm, and thus call on environmentalists to externally project their efforts.

In contrast, contemplative practices seemingly invite one to go ‘inside.’ They involve exercises that allow the practitioner to become more aware of one’s interior landscape. Whether they involve sitting meditation, yoga, journaling, dance, prayer, or textual study, contemplative practices cultivate a sensitivity to subjectivity. They encourage becoming intimate with one’s experience and using such intimacy to transcend the ‘ego mind’ or ‘small self’ that often preoccupies us and animates our activities. In this pursuit, some contemplative traditions eschew the external world; they see social engagement—and thus environmental politics—as a distraction from self-inquiry and inner awareness.

This special issue of The Arrow seeks to clarify the relationship between contemplative practice and environmental protection. It seeks to go beyond the misperception that they are at odds with each other, tapping into the socially engaged dimension of Buddhism and other wisdom traditions to emphasize how contemplative practice can play an integral role in environmental protection. This essay contributes to such efforts by bringing into relief several avenues of connection between our interior and exterior lives in relation to environmentalism, and thus underlining the compatibility between contemplative practice and environmental work.

In the budding field of what could be called “Contemplative Environmentalism,” many thinkers have described how contemplative practice can enhance environmental activism.1 They have explained ways in which meditation, yoga, and other practices help one become more skillful at environmental engagement, and we explore this important dimension first. However, we add a significant complement by pointing out how environmental work can, in turn, enhance the contemplative life. We show how working on behalf of environmental wellbeing opens deeper wells of sanity within the self, expands the bounds of awareness, and in general deepens one’s contemplative experience. Ultimately we argue that addressing the environmental predicament is now an essential part of practicing the Dharma; it is part of the ‘toolkit’ of wakeful spiritual practice.

The Gifts of Practice

Contemplative practice has much to offer the environmentalist: In this section, we discuss four ways that they can enhance our engagement with environmental issues: They can help us cultivate subjective clarity when engaging with environmental issues, refine our ability to respond, overcome fixation on measurable outcomes that can interfere with transformative action, and dismantle our sense of separateness of the earth and each other. In the following, we explain each of these benefits. Before doing so, however, it is useful to define contemplative practice. Contemplative practices usually involve two basic elements: first is concentration, a steadying of the mind to direct one’s focus. By its very nature, the mind wanders; it flits about in unpredictable ways. Concentration aims to stabilize the mind, strengthening its ability to stay focused on an object of attention. Such stability of attention is essential to contemplation because without it, one is unable to look or reflect upon anything in a sustained manner.

The second element of contemplative practice is awareness. This is often considered the backdrop of consciousness within which thoughts, feelings, and sensations occur. Once we are able to access awareness—through, for example, noticing the activity of thinking without becoming caught up in it—insights are possible. In becoming aware of the mind’s gyrations and recognizing that we are not defined by our thoughts or feelings, we can more skillfully penetrate the moment-to-moment experience of our mind and phenomenal reality. Put differently, as we see our thoughts as thoughts, or recognize emotions as insubstantial, transient colorful energy, or sensations as fleeting occurrences, we can peer more deeply into and beyond them, and thus come into contact with experience itself.2

Practice is critical because repetition develops greater levels of concentration and awareness, ultimately helping to cultivate an absorptive state wherein one relaxes one’s tendency to become lost in mental chatter, loses self-consciousness, and settles into a state in which one can clearly and directly experience one’s mind.3 While usually associated with formal sitting meditation, contemplative practice can include everything from journaling, yoga, and prayer to labyrinth walking, visualization, dance, qigong, and similar techniques. These practices bear fruit to the degree that they enhance our intimacy with experience and, as we shall see, the world around us.4

The first way contemplative practice can assist environmentalism is by providing a tool for cultivating greater awareness of one’s inner landscape so as to allow more subjective clarity when engaging environmental issues. Too often our individual views skew our perception of environmental harm and of how best to respond. Furthermore, we often fail to see the connections between how we simultaneously experience and contribute to environmental degradation. Contemplative practice can help illuminate these connections and assist us in addressing environmental challenges with greater self-awareness and effectiveness.

