Is the climate crisis a reflection of our lack of understanding of our true nature as human beings in the cosmos? Could our inability to ask such difficult questions be at the root of our collective impotence to reduce carbon emissions and usher in the magnitude of cultural change necessary in order to avoid impending and irreversible tipping points?
Graham Parkes, thinks so. In fact, Graham Parkes’ new book, HOW TO THINK ABOUT THE CLIMATE CRISIS: A Philosophical Guide to Saner Ways of Living (Bloomsbury Academic, 2021) is exactly that - about how to think differently about the climate crisis – by learning from the great ancient wisdom traditions – particularly Chinese philosophies such as Confucianism and Taoism. Contrary to contemporary positive psychologists and happiness industry gurus, so-called "human flourishing" is not individualistic in these ancient Chinese philosophical traditions, but rather, thriving is relational in and as a society - in a harmonious relationship with the natural world.
But as Graham discusses in his book and in our interview – our thinking in the West has been obstructed and taken over by very powerful libertarian ideologies and warped Far Right theologies with the backing of many billionaires and corporate special interests – particularly the fossil fuel industry. Graham painstakingly covers a lot of ground in his book – it’s a detailed, well researched and very sober analysis not only of the reality of global heating, but also of the social and political forces obstructing us, resulting in the predicament and political impasse we find ourselves in today.
Even in the hour and a half that we spoke, we still only scratched the surface of the many issues and ideas in his book, so I really do hope you get a chance to read his book.
A native of Glasgow, Graham Parkes has taught philosophy at universities in the United States, Europe, and East Asia, and is now Professorial Research Fellow at the University of Vienna. He has published widely in the fields of European, Chinese, and Japanese thought, with a long-standing emphasis on environmental philosophy.
Profesor Parkes was educated at the Queen’s College Oxford, in philosophy and psychology, and the University of California at Berkeley, where he received a PhD in philosophy in 1978. He he taught Asian and comparative philosophy for almost thirty years in the Philosophy Department at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. He has been a visiting scholar at Harvard University, at the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, and the Center for the Study of World Religions. In 2008 Parkes moved to University College Cork in Ireland, where he was the Professor of Philosophy and then Head of the School of Philosophy and Sociology. He founded the Irish Institute of Japanese Studies and served as Director for four years, until leaving Ireland in 2015. He has also held research appointments in France, Italy, and Japan, and has been a visiting professor in Austria, China, Japan, and Singapore.
I often get the question – “Well, who is doing innovative and leading-edge work on social and civic mindfulness – who is teaching mindfulness outside of the clinical, biomedical, and individualistic framework? I kept hearing Paula Haddock’s name pop up.
Paula Haddock is a long-time social activist and spent many years working in non-profit fundraising and with NGOs – and she is a seasoned training manager – working worldwide in supporting civil society in capacity building. She is the co-founder (with Luke Wreford) of the Mindfulness and Social Change Network which is a collective of international academics, activists, humanitarian workers and socially engaged mindfulness practitioners who are exploring the potential for secular mindfulness training and practice to contribute to more sustainable, caring and socially just societies.
David Forbes in Brooklyn joins me in this episode as we explore with Paula her unique social framework for teaching mindfulness, along with her work with the Ulex Project which delivers training on movement building, impact and resilience for European based change makers. Paula has also been actively involved in EcoDharma training. We touch on a number of other issues such as whiteness in mindfulness communities, cancel culture, and our reactions to Trump getting Covid.
Paula has delivered social-mindfulness related sessions for the Atlantic Fellows Programme, University College London, The Mindfulness Association and written for the Transformation Series of Open Democracy: Mindfulness and Social Change and Don’t wait for the future of Mindfulness – it’s already here.