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Climate change, economics and Buddhism Part 2: New views and practices for

sustainable world economies

Peter L. Daniels
Grifth School of Environment, Grifth University, Brisbane, 4111, Australia
a b s t r a c t a r t i c l e i n f o
Article history:
Received 28 October 2009
Received in revised form 27 January 2010
Accepted 31 January 2010
Available online 2 March 2010
Climate change
Environmental analysis
Sustainability strategies
The evidence of impending and serious climate and other consequences of an expanding world economy
based on fossil carbon energy continues to accumulate. This two-part paper examines the potential
contribution of the world view and insights of Buddhism to this search. It presents both a conceptual and
practical case that Buddhism can help shape and move towards an alternative and effective paradigmatic
basis for sustainable economies one capable of bringing about and maintaining genuine, high welfare
levels across the world's societies.
The rst paper outlined a comprehensive analytical framework to identify the fundamental nature of
anthropogenic climate change. Based on the integration of two of the most inuential environmental
analysis tools of recent decades (the DPSIR model and IPAT equation), the framework was then broadened to
facilitate ideas from the Buddhist world view by injecting two key missing aspects the interrelated role of
(1) beliefs and values (on goals and behavior) and (2) the nature of well-being or human happiness. Finally,
the principal linkages between this climate change analysis framework and Buddhism were explored.
In this concluding paper, the systems framework is used to demonstrate how Buddhist and related world
views can feed into appropriate and effective responses to the impending challenges of climate change. This
is undertaken by systematically presenting a specic, if indicative, list of relevant strategies informed by the
understanding of interconnectedness and other basic principles about the nature of reality and human well-
being as proposed in Buddhism.
2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction
The level of human perturbation in the life-supporting planetary
carbon cycle is nowa cause of great concern (Perez and Batten, 2006).
Beyond the threat of climate change catastrophe, global fossil carbon
energy dependence brings an extensive range of political, environ-
mental and social problems linked to the rather vulnerable sociocul-
tural, technical and infrastructural systems that develop around such
a lucrative (at least in the short-term) form of energy for society.
Many of these troubling issues are intensifying with probable global
oil peak and relentless growth in use and dependence on petroleum,
natural gas and coal (Bardi, 2009).
This two-part paper is premised on the proposition that current
fossil carbon energy use is intrinsically high-intervention in nature
and will, even via the biophysical mechanisms alone, have very
signicant and disruptive outcomes on the interconnected well-being
of individuals, society and nature. It is proposed that this level and
form of intervention has become an inherent, powerful, and self-
reproducing driving force within global consumer society despite
substantial human intentions for change towards more sustainable
ways of life. Hence, rather piecemeal and incremental policy moves
such as the property rights extension approach of emission trading
schemes are deemed as well-meaning but unlikely to be adequate for
the fundamental sociocultural, economic and technological changes
required to effectively deal with climate change and other sustain-
ability challenges. This limitation applies to both mitigation of sources
of climate change, as well as adaptation to the unavoidable impacts
from carbon cycle perturbation to date.
Given a need for more profound change that is inevitably rooted in
fresh world views, values and knowledge about the way to sustained
improvements in well-being, this paper examines environmental,
ethical and cosmological dimensions of Buddhism as a logical and
practical basis for addressing climate change and other problems
associated with humanity's growing dependence on fossil carbon.
Arguably, the ideas are appropriate for evaluating all societal means
and ends that have signicant linkages to nature.
The rst paper involved a structured etiological analysis of
relevant climate change drivers, pressures, and responses, and their
connection to world views about the essential nature of universal
interdependence and causeeffect relations. A key aspect was the role
of beliefs, values, goals, and choices, and subsequent implications for
Ecological Economics 69 (2010) 962972
An updated paper based on a presentation to the United Nations Day of Vesak 2008
Buddhist Response to Climate Change Workshop, Hanoi, Vietnam May 15, 2008.
Tel.: +61 7 3735 7189; fax: +61 7 3735 7459.
E-mail address:
0921-8009/$ see front matter 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Ecological Economics
j our nal homepage: www. el sevi er. com/ l ocat e/ ecol econ
well-being. This Buddhism-inspired exploration of substantive causes
opened the way for the range of effective solutions proposed in this
concluding paper. The previous paper began with the development of
a comprehensive analytical framework to identify the key relation-
ships underlying the issue of anthropogenic climate change. Two
inuential environmental analysis tools were integrated the DPSIR
model and (extended) IPAT equation. This outcome was then ex-
panded to accommodate two key missing aspects for injecting
potential insight from Buddhism. These aspects are the interrelated
roles of (1) beliefs and values (on goals and behavior) and (2) the
nature of well-being or human happiness. The nal section of part 1
outlined the primary Buddhist views about the main linkages in our
integrated heuristic framework for analyzing climate change.
