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What are the possibilities when Greta Thunberg and the Dalai Lama join forces?

What are the possibilities when Greta Thunberg and the Dalai Lama join forces?

3 minute read

12th Jan 2021

What can Greta Thunberg and the Dalai Lama teach us about fighting the climate crisis?

Despite being nearly seventy years apart in age, Greta Thunberg and the Dalai Lama are united with a common goal: inspiring action for the greater good of humanity. On the 9th of Jan the two visionaries discussed why we should take action, and whether we are able to reverse global warming before it’s too late.

“We need to think seriously about our lifestyle and today’s reality,” urged the Dalai Lama, during the 75-minute discussion. “Leaders like you are very, very important,” he said, pointing at the role of Thunberg and other young activists in bringing about positive change. “You can do much to lift up awareness.”

Thunberg thanked the Dalai Lama for standing up for the younger generation. “Although we may be very different, in terms of the age span, and many other things, we share a common goal, and that is to protect our planet.”

“If I could ask anything of you,” the 18-year-old activist pleaded to the viewers, “it would be to educate yourself, to learn as much as you possibly can”. As well as emphasising the importance of individual action, she stressed the indispensability of cooperation, supporting leaders who are active on this issue. “We need to create a social movement; we need to shift the social norm”.

The conversation centered around a new series of films – Climate Emergency: Feedback Loops – which explore how human-induced climate change has set in motion self-perpetuating feedback loops.

In climate change, a feedback loop is something that speeds up or slows down a warming trend. A positive feedback loop accelerates a temperature rise, whereas a negative feedback loop decelerates it.

Feedback loops make the impacts of key climate factors stronger or weaker, by starting a cyclical chain reaction that repeats again and again. For example, the emission of heat-trapping greenhouse gases leads to a rise in air temperature, which causes an evaporation of water from into the atmosphere. This precipitates another increase in temperature, amplifying the initial warming. Even more, warming leads to more water evaporation, and so the cycle repeats itself.

Positive feedback loop

From the destruction of forests to the melting of Arctic ice, the films explore how these feedback loops are causing climate change to spiral out of control. But whilst natural warming loops have left scientists alarmed, there’s also room for hope. Just as positive feedback loops cause a cascade of effects that accelerate global warming, negative feedback loops can reduce warming and help stabilise the system.

“While human activity has kicked off natural warming loops, human ingenuity could reverse their direction,” says William Moomaw, Professor Emeritus of International Environmental Policy at Tufts University. “It would mean protecting and expanding forests, preserving marshes, grasslands and all natural habitats, using agricultural practices that store carbon instead of releasing it, and letting trees and plants do their jobs of taking climate out of the air.”

Exploring both the ethical imperative of taking action and recent scientific findings, the livestream event highlights what we can collectively do to slow, halt, and even reverse the destructive impact of climate feedback loops.

Watch the livestream event. Mind & Life will continue to explore the climate crisis and the human-earth relationship at their virtual 2021 Summer Research Institute, held online on June 6-12, 2021.