Environmental problems arise for multiple reasons. Corporations adopt an extractivist5 attitude in pursuit of profit; states compete against each other for natural resources; and too few of us have the ethical stamina to sustain care for the more-than-human world and those humans living at the frontlines of environmental degradation. While each of these is true, underneath them all—or at least animating many of them—is simply the deep proclivity to over-consume material resources. During the past few centuries, many cultures have grown consumerist, equating happiness and wellbeing with material abundance and instilling a persistent yearning for material wealth. This yearning—or, more accurately, the attempt to satisfy it—sits at the heart of climate change, water scarcity, soil degradation, loss of biological diversity, and a host of other environmental challenges, in that each of these results from ever-increasing resource extraction and dumping of waste. Contemplative practices can help us explore the nature of material hunger and our attraction toward accumulation, creating the possibility of freedom from our addiction to consumer products and opulence. They offer methods for noticing and detaching from the desiring mind, and allow us to taste a form of contentment that doesn’t depend on the transient enjoyment of consumer products and luxuries. Glimpsing this contentment can provide a critical perspective on the view that having more stuff will make us happy. To be sure, contemplative practices will not necessarily free us completely from material desire, nor will environmental problems disappear if people simply consume less. Furthermore, let us not forget that many people in the world are not economically well-off enough to over-consume and thus contemplative practice is a limited form of environmental protection. Nevertheless, contemplative practices can uncover the dynamics that drive overconsumption and thereby provide an important perspective on underlying causes of environmental harm.

Secondly, aside from analyzing the causes of environmental problems, contemplative practices can also assist in refining our ability to respond. Like our reactions to certain political challenges, many of us adopt an impulsive attitude to the injustices, violence, and exploitation that mark environmental harm. Thus, upon learning about or witnessing environmental degradation, many of us lash out too quickly at an apparent perpetrator and thereby unskillfully channel anger and despair. This can lead to actions that alienate potential allies and undermine possibilities for greater communication and political negotiation. More generally, it can polarize environmental dilemmas beyond what is necessary by turning things into an “us versus them” mentality that often exacerbates environmental conflict.6 Contemplative practices can help guard against this by encouraging less reactivity. In this sense, they do not eradicate anger—since doing so is almost impossible and because anger can often serve an important purpose in indicating injustice, discrimination, unethical action. Rather, these practices help slow down the reaction process and thereby provide a wider range of inner resources with which to respond. Ideally, contemplative practice can instill a pause in our experience from which we can better understand anger and translate it into discernment and then effective action. In Buddhist language, contemplative practices cultivate the “inner witness,” which can quiet the impulsive voice that too quickly wants to react. As Chögyam Trungpa points out, “Mindfulness practice is not just about what is happening to you individually and personally—it is about how much you are going to transmit your sanity and your insanity to the rest of the world.”7 Contemplative practices, in other words, can encourage skillful action.

Thirdly, contemplative practices can further refine environmental action by helping to contextualize and focus our sense of exigency. Too often activists are moved by an unproductive sense of urgency based on sober assessments of our environmental predicament. Make no mistake, environmental dilemmas represent some of the most profound challenges facing humanity and threaten not only the quality but the very viability of life on earth. Thus, it makes sense that many environmentalists want to instill transformation as quickly and as deeply as possible. The injustices and ecological ramifications of environmental harm are simply too grave to approach lightly or in a measured pace. And yet, we know that constantly sprinting into environmental engagement can be self-defeating. Without a capacity to sustain activism, many environmentalists burn out. They work passionately and often skillfully for a while but frequently find themselves beaten down by the sheer magnitude and unending onslaught of environmental problems. Too many environmentalists experience genuine psychological hardship, and this forces some either to leave the effort or, in the best cases, to search for more satisfying ways to engage. Contemplative practices do not necessarily alleviate burnout or the challenge of sustainable engagement, but can provide perspective on what is at stake.