In this second paper, we build on this initial work and extract and
construct the underlying policy themes and specic climate change
responses that are consistent with the philosophy of Buddhism. The
paper opens with a brief overviewof the key features of the integrated
framework for environmental problem analysis developed in the rst
paper. Using this platform as a base, we identify and discuss the
general guiding ideas and principles that would structure Buddhism-
inspired changes to address climate change and other inherent
problems in economic systems predicated upon fossil carbon energy
and its extensive intervention with and disruption to nature. The nal
section presents some discussion on a specic list of nine compatible
strategic changes broadly classied into chain impact and well-being
research, policies for directly modifying economic behavior and
choices, and mechanisms for shaping inner values and aspirations.
2. A review of the integrated environmental systems analysis
framework including key elements of the Buddhist world view
The extended scope of the integrated environmental analysis
framework developed in the rst paper reects Buddhism's emphasis
upon ethical dimensions of human action and outcomes and the real
inuences upon well-being. However, our framework also serves
as an appropriate platform for integrating Buddhism in terms of
(a) explaining the fundamental nature of the driving forces behind
climate change and, hence, (b) conguring appropriate and effective
responses to the problem. The latter, more practical and policy-
oriented issue comprises the essence and focus of this second paper.
The heuristic framework builds upon the European Environmental
Agency's popular DPSIR approach (Gabrielsen and Bosch, 2003).
This systems analysis method starts with social and economic
developments (driving forces (D)) that generate material and energy
ows that exert pressure on the environment (P) and, consequently,
lead to changes in its state (S). In turn, state changes will impact
human welfare (I) (e.g. via health, amenity and productivity effects)
and will often elicit a response fromsociety (R) aimed at modifying the
driving forces and taking other mitigating, adaptive or remedial
action. The greenhouse gas emissions from transport, agricultural and
other petrochemical applications and activities leading to climate
change are a classic case in point.
Our rst innovation to this basic schema addresses the limited
treatment of critical driving forces in the DPSIR model. The model is
combined with an extended version of the popular and inuential
Master IPAT equation to inject a consistent and systematic detailed
analysis of the essential driving forces (D) behind climate change.
The driving forces in the right-hand side of the I =P.A.T equation are
population (P), afuence or output or consumption per person (GDP
per capita in $s) (A); and the environmental impact per unit of output
(per person) (T). However, afuence (A) and technology or average
environmental impact of overall output (T) do not provide adequate
information for understanding the complete nature of environmental
pressure sources and hence the means by which these pressures
might be reduced. We need to extend the PAT aspect of the equation
to help reveal perhaps the most important and useful information for
scientic understanding and strategic responses to specic environ-
mental problems. Indeed, it is critical to know and measure (1) the
nature and composition of consumption or production within the
overall output bundle (afuence), in conjunction with (2) the
environmental impact associated with the production and consump-
tion per unit (often per $) of each specic type of economic activity, or
good or service.
Naturally, the current technologies associated with production and
consumption are instrumental for the latter aspect. This is the key to
the detailed analysis of sources and derivation of potential solutions.
Hence, the driving forces need to be studied not just in terms of
population and overall levels of output but must also focus upon both
the nature of output (or composition of consumption) and the
environmental-intensity of each output type. The arithmetic product
of (1) the level of specic activity, and (2) its environment-intensity,
will determine the extent to which it puts pressure on the source and
sink functions provided to humans from nature.
The result is the extended, IPANT equation and the four sets of
driving forces are shown integrated into the framework at the top of
Fig. 1. The economic activity type(N)technology (T) relation governs
the driving force (D) environmental pressure (P) linkage in the DPSIR
model via emission, natural resource input and land use factors or
intensities. The benets of this more complete decomposition and
analysis of consumption (and, by corollary, production and trade) are
now widely-recognized and match the strong growth in research
interest in sustainable consumption, lifestyle and preference changes
(Reisch and Rpke, 2004; Tukker, 2008).
The additional innovations and extensions to the basic DPSIR
framework are driven by its relative neglect of the deeper sociocul-
tural factors that exist at the root environmental theme problems. It is
no coincidence that the inclusion of these key variables also provides
the appropriate interface for embedding the Buddhist world views
into our integrated environmental systems analysis. The rst step is to
incorporate the role of values, beliefs and ethical dimensions. It is their
inuence around the driving forces behind behavioral, social and
economic outcomes (such as population, levels and nature of output
and technology) that ultimately generate the environmental pres-
sures behind climate change. However, this is not enough. We also
need to identify how the integrated model connects to actual policy
objectives. These objectives are typically focused, at least implicitly,
upon net substantive and sustained gains in well-being.
