The acclaimed buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh talks to the Ecologist about the loss of biodiversity and why human vulnerability is not something we should despair about
"The National Wildlife Federation tells us everyday that 100 plants and animal species are lost to deforestation. Extinction of species is taking place everyday. In one year there may be 200,000 species going into extinction. That is what is happening; that is not the problem of the future. We know that 251 million years ago there was already global warming caused by gigantic volcanic eruptions. They caused the worst mass extinction in the history of the planet. The 6C increase in global temperature was enough to wipe out 95 per cent of the species that were alive. Global warming already happened 251 million years ago because of volcanic eruptions and 95 per cent of species on earth disappeared.
Now a second global warming is taking place. This time because of deforestation and industrialisation; man-made, maybe in 100 years there will be no more humans on the planet, in just 100 years. After the disappearance of 95 per cent of species on the earth by the mass extinction the earth took 100 million years to restore life on earth. If our civilisation disappears it will take some time like that for another civilisation to reappear. When volcanic eruptions happened the carbon dioxide built up and created the greenhouse effect. That was 251 million years ago. Now the building up of carbon dioxide is coming from our own lifestyle and our industrial activities.
If 6C degrees take place, another 95 per cent of species will die out, including Homo sapiens. That is why we have to learn to touch eternity with our in breath and out breath. Extinction of species has happened several times. Mass extinction has already happened five times and this one is the sixth. According to the Buddhist tradition there is no birth and no death. After extinction things will reappear in other forms, so you have to breathe very deeply in order to acknowledge the fact that we humans may disappear in just 100 years on earth.
You have to learn how to accept that hard fact. You should not be overwhelmed by despair. The solution is to learn how to touch eternity in the present moment. We have been talking about the environment as if it is something different from us, but we are the environment. The non-human elements are our environment, but we are the environment of non-human elements, so we are one with the environment. We are the environment. We are the earth and the earth has the capacity to restore balance and sometimes many species have to disappear for the balance restored. Maybe the flood, maybe the heat, maybe the air.