One source of perspective comes from adopting a wider timeframe for environmental activism. For instance, Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone recommend particular practices that help one adopt a longer view that encourages one to see environmental work not as a series of battles but as a way of life, and thus filled with a combination of the usual ensemble of disappointment, achievement, sorrow, and joy. Macy and Johnstone encourage us to remember, for example, that life on earth is roughly 3.5 billion years old and that environmental efforts are part of that long, evolving story. Toward this end, they recommend meditation techniques focused on tortoises, whales, and other “old” species to cultivate a type of resonance with the long duration of life and thus offer a sense of spaciousness for environmental effort. They also encourage deep reflection on our place in the long flow of evolution. Importantly, Macy and Johnstone suggest these practices not to console us with a sense that, over the long run, all will be well; rather, they remind us that our lives are part of larger processes and that, when we align our efforts accordingly, we can sustain ourselves campaign after campaign.8

Cultivating the long view also helps activists avoid unnecessary and often painful attachment to the results of their efforts. Sometimes environmental protection involves goal-oriented action. There are, in other words, genuine battles to be won with the prize of actual achievement. Many efforts aim to stop actual instances of toxic contamination, species extinction, unjust land use, and the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. When we lose such battles, we can often find ourselves dejected or otherwise drained as we must confront our own disappointment. Almost more burdensome, however, is the fact that many environmental problems don’t have finite endpoints. Tackling long-term problems means that one’s efforts aren’t always visible, which can lead to feeling disempowered. Whether our goals are clear or ill-defined, when we link our sense of worth with outcomes that are largely beyond our control, we are vulnerable to burnout and despair. Contemplative practices can assist here by helping distinguish effort from achievement, and putting primacy on the former over the latter.

Focusing on the ends of action intensifies a contingent sense of happiness. It suggests that one can only be genuinely satisfied if certain conditions exist. At the mundane level, it suggests that I will only be happy when, for example, I land a new job, come to a better place in my relationships, buy a new car, etc. Such contingency replicates on the political level, as many environmentalists understandably peg their happiness on winning particular campaigns. But, as often becomes all too clear, this is a defeatist orientation, since no one can completely control external events. For all their hugely important efforts, environmentalists are always losing battles: oil pipelines win approval, toxic practices find legal support, habitat-destroying development projects are built, and climate protection efforts get undermined by more powerful interests. Contemplative practices can help one weather such defeats by concentrating awareness on the efforts rather than the results. As it is often put, one strives impeccably to advance particular efforts but gives up the fruits involved. That is, outcome, while important, is not the full meaning of one’s activist labors. At the most extreme, one sees this in the bodhisattva commitment to continually reincarnate, postponing one’s own enlightenment until all beings are free from suffering—a practice that underlines the importance of not being attached to outcome. David Loy writes about the bodhisattva, “Someone who has signed up for such an unachievable task is not going to be intimidated by present crises, no matter how difficult or even hopeless they may appear.”9

A final but essential way that contemplation contributes to environmental engagement is by helping us dismantle our sense of separateness. It can facilitate our recognizing that the self is not an independent entity but instead interdependent with other beings and the wider biophysical world. This is the heart of environmental consciousness. The environment is not something external of which we partake but is something of which we are inescapably part. While scientists catalogue such interdependence in material ways, contemplative practices enable one to come in direct contact with it. Contemplative traditions refer to such interdependence in terms of inter-being, co-arising, dependent origination, or simply a sense of mutual connectedness. At the heart of this is a kind of unity or ground of being that underpins all forms of manifestation. When one experiences such interconnectedness, one recognizes the plight of others, including that of the more-than-human world. One sees oneself in the conditions of others. It is as if the more aware we become, the more responsible we feel for the world. Seen in this way, contemplative practices heighten our sense of injustice and often inspire us to work for greater ecological and social wellbeing.