The idea that our belief system and world views congure our
values, goals, choices and behavior that are manifest as the social and
economic outcomes or driving forces has been incorporated into the
integrated model as the inner right-hand box of Fig. 1. This value-
behavior relation is shown to connect to the DPSIR-IPANT model as
(1) a key source of the driving forces and, (2) providing the essential
understanding for effective change in behavior and responses to
address climate change. The other main link to the Buddhist
perspective is created by dropping the critical welfare or well-being
component into the model (inner left-hand box of Fig. 1). Here, well-
being is depicted as being inuenced by (1) the traditional, if
ambivalent, link to afuence (GDP per capita), as well as (2) how
much and what is produced and consumed (and indirectly, technol-
ogy or how it is produced), (3) the environmental quality impacts of
previous economic activity and, nally, (4) the nature of expectations,
wants and goals. These main inuences are shown by the four arrows
leading to welfare in Fig. 1.
Therefore, the overall analytic framework in Fig. 1, developed as
the basis for introducing Buddhist insights into creating effective
climate change strategies in the rst part of this paper, contains three
The Master IPAT equation is I =P.A.T where I is the total environmental impact
(biophysical) and is equal to the product of population (P); afuence or output or
consumption per person (GDP per capita in $s) (A); and the environmental impact per
unit of output (per person) (T) (Graedel and Allenby, 1995).
963 P.L. Daniels / Ecological Economics 69 (2010) 962972
main interconnected elements: (1) the integrated DPSIR and
extended IPAT framework, (2) a simple model of behavior as the
result of goals and choices derived from prevailing beliefs and ethical
systems, and (3) the interconnected central objective or end-point of
human welfare or well-being.
The previous paper of this article outlines the primary Buddhist
views on the causeeffect relations that pivot upon the two
sociocultural additions to the DPSIR framework. They cover how
beliefs, values, goals, choices and behavior guide the driving forces
behind the climate change threat, as well as howwell-being is actually
inuenced by economic and environmental outcomes, and expecta-
tions and goals. As discussed in the earlier paper, the most relevant
and direct aspects of Buddhism are probably the rst two of the Four
Noble Truths together with the strong theme of existential intercon-
They present the main causeeffect relations that
explain the major sources of welfare loss including climate change
impacts as a form of societal suffering from ignorance and mis-
directed action.
The Buddhist insights regarding the values-behavior outcome and
the path to well-being can be briey summarized as follows. The
conventional Western consumer economy view of well-being, and
hence our primary life activity goals, is incorrect. Beyond basic
biophysical and social-community needs, material accumulation and
attachment is actually a source of suffering (or, perhaps, disutility in
neoclassical economic speak). This is very different from the positive
relationship between economic output and welfare adopted as an
axiom in mainstream economic thought. The rst two Noble Truths
describe how worldly phenomena are intrinsically transient and
eventually change into a different form or state, or are subject to
saturation or adaptation, so they no longer comprise the source of
benet originally expected fromthem. Thus, attachment to desire and
the hope that well-being will continue to be drawn from outside
sources is the primary source of discontent.
When these truths are coupled with central notion of the
profound and substantive interconnectedness of all things, the
essential Buddhist explanation of the sources of climate change
drivers is further revealed. If attachment and the pursuit of desire are
associated with high levels of biophysical intervention and disruption,
consequent suffering (or dukkha) is intensied. Source impacts will
extend out from individuals, across society and nature (the three
realms), and back, to have commensurate longer-term welfare
effects upon the originator.
Hence well-being requires basic material needs but, beyond this
level, it has very contingent links to afuence or overall levels of
output and consumption (measured in monetary or biophysical
terms). Other important inuences on well-being derived from
Buddhism are represented by dashed lines in the integrated model
(Fig. 1). They include the nature of consumption (including time use)
and the intensity of specic disruptive impacts that ow through
society, nature and back to the individual source. One further
inuence on well-being would be the disappointment from the
failure of the goal of greater consumption and its desired satisfaction
From this explanation of the problem sources, it is possible to
identify the nature of appropriate changes and strategies to induce
such changes.
