Buddhists join Quakers for BP protest and People’s Climate March
September 21, 2014 – Activists come together to challenge oil sponsorship of the British Museum, and kick-start a day of climate action across London, and the world.
On the day of the People’s Climate March members of the Dharma Action Network for Climate Engagement (DANCE) and the London Quakers joined with theatrical protest group BP or Not to BP to create a giant circle of meditation to mark the 4 year anniversary of the Gulf oil spill, and highlight BP’s recent charge of ‘gross negligence’. Their aim was to challenge BP’s sponsorship deal with the British Museum and to question the moral implications of big oil linked with art and culture. The action was one of many that took place in a day of Fossil Free climate actions across London and across the world.
Joining Buddhist practitioners from across the Triratna, Soto Zen and Insight traditions were teachers from Gaia House in Devon, including Rob Burbea, Yanai Postlenik, Kirsten Kratz, Catherine McGee and Chris Cullen, and Triratna teachers Sahajatara and Vidykaya. Approximately 70 Buddhist and Quaker activists created a meeting of worship/circle of meditation around the tableau performed by BP or not BP.
The scene conveyed the story behind the ‘gross negligence’ charge – the dying agony of animals and sea life affected by the spill, the local trades-people whose livelihoods were wiped out and the clean-up workers poisoned by the chemical dispersant which was used to sink the oil to the ocean floor and ‘hide’ the spill from public view. Laid out on the ground as a part of the performance was 11 white roses to mark each of the victims who were killed from the explosion on the Deep Horizon rig. Together the group then held silence for 11 minutes.
Andrew Dey, who was part of the London Quaker group said “Actions like this are a form of witness to the destruction caused by the fossil fuel industry, and also aim to highlight how companies who profit from climate chaos sponsor public institutions to improve their public relations.”
Catherine McGee, an Insight meditation teacher, said “We know that life support systems are being dangerously harmed through extraction and use of fossil fuels, and countless beings are suffering as a result. As Nelson Mandela says, when humans act together to challenge suffering there is a ‘multiplication of courage’ born of our commitment to each other on this planet. In this way, I believe, real power can emerge that can disrupt the power of the status quo.”
From the Triratna tradition, Sahajatara explained her reasons for coming: “True religion is about trying to save all beings from suffering, and climate change is going to cause unimaginable suffering – it already is – and affecting the most vulnerable in numerous places around the world. Now is a time for responding with bravery and action – not just sitting with our eyes closed trying to cultivate positive mental states.’
BP’s cultural sponsorship is high on the agenda this week, with the Tate appearing in court over its refusal to disclose the amount of money it receives from BP and with ‘BP Out of Opera’ protestors taking to the stage at Trafalgar Square on Wednesday prior to a a livestream broadcast of the Royal Opera House’s production of Verdi’s Rigoletto.
Earlier this year, Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu called for action by people of faith and conscience against arts and sports programming sponsored by fossil-fuel companies, saying: “Twenty-five years ago people could be excused for not knowing or doing much about climate change. Today we have no excuse. Companies responsible for emitting carbon and accelerating climate change are not simply going to give up. They need persuasion from the likes of us and our cultural institutions to cut their ties to the fossil-fuel industry.” BP provides less than 1% of the British Museum’s annual income, and yet the company receives a large amount of high-profile branding in return, as well as the use of the largely publicly-funded Museum for its corporate events.
Following on from the protest at the British Museum all three groups joined the People’s Climate March where an estimated 40,000 people took to the streets of London for the ‘largest global climate march in history’, with over 2000 corresponding mobilisations taking place in 150 cities across the world, including a coalition of Buddhist monks in attendance in New York. In addition to sangha gathering for corresponding climate marches in Bristol and Edinburgh, hundreds of people of diverse faiths came together together for a multi-faith gathering in London, hosted by Our Voices, prior to the march, to share prayers, meditation and aspirations with world leaders. Our Voices is helping to bring the voices of the multi-faith millions to the UN climate talks in December 2015, and asking that people sign their online petition to demand a safe climate for future generations.
Kate Honey, a 23 year old Soto Zen Buddhist from Cambridge explained why she felt it was important to come to the march. “I’m attending because the powers-that-be would have us believe that everything is OK, when our inner sense tells us that something is deeply wrong. I believe that sitting still and listening with one’s heart is a radical act. When we are still, centred and whole, our heart is open to the cries of the world, and we become channels for compassion and are able to respond. Our attentive silence in a world of distraction and noise bears witness to the fact that consumerism and capitalism is causing untold suffering, and that change needs to happen. Now is the time we need to act.”
Please sign the petition for the British Museum to end their sponsorship deal with BP:
To get involved with a local DANCE group or stay in touch with us about upcoming actions contact: firstname.lastname@example.org