In sum, contemplative practice is not an exercise in self-involvement but rather a way to engage more skillfully in the wider world around us, including environmental affairs. It helps us look more deeply at our internal lives and thus enable us to identify interior causes of environmental harm, cultivate more responsive rather than reactive forms of engagement, avoid burnout by adopting meaningful timeframes and focusing more on effort rather than achievement, and recognize biophysical and other forms of interdependence. In these ways, coming to know oneself more fully or, pejoratively, “working on oneself,” is a boost to environmental efforts. Environmentalism needs a turn inward.

Gifts of Environmentalism

Many thinkers have noted how contemplative practice can make us more skillful environmentalists.10 What is less recognized is that environmental engagement can enhance our contemplative lives. That is, working on behalf of environmental protection is not simply a matter of external action in the world; it also provides a tool for inner exploration and understanding. If environmentalism needs an inward turn, our inner work also needs an external, environmental one.

One reason people care about environmental dilemmas is because issues like water pollution, climate change, and loss of biological diversity are not simply outer phenomena but occurrences that get inside of us. On the one hand, this is merely a biophysical fact: Humans, like all of life, are made up of the very elements that circulate throughout the atmosphere, hydrosphere, pedosphere, and lithosphere. Environmental change, then, does not simply happen “out there,” but gets registered in the body. Today, for instance, most people carry around 200 different environmental contaminants in their blood,11 creating what has been called a “chemical body burden”12 that we bear and respond to throughout our lives. This can lead to acute illness among more vulnerable people or simply stand as a biochemical condition to which our bodies must react and adapt. In both cases, environmental conditions get “inside” and thus color, to varying degrees, our somatic experience.

On the other hand, environmental conditions also impact our psychological and spiritual states. Ecopsychologists Lise Van Susteren and Kevin Coyle point out how simply knowing about climate change, species extinction, and habitat destruction breeds feelings of loss, sadness, anger, and lamentation in those of us who are aware of such devastation. They document, for instance, that many environmentalists suffer from chronic depression by virtue of simply knowing about various forms of environmental harm.13 In this sense, environmental conditions lodge not only in our cells, membranes, or endocrine systems, but also in consciousness, stealing themselves into our minds and hearts. Yet this also means that positive environmental experiences or successful environmental protection efforts can generate their own sentiments, as people often feel joy when they witness encouraging environmental change or a sense of awe when they behold a beautiful landscape.14 That environmental circumstances shape human interiority underlines the two-way relationship between our external and internal lives.

The notion that environmental engagement can enhance the contemplative life stems from a sense that one can actually use the two-way relationship to build deeper levels of insight and compassion. That is, one need not be passive in how environmental conditions register themselves within our bodies, minds, and spirits. Rather, environmental challenges can become grist for the spiritual mill, an opportunity to practice spiritual warriorship or, as contemporary Buddhist teacher Sakyong Mipham often says, to “rise to the challenge” of these unique times.

Environmental degradation has reached such proportions that geographers categorize the current geological era as the “Anthropocene”—the age of humans.15 This refers to the fact that humanity has placed its signature on every ecosystem on earth and has become an ecological force in its own right. Today, one can find the pesticide polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the most distant oceans, dams on almost every major river, chloroflourocarbons (CFCs) scattered throughout the stratosphere, and mines littered across the earth’s crust.16 Furthermore, through deforestation, over-hunting, and agriculture, humans now determine which species live or die, and thus steer the process of evolution itself.17 Combined with anthropogenic climate change—wherein humanity influences the planet’s carbon cycle and thus has its fingers on the earth’s thermostat—it becomes clear that there is no place on earth devoid of human presence and that our actions have planetary, biospheric consequences. This influence represents an unparalleled qualitative leap in humanity’s environmental reach, as it marks the first time in our species’ long history when we have become the unwitting governors of the quality and very viability of life on earth. It also represents a potential qualitative leap in humanity’s contemplative life.