3. General Buddhist principles for effective responses to
climate change
The discussion of Buddhism in the rst paper of this series was
restricted to its view about the current underlying causal processes
at work. In particular, we looked at how the Buddhist world view
explains the driving forces behind climate change as an outcome of
In brief, the Four Noble Truths are (1) that existence is pervaded by impermanence
and associated suffering or profound dissatisfaction, (2) that the cause of this
suffering is attachment to desire, (3) there is a way to end suffering and achieve
peace cease attachment to desire, and (4) that the way to end suffering is to follow
the Eightfold Path. Buddhism's unique view of Anatta or soulnessness where there is
no xed self-identity through life and death reinforces its emphasis on interconnect-
edness and compassion (Narada, 1966). Individual welfare is intrinsically tied to that
of other sentient beings. Rather than self-seeking goals of future well-being from one's
appropriate acts in present life, true welfare (Nirvana) will occur by release from
divided, individual existence.
Fig. 1. The DPSIR-IPANT integrated framework for understanding the causes and potential solutions for climate change.
964 P.L. Daniels / Ecological Economics 69 (2010) 962972
underlying beliefs, values, wants and goals. The other key focus for
this task was upon the perception of well-being and how it is actually
affected by economic output levels and type, technology, and
environmental conditions and impacts. Understanding causes and
the means and ends for true well-being gains is, of course, an essential
aspect for identifying solutions. In this paper, the emphasis shifts to an
exposition of howa Buddhist world viewand principles would inform
effective climate change responses that are consistent with its notion
of positive social and economic outcomes. Theoretically, a society that
embraced Buddhism as a guiding basis for the nature of its social and
economic conditions would greatly reduce the drivers that currently
underlie predicted climate change.
Fig. 2 shows that portion of the overall DPSIR-IPANT hybrid model
focuseduponhumanresponses to climatechange (R). Inthe basic DPSIR
framework, responses are considered as a reaction to socioeconomic
impacts (in this case, fromclimate change). They can be targeted either
at underlying driving forces or comprise more reactive, remedial and ex
post efforts to mitigate existing environmental pressures (P) and state
(S) changes, or alleviate related adverse societal impacts (I). Note that
the latter approach is passive and remedial and is not shown in Fig. 2.
Indeed, it is considered of secondary importance in this analysis given
the explicit emphasis upon fundamental causeeffect relations in
Buddhism (Bhikkhu Bodhi, 1987; Yamamoto, 1998, 2003). Given this
orientation, and the fact that driving forces and responses are forms of
human behavior, the primary task is to explain the goals and logic
behind human choices and activity. In the integrated model of the rst
paper, we have used the sociocultural extensions to show how
Buddhismprovides a clear analysis of the misdirected sources of driving
forces behindbehavior. Withthis knowledge of the underlyingnature of
beliefs, goals, wants and choices, appropriate strategies can be designed
and implemented. The two arrows leading to Responses in Fig. 2 are
intendedtoemphasizethat insights fromBuddhismhelpexplain(1) the
fundamental (beliefgoalbehavior) sources of climate change driving
forces and, hence, (2) identify what responses could change underlying
belief, goals and behavior.
To effectively and efciently make changes that reduce the sources
of climate change, it is rst necessary to have a comprehensive under-
standing of the relative contributionof different drivingforces (D) to the
biophysical conditions (P and S) and impacts (I) we associate with
climate change. Climate change pressures, states and impacts can be
analyzedbacktotheir underlying humanactivities via natural andsocial
science assessment of the links between D P S I (see Fig. 3). This
involves theextensiveinvestigationof the full chaineffects (lifecycle and
system-wide) of specic types of consumption, production, technolo-
gies and other worldly choices.
From the initial discussion of how Buddhism helps in the envi-
ronmental systems analysis of climate change, there are two
immediate inferences that can be used to guide responses. Firstly,
the Buddhist world view reveals that prevailing driving forces based
on maximizing consumption or want-satisfaction will ultimately fail
to relieve suffering from clinging to desire (tanha) (Mendis, 1993). In
fact, the mindset and intent underlying such an (unachievable) goal is
likely to increase dissatisfaction and disappointment (and hence,
lower perceived quality of life) (Zadek, 1993). A second inference
from the Buddhist viewpoint is that these negative outcomes are
likely to be accentuated if the driving force activity has high levels of
disturbance on the external world (as occurs with fossil carbon).
Extending upon the principles of the 1st and 2nd Noble Truths, the
3rd and 4th Noble Truths set the basis for making the appropriate
Buddhist response to climate change. According to the nal two
Noble Truths, the way to alleviate the relentless dissatisfaction of life
is to cease attachment and clinging to the desire for material or social
status success and other external world sources of happiness.
