January 4, 2009

Book review: Mindfully Green (Stephanie Kaza)

One of the many signature contributions of Thich Nhat Hahn has been the concept of Engaged Buddhism, encouraging practitioners to get up off the cushion and engage with the world around them.  Kaza’s Mindfully Green takes this principle into the field of Deep Ecology, and through her text, encourages the reader to take steps necessary to heal our damaged planet.  The book doesn’t merely focus on the environment, instead demonstrating the interconnectedness of all of our choices by encouraging the reader to focus on what personally appeals to each of us, then acting on it, rather than scattering our energies by trying to do all things at once.  Mindfully Green is divided into three parts, each designed to move the reader from thought into action and engagement regarding our ecological systems and Buddhist teachings.  However, this book isn’t written specifically for Buddhists, and can be enjoyed and its suggestions employed by anyone interested in suggestions about how to make those individual choices and changes in daily life.  Kaza doesn’t put rose colored glasses on the consequences of our choices, and definitely understands and even warns the reader that making more mindful choices requires a certain level of commitment and can make living rather inconvenient at times.  She also addresses the moral dilemma of things beyond our control: factory farming, coal mining, and so forth, and rather than throwing up our collective hands in despair, encourages the reader to make individual choices, like a focus on local eating, solar power conversions, and so forth.  Going beyond that, she also promotes a more holistic approach, one that doesn’t just advocate cleaning something up, but instead taking a look at why and how it got dirty in the first place, then taking steps to change that.  Available from Shambhala Publications and your local, independent bookstore, this book is a good addition to the collection of any environmentalist or ecologist, Buddhist or not.

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