SAN JOSE — Stan Kawamata lifted up a colorful plastic bin containing worms wriggling around in the soil in order to demonstrate the process of creating a worm farm. Kawamata’s worm composting exhibit was among the demonstrations at an Earth Day celebration sponsored by the San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin EcoSangha, which was held on April 24.
The event, which is in its third year, included a lecture by the Rev. Mark Unno, Ph.D., a minister and professor at the University of Oregon, on the relationship between Buddhism and ecological issues. The event also featured a video, “Our Synthetic Sea,” winning entries from EcoSangha’s ecology art contest, a sustainable gardening demonstration, and ecologically safe products for household cleaning.
Other activities included a craft center where children reused egg cartons and kamaboko blocks to create birdhouses. In addition, adults had the opportunity to learn how to crochet bags and hats using plastic bags.
Karen Akahoshi, EcoSangha’s chairperson, said that “Eco” is short for ecology and “Sangha” means Buddhist fellowship.
“Our Earth Day celebration is a reminder that, as Buddhists, we are both ecologists and conservationists. Basically we are trying to continue to educate people about our responsibility to care for the Earth,” she said, via e-mail.
In his lecture, Unno discussed current ecological challenges, such as global warming. He said that everyone can do their part to protect the environment, such as using more fuel-efficient cars.
“Consumption of oil is on the decline because we have more fuel-efficient vehicles. By 2050, it may be 20 percent less,” Unno said.
Thus, he said that the changes people make now to protect the environment will pay off in the long run. “These mountains may not be moved tomorrow or 100 years from now, but they will be moved someday. If the right seeds are planted, they will bear fruit,” he said. “It’s not up to us to save the Earth. It will go on. What is more significant now is whether we can curtail global warming.”
Unno also discussed Japan’s recent environmental crisis and framed it in the context of Buddhism and its teachings.
Unno said, “I heard that following the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, there was order and little rioting among employees. I have no doubt that their attitudes were influenced by the Buddhist culture and teachings, even if they did not attend church. They reflected the Buddhist spirit.”
Akahoshi said that Unno’s speech sent a powerful message about how everyone can play a significant part in protecting the environment.
“When Mark spoke about global warming and the nuclear disaster in Japan, changes that seem insurmountable, he reminded us of even small changes that we can make can build momentum quickly. Also he said that more important than the external outcome was the internal shift within each of us to reflect on how we live our lives to truly understand the oneness of all beings. Out of that awareness we feel compelled to take action,” she said.
Akahoshi said that EcoSangha focuses on the connections between humans and their natural surroundings. “As Buddhists, the EcoSangha of the San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin recognizes that we are interdependent with all life. From that position of oneness, we ask what we can do for our environment. Our goal is to promote an understanding of the inherent ecological nature of Buddhism, ecologically friendly behavior through the established guidelines, and recognition of the profound implications of our behavior on future generations,” she said.