Instead, for true well-being gains, it is necessary to mindfully consider,
with the supporting knowledge, the nature of causeeffect relations
associated with our desires (and their related outcomes) in their full
holistic, ecological, and interconnected sense.
As noted in the 4th Noble Truth, the mental and physical
conditions needed for this way out from dissatisfaction are well-
described by the Eightfold Path which details the required dimensions
of understanding, mental processes, patterns and thoughts, and
actions and behavior (Sangharakshita, 2007). The eight aspects
cover economic and spiritual requirements for well-being and have
a natural owfromwisdom(right understanding and right aspiration)
to moral commitment (right speech, action and livelihood) to mental
regulation (right effort, mindfulness, and concentration). They are
presented as mutually reinforcing rather than a linear sequence of
thought and activity traits. The foundational wisdom (or panna)
elements derive from Buddhist cosmology or explanations about the
Fig. 2. The inuence of Buddhist world views on responses to climate change.
However, it is identied in the original DPSIR diagram in Fig. 1 of the rst paper.
Fig. 3. Effective responses also require understanding of the full environmental impacts
of driving forces back on society (I).
It is true that the driving forces behind increased environmental pressures can also
have positive effects. The contemporary ecological modernization debate reects the
potential for reducing environmental demands via eco-efciency technological
change, and more recently, adaptive shifts in consumption patterns (Carolan, 2004).
This raises several issues for the Buddhist perspective. For example, is striving for, even
dematerialized, growth inconsistent with Buddhism? It would seem to align with very
low intervention growth activities that truly enhance interconnected and sustained
welfare though there would be perceived limits to well-being from material, external
world sources (even with low intervention). Increased population (typically linked to
greater environmental pressure) also has immense positive potential in terms of the
generation of knowledge and new ideas (and positive spillovers and the low marginal
costs of dissemination).
In particular, two types of desire kama and bhava tanha which focus upon
sensory pleasure and efforts at ego or status gain can be seen as responsible for most
existing environmental pressure (Daniels, 2007).
965 P.L. Daniels / Ecological Economics 69 (2010) 962972
nature of universe and also from experience and observed outcomes.
The resulting self-realization and spiritual intelligence provides the
transformative understanding and will for release from suffering
(Zohar, 2002; Zsolnai, 2007). The behavioral aspects that make up the
morality set (or sila) within the Eightfold Path relate more to external
activity while samadhi or concentration (together with right effort
and mindfulness) are the internal, mind disciplines. While the
Eightfold Path has many potential aspects that can help in the design
and selection of appropriate responses to the threat of climate change,
more detailed insights are left to the discussion of specic strategies,
where relevant, in the next section.
However, one major theme imbued in the Eightfold Path, of
particular relevance to sustainability issues, is the principle of
moderation or the Middle Way. In brief, the Middle Way describes
the best approach for real and sustained increases in well-being in life,
for the laity, as the golden mean a concept shared in various
philosophical strands (Marinoff, 2007; Phrabhavanaviriyakhun,
2008). As learned from the Buddha's direct experiences in seeking
the appropriate mental and behavioral modus operandi towards
Nirvana or release from suffering, the effective path lies between the
extremes of hedonistic self-indulgence and sensual pleasure, and
excessive self-mortication or asceticism (Gunasekara, 1982). The
Middle Way is a balanced approach in which basic needs and wants
that genuinely enhance welfare can, and should, be satised for all
people. This would naturally cover food, clothing, warmth, shelter, and
most ecological services as well as psychological security from social
and community-based needs. Buddhism is not opposed to efcient
economic production and material security but output is considered
most valuable in providing the conditions (time, health and energy)
for the more effective spiritual paths to well-being (Mendis, 1993;
Tideman, 2001). Extremes are be avoided and excessive attachment
and accumulation is inimical to the three spheres (the individual,
society and nature), and individual well-being and spiritual progress.
The key process is to break and close the endless wants-satisfaction
circular gap by the realization of the heedless nature of clinging to
tanha (desire) as a source of well-being. Happiness or satisfaction
derive more from restraint upon desire (Bhikkhu Bodhi, 1987).