Consider anthropogenic climate change. It may be that our increasing awareness of global warming is opening up chambers within the human heart that have never existed or been explored before. The profound sadness that many feel, the sense of love for all that is at risk and disappearing, the visceral impression of interdependence that is emerging as we watch our fellow humans and nonhuman companions suffer in the face of climate change, and our feelings of awe as we generate collective efforts to combat climate change—the depth to which these are felt and the quality of that experience may be unique to our time. Thus, they can be invitations to get to know ourselves in deeper ways and to strengthen our interior experience. Put differently, climate change is not simply a dilemma that we must confront externally or that we must soldier through; it is also an opportunity for growth and self-knowledge. It provides avenues toward developing more sensitive and aware selves. The human spirit may actually expand and deepen in a climate age.

Climate change and the Anthropocene in general offer not simply a different inner landscape for the contemplator, but also a sense of planetary responsibility that has its own introspective benefits. Almost every spiritual tradition includes an element of compassion for others and the encouragement to be of benefit to the world. In the age of humans, where humanity’s actions shape the biophysical and socio-emotional character of life for all beings, the outward gaze takes on intensified meaning and thus offers deeper levels of inner engagement. When the planet’s life support systems are at risk, the idea of being of benefit to the world expands its parameters: Developing an internal sensibility toward the suffering of others does not stop at the edges of the human family or even the world of plants and animals, but extends to the ecosystemic dynamics of the earth as a whole. We are faced with the challenge and opportunity to expand our circles of compassion to encompass the more-than-human world. This challenge invites an expansion of practices like loving-kindness, in that they now can include awareness of ecological harm in an increasingly fragile world.

Similarly, in committing to be of benefit to the world in the Anthropocene, one chooses to expose oneself to unbounded qualities of pain, and this can have profound consequences for practice. So much meditation, yoga, journaling, and textual study use suffering as a tool for inner exploration and enrichment. Rather than turning away from distress and anguish, investigating these experiences represents a route toward greater self-knowledge, inner clarity, and richness by exposing vulnerable parts of the self that ordinarily would remain hidden or underexplored. Once exposed, these dimensions of ourselves widen the template of inner material with which we can work. Doing so, of course, has great risks, because such vulnerability can derail a spiritual path or otherwise increase confusion and pain. However, from many perspectives, this offers even more occasion for accelerated growth and illumination.

Environmental engagement can boost contemplation in yet another way to the degree that it offers a unique gateway into understanding egolessness. Contemplative traditions often speak of the concept of no-self, the lack of an unchanging entity within our being that exists independent of the world around it. Many practices seek to reveal the way the mind constructs the illusion of the self, or to expose the flimsy character of ego. They do this in the service of greater liberation, since over-identifying with one’s personality, according to many traditions, constrains inner growth. Environmentalism can help root out the tendency to cling to the self because ecosystems materially express the falsehood of autonomy. Nothing exists on its own in nature. The blade of grass not only depends upon water, sunlight, and soil to grow, but is actually constituted by those elements; without them, it would cease to exist. Likewise, without the grass, the water, sunlight, and soil would assume a different character. This is the core insight of ecology. As Barry Commoner explains, the first law of ecology is “everything is connected to everything else.”18 Or, as John Muir famously puts it, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”19 What better instruction can there be for softening the ego? If I am part of everything else—if my experience and very existence extend beyond my skin’s edge and are saturated by everything around me—how can I remain attached to my separate self? Thus, working on behalf of environmental wellbeing can enhance contemplative practice by exposing one to ecological interdependence and thus to the profound reality of inter-being. Inter-being is the concept of, as Thich Nhat Hahn puts it, “this arises, because that arises.”20 This, arguably more than anything else, can help us see the concept of the self as a manifestation of thought rather than an apperception of primordial reality.

In both our intentional and unwitting neglect of interdependence, which in Buddhism is often said to be the highest realization, we’ve created a huge problem. The truth of our interdependent relationship with the environment is lapping at the feet of coastal cities, burning down homes, and starving essential crops of water. The wellbeing of the environment can no longer be distinguished from our own. The immediacy of our interconnectedness with the environment offers the contemplative practitioner a particularly potent gateway into deeper levels of understanding the truth of our connection to the natural world and its inhabitants.

