Buddhism & Climate Change: Realizing Planetary Health


For the past three decades, my practice has been to provide safe drinking water to vulnerable populations worldwide. This work has been my best effort to address environmental justice, especially targeting poor women and their families who lack safe drinking water, this basic condition of well-being. Given the urgency of the climate crisis, in the past six years, I have refocused my work on climate action

In January 2021, I was given teacher authorization by Trudy Goodman of Insight LA. We jointly created that Zoom ceremony and invited those closest to us to join the celebration. At the end of the ceremony, I expressed my vow “to dedicate my life to Planetary Health, the health of the Earth and all beings on Earth, especially focusing on water, climate change and “One Health” the integration of human health, animal health, plant and planetary health.”

I am a teacher with one foot in each of two worlds. As an environmental engineer, I teach at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.” I teach students about courses in water, sanitation, climate change and planetary health. Also, I am a woman with a deep background in Buddhist feminism, having co-published “Kahawai: Journal of Women and Buddhism in the last 1970s and 1980s, and having translated and published “The First Buddhist Women” in 1992.

This lecture and discussion with share my perspective in bringing together these two worlds of Buddhism and Climate Change. The guiding principle is taken from the Four Noble Truths:

There is suffering … There is climate change.

There is a cause of suffering … Excess human-generated greenhouse gas emissions are the cause of the climate crisis.

There is an end to suffering … There are numerous, currently-available, planetary health interventions, nature-based solutions, and geo-engineered approaches to addressing the climate crisis

There is a path … There is a path.

This lecture/discussion is about unifying these two perspectives, with a focus on the actions Buddhists can take to mitigate, adapt and transform the most profound crisis humanity has ever faced.