Dalai Lama Speaks For Environment

The following article is from the Autumn, 1990 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.

By Kevin Ellis

Free Press Staff Writer

MIDDLEBURYIn an American hockey rink jammed with eager con. jss, the Dalai Lama said Saturday chat compassion, love and affection can lead civilization away from the worldwide environmental crisis.

And scientists and other expertsmore than great leadersmust play a special role in finding solutions to environmental problems, he said.

People like me speak, but it has little effect, the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner told more than 5,000 people at Bryan Gymnasium at Middlebury College. More responsibility lies with the scientist to understand long term negative consequences.

The Dalai Lama gave the main address during the third day of Middlebury's Spirit and Nature symposium, holding the giant crowdincluding 1,500 viewing him on television outside the arenain awe.

From the moment he entered the arena shortly after 11 a.m. to a massive hush, the Tibetan leader alternately broke the audience up with laughter and subdued them with his pleas for compassion and love among peoples.


As he did throughout his stay in Vermont, which started Thursday, the Dalai Lama broke tension Saturday with his high-pitched giggles and his easy manner. He cautioned the audience not to expect much from his speech, which brought people from throughout the northeast.

You have come here with great expectations, he said. I have nothing to say to you.

The Tibetan leader moved in his 45-minute speech between English and his native language, with the help of a translator.

After the speech, in answer to a question from a man looking for guidance in raising his children in a troubled world, the Tibetan monk replied with a grin:

I don't know. If I had children I would probabaly quarrel with them.

The crowd laughed, but many appeared to understand the leader's message: Change for good in the world depends on everyone's understanding the role of compassion, love and affectionelements of natureand making ithem part of their everyday lives.

What hit me was that I just felt completely different afterward, said Robin Thren, 39, who came from Wells, Maine, to hear the Buddhist leader. For me it was a complete energy shift. There is a real power there.

Thren said that even if people did not leave the speech transformed, they were affected in some smalfway.

Something inside them changed whether they know it or not, she said.

Affection, loye and compassion transcend religion and can be used for a better world despite the many different religions in the world, the leader said.

Even without religion, you can survive, you can manage, he said. Without affection you cannot survive. Affection is the dominant force of the human mind.

The environmental crisis has emerged chiefly because of ignorance and a lack of courage in people to take action to solve problems, the Dalai Lama said.

We have such intelligence, but I think we nse it in the wrong direction and make decisions that go against basic human nature, the leader said.

Despite his decades of scientific study, the Dalai Lama eagerly admitted that he is no expert on environmental issues, but using simple analogies, he explained how caring for nature should be a natural act for all people, like a mother breast-feeding a child.

A single speech or conference such as the one in Middlebury cannot change the world, or even win back the Dalai Lama's native Tibet from the occupation of the Chinese, he said. But constant effort, discussion will be useful, he said.

The crowd at the conference was a wide-ranging one.

We have a group here from Alaska, college spokesman Ron Nief said. We've gotten calls from Latin America. I don't know if those people made it, but we did get calls from them. I've met people from California, New Mexico, one from Oregon who picked up another from Colorado.

Middlebury College tried to provide facilities for everyone who needed a place to stay, Nief said.

Barns and classrooms were opened up on the Breadloaf campus for people to sleep in. The meadow alongside the campus was opened to conference attendees, and a few campers dotted it and other places on campus, Nief said.

Saying she was 60-plus years old, Mabel Slack of Toronto said: We got to see him face to face as he walked by. Boy, let me tell you that was our thrill for the day.

Her friend, Rita Nault of Essex Junction, said of the Dalai Lama's Saturday morning talk, He's got a wonderful message to preserve nature.

Free Press staff writer Lori Campbell contributed to his report.

Back to all Snow Lion Articles