The same teaching emerges regarding impermanence. If ecological study reveals one thing, it is that things change; nothing in nature stays the same. Exposed to and constituted by everything around them, animals, plants, minerals, bacteria, and all the rest possess no internal solidity or stasis. Environmental protection involves stewarding ecological change—finding ways for systems to evolve at a sustainable pace that preserves biological diversity and respects social justice.21 Engaging in environmental work, then, provides hands-on experience with impermanence. It forces one to take seriously the “changing nature of nature” and thus the changing character of everything. Seen in this way, environmentalism represents an adjunct to contemplative practices aimed at realizing ephemerality. It offers a way to cultivate a felt intuition, a visceral experience, or an understanding of the transient quality of existence.

In the previous section, we explored how contemplative practice assists in becoming more skilled as an environmentalist. This section examined the flipside: how environmentalism supports contemplative practice, examining how turning outward toward environmental issues provides metaphors and direct experience with many of the categories that inform contemplative life. Working on behalf of environmental protection activates and exercises inner capacities. It opens new compartments of the heart, expands the dimensions of compassion, exposes one to greater diversity of suffering, softens attachment to ego, and offers insight into impermanence. To be sure, environmental effort provides only partial entryway into these domains; it does, however, represent an opportune route that deserves attention and, critically, practice.

Conclusion: Beyond Duality

Up until now, we have been discussing contemplative practice and environmental engagement as two separate endeavors, and have explored the interface between them. As we have suggested, each provides fodder for enhancing the other. The essay would be incomplete, however, if we left things at this point. A further observation is that contemplation and environmental activism are not always two separate enterprises, but can—and preferably should—be one and the same. Ironically, this is the ideal of both practices.

While environmentalism aims to change the external world, it handicaps itself when activists engage in unmindful, pseudo-heroic efforts. Everyone possesses psychological, philosophical, and other subjective viewpoints of which they are unaware. These color our experience and, to some extent, predetermine the way we treat each other and engage in the world. Contemplative practices help us notice these implicit attitudes and thus provide degrees of freedom in how we act. Thus, they may enhance the effectiveness of environmental efforts by ensuring that one is not merely “acting out” personal drama on the political scene or blindly acting with little reflection. Instead, they enable one to bring mindful effort to one’s activism. Moreover, contemplative practices also provide a way for activists to personalize and embody environmentalism’s ideals by noticing how their internal impulses and desires contribute to environmental harm and, more generally, by inviting activists to align their internal understandings and everyday behaviors with their external, public efforts. Environmentalism is something that happens not only in the outer world but also in the inner one; enhancing our internal ecology is integral to environmental engagement.

Similarly, while contemplation focuses internally and concerns itself with building concentration and awareness, it compromises itself when it ignores the socio-historical context within which it operates. We often assume that contemplative practices are completely free from the social world; meditation, yoga, textual study, and prayer are frequently presented as trans-social and trans-historical. Yet some of the very techniques we use to “go inside”—particular forms of meditation, movement, and so forth—were themselves constructed for people who lived in specific cultures at specific moments in history. As culture and historical contexts change, so do our minds, and so should the practices we use to develop our minds. This is because contemplative practice is not simply about cultivating an internal sensation, but also includes developing a meaningful, integrative, and useful life. It involves developing wisdom for navigating and engaging the world. In this sense, contemplation implicitly possesses an externally directed element, and linking this to environmental concern has contemplative benefit. Such merging of the internal with the external—or what some call the spiritual with the ordinary—underlines the importance of not relegating one’s spiritual life to the meditation cushion or retreat center but integrating teachings, insights, and practices into everyday life.

Taking these points together, it should be clear that environmental engagement and contemplative practice, while analytically distinct, can become one and the same. In fact, melding them may represent the highest form of contemplative environmentalism.

Jacob Richey studied Psychology and Art at Pitzer College, graduating in 2014. There he developed an interest in the subtleties of word choice and syntax. When not crafting text or studying Tibetan Buddhism, you may find him painting fences, painting portraits, or roaming the foothills of his hometown, Boulder, Colorado.

