Dalai Lama at UC Irvine Talk and Panel on “Compassionate Planet”

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama celebrated his 80th birthday at UC Irvine’s Bren Center on July 6, 2015 by giving a talk and panel discussion called the Compassionate Planet: The Effects of Climate Change and Taking Action to Resolve the Global Issue. The announcement for this is at http://hhdl80.org . The presentation has also been written up on the dalailama.com website.
I will give my notes on his words and that of the panelists. (The usual caveats apply to my lack of accuracy and completeness, but I think that I got most of the message.)
The moderator was Ann Curry, previously with NBC News. The introduction was by UC Irvine Chancellor Howard Gilman. The Dalai Lama was introduced by Richard C. Blum, of the American Himalayan Foundation and a UC Regent.
The first speaker was Prof. Emeritus Walter Munk of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography (he is 97 years old). He spoke of the sea level rise, and of the oceans being warmer. The data of climate change is overwhelming. The quest is can we do something about it in time.
At some point Ann Curry pointed out that 97% of climate scientists agree with human caused climate change.
The Dalai Lama has spoken about climate change since 2012. The compassion is needed to help people in other countries. We must develop a sense of oneness about humanity, he says. We must make an effort as many times as needed. The goal is the right one, it is relevant, and it will be a great benefit if we do something to reach it. We start by meeting with scientists. In Tibet, care must be taken not to pollute the water.
The Dalai Lama advised that we must not damage the environment. Taking care of the planet is like taking care of one’s own home. Once we notice the damage it may be too late. He noted the issue of human population growth, but said that seven billion people is already a huge population.
He noted that there are poor people in the area of the US Capitol. The level of poor must rise.
He said that he is a son of a farmer. As he flew over California, he noted that a lot of its area is still empty of crops for a lack of water. In Australia, there are also large desert areas. (I flew over California a few weeks ago and was surprised to see that only every other field was watered and green, due to our drought.) He noted that we have the ability to desalinate water. We can slowly move farmed areas inland by desalinating using solar power. (Actually, just evaporating water using sunlight and condensing it in a solar still can be more efficient than using only 15% efficient solar power. Fortunately, the planet is a giant desalination machine producing fresh water as rain, but we must learn to use it more efficiently, and recycle it.) India should start developing the country side, as well as it does for city development.
The next speaker was Dr. Veerabhadran Ramanathan of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, who also advised Pope Francis on climate change science. He asked the question, What is Coming? He foresees drastic change in the next 30 years. He said that we will not be able to protect the poorest three billion people. He pointed out that two billion people depend on the water from the Tibetan glaciers. Yet the top one billion people on the planet are causing 60% of the CO2 pollution due to their high consumption. In the next 30 years we will add another trillion tons of CO2 to the trillion tons that we have already added. (He may have said this will stay up a thousand years, but the considered number is around one hundred years.) Compassion is the way to change our attitude toward nature.
Dr. Ramanathan said it would take $450 per person per year in the top one billion people to change from our carbon economy to renewables. He said that the temperature rise by mid-century would be 3.5 degrees F unless we act and start bending down the pollution curve. To switch the poorest three billion people to clean energy, such as in stoves, would require $250 per person in the richest billion people. The key to this is compassion, and his Holiness can lead in this.
The Dalai Lama responded that this century should be a non-violent century. The interdependence of continents and countries makes this more necessary. If you destroy your enemy, you also will suffer destruction yourself. War is outdated. We must act according to reality. We must eliminate nuclear weapons, and turn the defense industry to other work. Nuclear and other weapons are a waste of money, which we could be spending on ecological protection.
Prof. Isabella Velicogna of Earth System Science at UC Irvine and the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab stated that there will be one to two meters of sea level rise by the end of the century. With a one meter rise, San Francisco and Oakland airports will be under water, and the LA-Long Beach Harbor will be flooded. There will be more floods, droughts, and heat waves. More will die, largely among the old and poor. There is a current California drought, and California will become dryer. This will impact the economy and society. Glaciers are disappearing, and this will affect the water supply in the Andes.
Prof. Velicogna, who is an educator as well, said that education was very important. Young students want to make changes. Each member of the audience should take advantage of clean energy.
A community organizer for climate justice, Mia Yoshitani, stressed the moral, justice, and equity aspects of helping relieve climate change. She raised the financial question of how to pay for it. To do so will require active compassion and courage. We should start with science and what we know. We are motivated by the opportunity to rebuild our relation to the planet. Otherwise we will have fires, sea level rise, and heat waves. We must stop CO2 pollution, dangerous oil tanker trains, and clean up refineries. We must live in a world where the dignity of our lives actually matter.
Dr. Ramanathan was asked What Do We Do? He replied, cutting pollution has to start now. He recommended rooftop solar. It was pointed out that buildings are a main source of power consumption. UC President Janet Policano has announced a goal of making the UC system carbon independent. Dr. Ramananthan said there are 100 steps to take, and that it is a solvable problem.
Finally, we got to Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez. She said she never voted for a war. Wars are projected over fresh water. UC Irvine is working on preventing such wars. There also will be population displacements to rising sea levels, such as in Bangladesh and in Vietnam. She believes that 97% of scientists agree on the cause of climate change. The Congress could not pass a climate bill because it represents a large change in the status quo. (Neither could the Supreme Court either.) We must start with education, and in particular with the education level of mothers is important. We need political will, so we need the public to provide this.
Rep. Sanchez also hoped to get rid of nuclear weapons. She encouraged the audience to call or write you congress persons. We have to be more open to the many news sources available today. We must educate the people around us. Important to us and to young people especially is to register to vote. Don’t give up your power.
The Dalai Lama pointed out that the reality has changed, but our minds have not. People still put their own nations first. We should take a global interest first, then our nation’s interest. This requires an education in a holistic approach, and a humanitarian one. When the planet is happy, each nation automatically benefits. We must serve humanity with compassion. Generations have to grow up with a holistic approach, and then politicians will follow. Society is dominated by money which is then used to acquire power with politicians. We have the ability to change that.
Richard Blum commented that China has to get its act together, as people in its cities are suffering from enormous coal emissions pollution. Coal has influence in the US since it is produced in 40 states. He also mentioned in the political sphere that his wife is California Senator Diane Feinstein. He also pushed hydro power. (China has a big potential in this area.)
Finally, the Scripps Institute gave a special award to the Dalai Lama by naming a new ocean species after him. It is named Sirsoe Dalailamai.

About Dennis SILVERMAN

I am a retired Professor of Physics and Astronomy at U C Irvine. For a decade I have been active in learning about energy and the environment, and in lecturing and attending classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at UC Irvine.
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