Moderation in consumption is upheld as a preferred basis for
improving welfare rather than the obsessive, consumption-xated
lifestyle that has dominated for global market economies. As with
appetite and diet, excess is thought to bring suffering. In regard to
human interaction with the natural environment, moderation is
manifest as a balance between meeting certain key well-being needs
and wants whilst minimizing (disruptive) intervention upon society
andnature. The notionechoes that of sufciency where self-restraint
regarding material needs is a requirement for sustainable develop-
ment and long-term true increases in welfare (Sachs et al., 1998;
Huber, 2000). Moderationalso reects the sentiment, expressedby the
renowned psychologist and economist Herbert Simon (1959), econ-
omist Menchikov and many others, that people actually seek balanced
satisfaction rather than maximization in their dealings with the
material or external world (Tideman, 2000). Karmic interdependence
supplies adequate cause for adopting guiding principles of compas-
sion, loving-kindness, non-violent motives and mindfulness of the
consequences of initiated actions and events across all three realms. Of
course, although contemporary afuent societies do show signs of
change, these insights that excessive consumption is undesirable,
and minimum intervention in the external world is good are not
generally consistent with their structural underpinnings and self-
The changes required for addressing the roots of the climate
change problem will need to occur at both individual and social
collective levels. Naturally, individual and social choices and action
are inextricably connected. Indeed, the volitional individual changes
that are required to address the roots of climate change are deeply
constrained by wider socioeconomic structures that have locked-in
many forms of environmentally-signicant behavior such as the daily
commute, household heating, diet, and social status dened on the
basis on material and social success. Hence, there is a concomitant
need for community-wide structural changechange that would only
come about with the support of values, belief and ethical systems
based on the insights and knowledge akin to those outlined in this
paper. Appropriate collective responses are certainly critical for
overcoming structural changes to climate change and the web of
sustainability issues faced by humanity, but this does not negate the
central role of the reorientation in the mental outlook and behavior of
individual people as consumers and producers.
To describe the range of appropriate individual and societal
responses, it is very useful to frame the discussion in terms of the
extended IPAT, or IPANT, equation outlined in some detail in the rst
paper. This approach demonstrates howBuddhist insights can feed into
the four major sets of underlying driving forces behind the growth in
atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases that is, population
(P), output per person (A), and the nature or composition (N) and
associatedtechnology and environmental-intensity (T) of that output.
To begin with the most problematic issue, there are many possible
interpretations of what Buddhist philosophy means for human
population growth (P) (see Ling, 1969; Searle, 1995). Arguably, the
abjuration of short-term desire and sensual pleasure, realization of
the negative impacts of overpopulation on others, and the ultimate
goal of release from the endless cycle of birth, dissatisfaction and
death, suggests that procreation would be discouraged and the human
population on Earth would fall and perhaps eventually disappear.
However, this is a complex and contentious matter and it is not
addressed in any more detail here.
Next, there is the elusive concept of afuence whichis measuredas
output or consumption per capita (A) in the IPAT equation. Technically,
afuence measuredas averagelevels of economic incomeavailableper
person is a socially-constructed monetary value (presented in dollars
per person). It has no necessary biophysical connection (say, to
greenhouse gas emissions in our problem case) except via the nature,
and related technology, of the pattern of consumption (N and T).
However, if N and T remain constant, then growth in afuence will, of
course, lead to greater environmental disruption. From the Buddhist
perspective, the desire for maximizing utility via ever-increasing
exchange value activity (as measured in most national income
accounts) is a life activity obsession resulting from ignorance about
the Four Noble Truths, interdependence, and the Eightfold Path. It is not
just the consequences of this action, but the misguided nature of the
intent behind it that detracts from the welfare of those seeking
maximum utility from external sources (especially if their actions
involve disruptive impacts on the world).
This view suggests that afuence, measured by conventional
growth denitions, would be substantively moderated in the general
shift toward lower intervention and expectations regarding external-
based satisfaction. However, it is pragmatic to recognize that vital
levels of economic activity are probably necessary, at least over the
next few decades, to avoid serious adversity and resistance given the
existing structure and workings of much of the world's developed and
developing economies (Brundtland, 1987; Pryor, 1991). Incremental
reductions at some point in the future may be more consistent with a
Buddhist-inspired vision.
However, given the obstacles and dangers of constraining
economic output in general, it is argued that the primary factors for
viable and effective transformation towards sustainability are the
nature, and associated technology, of the consumption bundle (that is,
N and T). This involves targeting a very substantial reduction in the
social and economic disturbance associated with economic value
produced per person and not simply a focus upon reducing economic
output in a general sense.
To minimize the social and environmental disturbance of economic
activity, the key tasks are to understandand build awareness about the
966 P.L. Daniels / Ecological Economics 69 (2010) 962972
ramications of our intent and choices in lifestyle and livelihood. This
includes their direct impact upon our anticipated satisfaction and
more indirectly, via the interconnected ows across the three realms.