Paul Wapner is professor of global environmental politics in the School of International Service at American University. He has published five books including, Living Through the End of Nature: The Future of American Environmentalism. He leads workshops on the relationship between contemplation and environmental engagement at the Lama Foundation in New Mexico.

Photography by Alicia Brown.

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  1. See, for example: Stephanie Kaza, Mindfully Green: A Personal and Spiritual Guide to Whole Earth Thinking (Boston: Shambhala Publications, 2008); Tom Anderson & Anniina Suominen Guyas, “Earth Education, Interbeing, and Deep Ecology,” Studies in Art Education: A Journal of Issues and Research 53, no. 3 (2012): 223-245; António Carvalho, “Subjectivity, Ecology and Meditation – Performing Interconnectedness,” Subjectivity 7, no. 2 (2014): 131-150.
  2. Joseph Goldstein, The Experience of Insight (Boston: Shambhala, 2004), 17-18; 27-28.
  3. Sakyong Mipham, Turning the Mind into an Ally, (New York: Riverhead Books, 2003), 126.
  4. See generally the writings of Chögyam Trungpa, Thich Nhat Hanh, Ram Dass, Bhante Gunaratana, Jack Kornfield, Pema Chödrön, and Sakyong Mipham.
  5. Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014).
  6. James Rowe has perceptively pointed out that in some situations “us vs. them” thinking is not necessarily antithetical to a compassionate outlook and can greatly assist activist efforts. See Rowe, “Why Buddhists Can Stop Worrying and Learn to Love ‘Us vs Them Thinking,’” The Arrow: A Journal of Wakeful, Society, Culture and Politics (September 2015).
  7. Chögyam Trungpa, The Path of Individual Liberation, (Boston: Shambhala, 2013), 225.
  8. Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone, Active Hope (Novato, CA: New World Library, 2012), 41.
  9. David Loy, A New Buddhist Path (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2015), 131.
  10. See, for instance, Douglas Christie, The Blue Saphire of the Mind: Notes for a Contemplative Ecology (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013); Joanna Macy and Molly Brown, Coming Back to Life: Practices to Reconnect Our Lives, Our World (Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers, 2014); Taylor Hawke, Waking Up: Consciousness, Culture, and Climate Solutions (Novato, CA: The Printed Voice, 2014); James Rowe, “Micropolitics and Collective Liberation: Mind/Body Practice and Left Social Movements,” New Political Science 38, no. 2 (2016): 206-225.
  11. Environmental Working Group, “Body Burden: The Pollution in Newborns,” Thursday, July 14, 2005, see:
  12. David Ewing Duncan, “Chemicals within Us,” National Geographic,
  13. See, for example, Lise Van Susteren and Kevin Coyle, “The Psychological Effects of Global Warming on the United States,” National Wildlife Federation,; Paul Shepard, Nature and Madness, (Sierra Club Books, 1982); Theodore Roszak, “The Nature of Sanity,” Psychology Today,
  14. Michael McCarthy, The Moth Snowstorm: Natures and Joy (London: John Murray, 2015); Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, (Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books, 2008).
  15. Frank, Biermann, “The Anthropocene: A Governance Persepctive,” Anthropocene Review 1, no. 1 (2014): 57-61; Paul Crutze and Christian Schwägerl, “Living in the Anthropocene: Toward a New Global Ethos,” Yale e360, January 24, 2011,
  16. Women’s Environmental Network Trust, “Chlorine, pollution, and the environment,” WEN Factsheet,
  17. Stephen Meyer, The End of the Wild (Cambridge: MIT Press 2006).
  18. Barry Commoner, The Closing Circle: Nature, Man, and Technology (New York: Random House, 1971).
  19. John Muir, My First Summer in the Sierra (New York: Dover, 2004), 87.
  20. Thich Nhat Hanh, “The Sutras on Dependent Co-Arising and Great Emptiness,” Dharma Talk, March 19, 1998, at:
  21. Leslie Paul Thiele, Sustainability (London: Polity Press, 2013).