The train from London Paddington to Totnes, south Devon, England, winds its way along the coast right beside the sea wall between Exeter and Newton Abbot, ten minutes from Totnes.
Trains have passed up and down this section of the line since 1846 – a credit to the incredible engineering skills of Isambard Brunel, (1806 – 1859), voted in a BBC poll in 2002 as the second greatest Englishman in history.
Local people have always applauded Brunel for creating the railways line in this area, besides the sea, for train passengers to enjoy the sea views – uninterrupted for the past 168 years.
In the first days of February, 2014, the fierce gales and the intensity of the Atlantic Ocean unleashed its power upon the Dawlish sea wall, until it collapsed leaving a section of the railway line literally hanging in mid-air.
More than 300 railwaymen still continue to work, day and night, to rebuild the sea wall, the railway line and tunnels while keeping out the pounding seas, especially at high tide, through using huge shipping containers full of heavy rubble and concrete crash barriers from motorways. They work to preserve one of the world’s most beautiful stretches of railway. It is a formidable engineering undertaking.
I have travelled on trains on this railway track hundreds of times since moving to Totnes in the early 1980s. For many of us, it is our favourite stretch of the three hour journey from London. British and overseas tourists turn their heads to enjoy the sea views, as the train goes by, only metres from the water.
Four days after some of the fiercest storms last month ever known in Devon and Somerset for three centuries, I took the rather roundabout route, with numerous other passengers, by train and coach from Totnes to London for the flight to India. Part of the way, we journeyed along single track railways line with flooded fields on either side of the train, far and wide.
I regarded the hole in the sea wall at nearby Dawlish and the dangling railway line as another symbolic confirmation of the destructive power of climate change.
A week or two before, I had started writing my first political script for YouTube to express my concern about the dark states of the human mind, such as greed, violence and delusion, overshadowing the Earth and contributing directly to climate change.
As with more and more citizens, I regard the Earth and all its inhabitants in a vulnerable condition, both present and future generations, due to human exploitation and our harmful activities, especially by those in the grip of corporate/consumerism. The old ideas of waking up, as the core spiritual experience, seem rather narrow in the 21st century if awakening excludes exploration of ethics, excludes change of lifestyle, ignores inquiry around dependent arising and neglects compassionate action for humans, animals and the global environment.
The old definition of awakening, of liberation, had an important relevance for monks, nuns, yogis, sadhus and spiritual nomads. They lived an austere, quietly disciplined way of life. Their footprints on the Earth were barely noticeable. In such calm abiding with utterly simple living, their awakening and liberation meant a great deal to men and women who listened to their voices. Their awakening freed them from the mental constructs of birth and death and simultaneously enabled them to live in harmony with the Earth and its resources.
There are far too many gurus today, East and West, who offer their version of enlightenment without any reference to lifestyle, to the way of being in the world. It is a huge error of judgement. The whole approach to enlightenment needs a radical shift from the present ideologies of the Now, Oneness, Being, Consciousness and God to comprehensive realisations about awakening and its profound significance socially and globally.
I wrote the script for corporations and consumers, not making Buddhist meditators the target audience.
Tom Riddle, a Dharma friend and short filmmaker, kindly offered to film the critique during my time in Sarnath, India, where the Buddha gave his first teachings. I had emailed Tom to tell him that the script would make about 12 minutes of filming. I gave the critique the title The Three Pollutions of the Global Mind. An Appeal for a Revolution.
After seeing photos of the devastation to the Dawlish track, I found myself fired up to write in more detail. Various people looked at the script including a Hollywood script writer, an author on a major environmental issue and a psychologist.
The length of the critique expanded from the proposed 12 minutes to a total of 64 minutes with around 21 minutes or so given to each of the three pollutions, namely greed, violence and delusion. The critique looks at the destructive impact of corporate/consumer capitalism and its global impact on people, rich and poor, animals and the environment.
One railway contractor, working on the broken Dawlish railway line, said: “It is a privilege to work here on the line created by Brunel. Brunel’s work has lasted for 150 years. We hope ours will last 150 years.”
Climate change, longer periods of extreme temperatures, melting ice caps, floods, forest fires, famine, deforestation, pollution of land, water and air offer little hope of the repairs lasting 150 years. There is a threat to much more than Brunel’s tremendous deeds of making railway lines, tunnels though cliffs, tunnels under rivers and his amazing bridges.
We do not need scientists to tell us of the growing impact of climate change. We can see it for ourselves all around the world. Sadly, our politicians lack the larger picture. They avoid references to climate change as they make their lightning quick visits to a disaster area. If they admit to climate change, they have to change their policies, financial priorities and use of resources. Their visits amount to a photo opportunity for the press with the promise of a little extra funding to victims and local environment.
Then the politicians return back to their capital city endorsing exactly the same policies, the same obsession with economic growth, which has caused so much suffering and harm to the earth and its inhabitants in the space of 50 years. Our politicians share tunnel vision.
We need a revolution!
MAY ALL BEINGS LIVE MINDFULLY OF CONSEQUENCES
MALL BEINGS ENGAGE IN TRANSFORMATIVE ACTION
MAY ALL BEINGS LIVE WITH WISDOM AND COMPASSION