Profiting From Catastrophe: If Fossil Fuel Companies Burn All Their Reserves We're Undeniably Screwed
Here are the facts: The business models at the center of our economy are in the deepest possible conflict with physics and chemistry.
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This is particularly relevant:
Of course it goes without saying that they'll keep burning that carbon into the atmosphere as to do otherwise would mean financial disaster and in some cases violent uprisings against states. Democracies won't elect leaders who demand economic sacrifice in exchange for ecological security. Nevermind the fact that even if half the world actually did do that, you'd still have giants like China, India and the USA among others not curtailing their fossil fuel use.If we spew 565 gigatons more carbon into the atmosphere, we’ll quite possibly go right past that reddest of red lines. But the oil companies, private and state-owned, have current reserves on the books equivalent to 2,795 gigatons -- five times more than we can ever safely burn. It has to stay in the ground.
Put another way, in ecological terms it would be extremely prudent to write off $20 trillion worth of those reserves. In economic terms, of course, it would be a disaster, first and foremost for shareholders and executives of companies like ExxonMobil (and people in places like Venezuela).
This of course leads one to foresee a rather bleak future. It is inescapable. We're screwed. Optimism won't fix the problem. The ship is sinking.
However, as a Mahayana Buddhist what can you do? You might curtail your own energy consumption, but at the end of the day it is just a token gesture given the monstrous pollution created by our greater societies.
So, in the coming decades, Buddhism as a whole will face unprecedented problems with the rest of the world. Ecological payback that will probably see deaths on an enormous scale. With it all the social discontent and emotional and psychological deterioration that accompanies cultures in rapid decline.
This leads me to think that mere "Dharma Centers" teaching meditation and a few classes won't be enough. Institutions will have to address a lot more severe problems than stress from the workplace and family. Poverty, hunger and destitution will be huge problems in the coming decades. Moreover, you can expect violence to become more and more commonplace in what was once peaceful communities as economies contract and governments inevitably slap down anger revolts.
We'll see what happens over time, but everything from peak oil to climate change points in the direction of everything going down hill. Still, I know few Buddhists who really recognize and acknowledge this. In modern Chinese Buddhism they like to talk about "building a Pure Land on Earth," which is essentially utopianism, but I think quite blind to the hard reality facing us all. The sentiment is that if you purify your own mind and maybe take up environmentalism, people will follow suit. This might mean bringing your own reusable bag to the grocery store, but such practices fail to consider that there are more cars on the roads than ever which shuttle those shoppers with their reusable bags. A nice gesture, but ultimately futile.
Ideally, we can be of aid to others as much as possible as the sting of our collective past deeds becomes intolerable, but in order to do that we should really prepare for some seriously hard times.