National Post catches wind of Ontario Buddhist retreat controversy

Buddhism in Canada Buddhist community Eco Action Environmental Issues Ontario Retreats

Cham Shan Temple is planning a quartet of Buddhist retreat centres in the Kawartha Lakes area, modelled after the four sacred Buddhist mountains of China. They have purchased huge tracts of land for the purpose, and plan to spend tens of millions of dollars on development and construction.

Here’s a link to an earlier article we wrote in 2011, with some details about Wutaishan, their first phase of the project.

Along the way, they discovered the Ontario government is planning a large wind farm near their property and they (along with various local advocacy groups) have been engaged in a conflict with the government ever since.

Articles ran in various smaller local media outlets, (as noted in this previous Sumeru post from October 2013 and this Sumeru post from November 2013 and this Sumeru post from December 2013).

Now the National Post has picked up the Buddhist retreat controversy story. Must have been a slow news week!

Here is an article they published on February 18, including a rendering of what the Cham Shan retreat will look like: http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/02/18/40m-buddhist-temple-project-in-jeopardy-after-ontario-government-approves-windfarm-next-to-it/

The headline is rather misleading, since the retreat is not in jeopardy. No previous news reports have suggested that Cham Shan is not going to cancel the project and sell the land if the wind farm plan goes through.

This is the essential dilemma: If Ontario does not make serious, large-scale moves into green energy generation, we are doomed to continue using nuclear, coal and gas-fired plants, which are horrible for us in so many ways. People should be applauding and encouraging green energy plans, not burying their heads in the sand or saying “Not In My Back Yard.”

It’s not a valid argument for Cham Shan to say a wind farm lowers the value of their property, since they have no intention of ever selling it. So they must be basing their resistance on assumptions that a wind farm will somehow detract from the spiritual atmosphere of their retreat centre(s). Personally, I feel if I were there, the sight of windmills would be very uplifting and I would be very grateful that they exist.

On the other hand, the Ontario government’s development of wind power has been spotty with some very foolish and costly false starts, they have failed to explore more advanced wind technology options, and they have handled community push-back in a clumsy, heavy-handed way.

There’s good and bad there (as Dogen said, life is one mistake after another), but on balance, I think the public good of a wind farm takes precedence. Sorry, Cham Shan. I love you but finding a better way to care for our planet is in sync with the Dharma.

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