The Buddhist Center Environmental Action Plan Toolkit
The Buddhist Center Environmental Action Plan Toolkit is a simple-to-use guide for rural Buddhist centres to document, protect and enhance the wild spaces and species on their properties. It has been published under a Creative Commons 4.0 License, which means it is free, free to share, and free to modify, with attribution.
The toolkit is a 23-page template for an environmental master plan. This template follows the standard format for such documents, tailored for a religious institution. It is in the form of an editable MS Word document – essentially a fill-in-the-blank model for your customized plan. Many of the headings will only require a short paragraph. There are also several appendices with useful resources and links you will need to complete your plan.
Our Buddhist commitment is to practice for all beings. The wild plants and animals of planet earth sustain us all, and in order for us collectively to survive we must do so in a manner that protects and replenishes them. This is our interbeing. Our properties have many living beings on them now. How do we care for them?
Why is this important to Buddhist centers?
Buddhist centers can be beacons demonstrating how environmental stewardship is part of Buddhist practice, and how compassion for the animals and plants who live with us benefits us as well as them.
Buddhism has a long tradition of rural retreat centers, holding large properties with significant wild inhabitants. Nurturing those wild spaces and species is a real, positive contribution to the health of our shared biosphere. In an era of rampant habitat destruction and environmental degradation, and the suffering those create, every contribution to protection for these plants and animals must be encouraged.
Each Buddhist center that commits to achieving this goal is a role model for others. By sharing their plans and their journeys, they provide their peers with practical advice on how they too can achieve the benefits for their communities and the world at large.
We are not alone in this; other religious institutions and interfaith environmental alliances are also on this path, such as Greenfaith, and the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative, to name just two. There are also many secular organizations striving to protect wild nature. We need to join our energies to this fundamentally important cause.
By taking a local rather than global focus, this project seeks to work from the grassroots up. We can protect wild spaces and species one Buddhist center at a time, because instead of merely talking the talk, we will be walking the walk.
What’s in the package?
- What lives here?
- What wild areas of our property are most vulnerable?
- What will we do to protect and nurture them?
There are also several appendices with useful resources and links you will need to complete your plan. Some of the items in the plan require a professional biologist, ecologist and/or planner. A proper biological audit typically takes three visits of a day each, over three seasons. However, much of the work can be done by your center directly. Many of the maps you may need are freely available from your local government agencies and non-governmental organizations active in your area.
It is important to note that even if you are only able to complete part of the plan, that is still much better than no policy or plan at all. Similarly, if you complete it but choose not to publish it, that is also a valuable effort.
It is also important to note that this plan is not intended to replace any architectural or human-made landscape plans you may have for your center. It is intended to help you protect and enhance the wild spaces and species with whom you share the property. However, understanding the ecological impact of any development you undertake is an important consideration, so it is possible that completing this process will inform and modify plans you may have already created.
Is help available?
This plan toolkit was developed by Buddhists, for Buddhists. The original organizing team comprises an environmental activist, a highly cited professional ecology scientist and educator, and a professional landscape architect.
We have reached out to other engaged Buddhist community leaders to raise awareness about the project, and to help facilitate successful plans in Buddhist centers in their extended communities. If you would like to be involved in this way, please let us know!
This is an open-ended project, insofar as we are embarking on the journey together. We are listening and open to suggestions. As the project takes root, we expect and welcome everyone’s input.
In fact, if your Buddhist center already has an environmental policy, master plan, and/or projects underway, we’d love to hear about them and share them with others.