Hence, choices about what is wanted from life and the environment
(that is, the demand and consumption that pulls production) should
accurately reect their inuence on our long-termwell-being or actual
welfare outcomes. In economic parlance, this involves the aligning of
actual andtrue preferences andmakes profoundsense even withinthe
discipline's own connes.
4. Some specic climate change responses inspired by Buddhism
Selected Buddhism-inspired responses to climate change are
presented in this section with some explanatory discussion. This
overview is intended to be indicative rather than complete. Many
important ideas are only introduced and the division between items is
often arbitrary and does not give full justice to their interdependence.
For example, individual awareness, knowledge and attendant insight
are the basis for the Buddhist perspective and truly rational choices,
and appropriate changes in education would permeate throughout
most of the individual dimensions outlined. In sum, the responses are
only intended to form a partial but representative integration of
Buddhist views and Western culture.
For organizational clarity, the ten strategic responses outlines have
been grouped into three types (a) research into the interdepen-
dence between economic activity, ongoing economic and environ-
mental effects, and well-being (and the improved measurement of
progress re the latter concept) (b) more direct policy tools to modify
external inuences on people's information, choices and behavior
and (c) societal measures to instigate compatible change in people's
internal goals and world views. These dimensions are all inter-
4.1. Research into economic, environmental and well-being
The previous section concluded that the sustained, improved well-
being of humans will dependlargely uponadaptive modicationto the
nature of consumption and its technology-environment consequences
(NandT). The rst major stepinbeing able to shape NandT ties inwell
with Buddhism's emphasis on the role of experiential or empirical
understanding and validation. It focuses upon the need for research
and knowledge into two main areas 1. the full chain effects of
economic activity (driving forces) and 2. the links between
consumption and well-being. To support the strategic implementation
of the fruits of this research and knowledge, a third activity of benet
would be to develop and adopt better indicators that can accurately
assess the favorability of economic (and associated environmental and
social) outcomes and their consistency with broader social goals such
as reducing suffering, discontent, and dissatisfaction.
Response 1. Research into the karmic impacts of specic
economic activity and technologies.
Promote research and knowledge to assess climate change and
other environmental impacts (I) of different types, sectors, elds,
or clusters of production and consumption (N), and their
associated technologies (T).
Science and technology have been instrumental as sources of
current environmental problems and the questionable pursuit of
welfare through material superabundance (Yamamoto, 2003).
However, they are sure to be a key aspect of any solution including
a Buddhist-inspired transformation to sustainable and happier
economies. Appropriate scientic effort would cover the support,
development, and application of existing and newchain management
techniques that measure not only direct but also chain or full life
cycle and external ow-on effects and embodied resource use
associated with different types of socioeconomic activity. This analysis
should cover the whole spectrum of production and consumption
activities and technologies.
While this goal intimates a critical biophysical dimension, social
and economic impacts would be integral in the assessment process
(see the next response). Cost-effectiveness is a key criterion in this
formidable task and there would need to be an initial focus on major
disruption sources and chain impact ows (and fossil carbon-
intensive activity would undoubtedly make this group). Efforts in
the area would become more effective with accumulating expertise,
skills and knowledge. There is already a strong base with rapid growth
in the development and application of chain management techniques
in ecological economics, and environmental assessment science in
general, over the past two decades (for example, a small sample of
such approaches would include sustainable consumption, life cycle
assessment and environmental and physical inputoutput tables,
material and energy ow analysis, and the United Nations' System of
Integrated Environmental and Economic Accounts (see Daniels, 2002;
Foran et al., 2005; Lorek and Spangenberg, 2001)).
Response 2. Research into the conditions and outcomes that
actually make people and society happier.
Promote research and knowledge about the relationship
between the (i) level and nature of consumption and (ii) welfare
or well-being.
The previous response urges the assessment of the biophysical
changes and metabolic ows induced by specic economic activities
and their interdependent and longer-term effects. In our second
response, the emphasis is upon knowledge of these impacts upon
people's welfare or well-being. Rational decisions are only possible
when people have accurate and reliable information about the goals,
outcomes and means that actually enhance their welfare. This is a
matter of identifying and revealing people's true preferences the
ultimate, unique truth about what is really right and best for a
person and extension of this knowledge to society overall (Tomer,
2003, p.5). Buddhism already has much to say on this topic but
appropriate scientic evidence on actual well-being outcomes would
be most helpful for efcacious economic activity.
