Avoiding Unintended Harm to the Environment and the Buddhist Ethic of Intention - "correct Buddhist response to inevitable environmental flux" is a middle way of equanimity, avoiding support for existing polluting modes of production, and activist intervention to "re-establish untainted 'nature'". What kind of world do we want to live in—and what kind of world are we helping to create? Indeed, while the primary emphasis of the lay ethical precepts is also on avoiding intentional harm, negative environmental effects can be unintentional consequences of people's actions. As regards actions which directly and intentionally harm beings in the environment, it is clear that this is directly against Buddhist ethics, for example: 1killing animals, whether they belong to an endangered species, or not; 2dumping toxic chemicals in areas where it is known that they will do harm (cf. Vin.IV.49, as discussed above); 3burning large areas of forest with no regard for the animals whose life depends on it. For example, the BrahmajƒÅla S≈´tra's forty-eight secondary precepts for Bodhisattvas include: 14. On Starting Wildfires. A disciple of the Buddha shall not, out of evil intentions, start wildfires to clear forests and burn vegetation on mountains and plains, during the fourth to the ninth months of the lunar year. Such fires [are particularly injurious to animals during that period and may spread] to people's homes, towns and villages, temples and monasteries, fields and groves, as well as the [unseen] dwellings and possessions of deities and ghosts. He must not intentionally set fire to any place where there is life. If he deliberately does so, he commits a secondary offense. What, though, of the fact that unintentionally causing harm is generally seen as not generating bad karmic results—though we have seen that the Vinaya censures even some of these? When we look at the range of environmental problems facing the world, their harmful effects are often not intended by those that produce them: 1global warming, as a result of burning fossil fuels—an activity which, in itself, seems fairly innocuous, though evidence indicates that if this is not reduced in the next few decades, it may reach an uncontrollable, self-sustaining level, that will be a great threat to much life on earth; depletion of the ozone layer; • pollution of air, land, and water, by industrial effluents, agricultural chemicals such as insecticides and fertilizers—and noise, all of which may be side-effects of such things as producing goods and providing jobs; • resource depletion; • extinction of species, e.g., due to logging and human population encroachment.
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