Most religions and many political philosophical vantages agree
that actual preferences (the sets of incompletely-informed desires or
preferences embraced so readily by neoclassical economics) need to
be rationally relinquished in favor of true preferences. A key aspect of
this overall strategy would involve reducing the inuence of
advertising and structural economic forces that create or promote
wants that rate poorly by increasing society's metabolism and/or
adding little to or reducing well-being. Together, this information
could facilitate some form of use of happiness/health ratings and
labeling on specic consumer options. The allure of consumer debt as
part of the want creation underlying the consumption-happiness
fallacy would also be discouraged through institutional means and
information about the poor well-being consequences of current, and
especially debt-based, consumption (with its additional burdens of
future work commitment).
There is also a urry of research and enquiry activity underway
looking at well-being or happiness levels and key inuences. This
aligns well with the needs for Buddhism-informed strategic responses
to climate change (Moro et al., 2008). In scientic circles, examples of
this growth in interest include the proliferation in relevant journals
and journal articles (for example, the Journal of Happiness Studies),
innovative studies of welfare sources and impacts in environmental,
welfare and experimental economics (Gintis, 2000; Welsch, 2009),
and extensive analyses of subjective well-being and related method-
ological development and data compilation as per the inuential
World Database of Happiness maintained by Erasmus University in
Together, the biophysical chain effects and source of happiness
research foci would provide an ideal basis for assessing which areas
or types of economic activity, and associated technologies are least
967 P.L. Daniels / Ecological Economics 69 (2010) 962972
disruptive or non-harmful and provide the most cost-effective
means of enhancing human welfare. The rst requirement is to
understand the direct welfare outcomes of specic activities and their
technologies as well as their spillover well-being impacts via
material and energy, waste and other social and environmental
ows through the three realms. Given this knowledge, it is possible to
identify which activities and technologies have the best welfare
outcomes for the least intervention disturbance.
Hence, decisions about adaptive responses would be cognizant of
both the welfare and climate change contribution of production and
consumption. This would guide individuals, and collective policy
options and strategies as well as major development and investment
in technological, infrastructure and lifestyle futures. Knowledge about
the nature of consumption (N) and the associated environmental-
intensity of the makeup of consumption (T) allow the design of
effective strategies to either:
(1) shift behavior and choices to reduce the absolute and relative
size of harmful consumption types or clusters possessing high
environmental-intensity (that is, low direct well-being to social
and environmental cost ratio), and/or
(2) promote eco-efcient technology change to reduce environ-
mental and societal disruption or harmin those production and
consumption sectors with essential or benecial activities but
signicant environmental impact (and in those elds where
technology change is likely to be very cost-effective).
For climate change, example strategies would probably aim to
(a) reduce private car transport kilometers and implement low fossil
carbon integrated alternatives (covering transport, energy and urban
form options that reduce unnecessary spatial separation for key
life activity work, social and leisure functions); (b) change energy-
intensive leisure (e.g. international jet travel) towards activity which
has lower energy needs (e.g. local destinations) or less disruptive
energy sources (say, wind energy); and (c) change in diet or nutrition
choices away from livestock-based production with its high environ-
mental demands and animal suffering, towards vegetarian produce
that is not dependent upon fossil fuels.
Response 3. Develop and implement newprogress indicators to
direct policy and strategic policy option choices.
The breakdown of simplistic relations between undifferentiated
output, consumptionor afuence, andwell-being, hastens the needfor
more realistic measures of societal progress. It suggests a move away
fromgross domestic product per capita and related indicators towards
conditions such as subjective well-being (Diener et al., 1999) and
more direct life satisfactionmeasures that wouldevolve fromscientic
research into the linkages between lifestyle and consumption choices
and ambitions, and welfare (as proposed in the second response
concerning new research and knowledge foci). Hence, individual
and societal evaluation of what constitutes improvements would
integrate and internalize the full social, economic and environmental
consequences of options. Narrow economic indicators based on
incomplete costs and benets would gradually be replaced by more
valid karmic progress indicators that account for interdependence
effects in measuring welfare change.
This is widely-recognized as a complex task with many aspects
requiring further research and development for the broad-based
adoption of satisfactory measures. However, progress has unfolded
with the earlier social development and sustainability indicators such
as the Human Development index (HDI) and Index of Sustainable
Economic Welfare (ISEW) and now, more sophisticated and poten-
tially robust, measures such as subjective well-being and Bhutan's
gross national happiness (Daly and Cobb, 1989; Alkire et al., 2008).
Recent developments in the latter include its coverage of nine
dimensions many with close links to the responses outlined here.
They include psychological well-being, time use, community vitality,
health, education, environmental diversity, living standard and
The list of potential climate change responses that are consistent
with the insights and ethical basis of Buddhism is extensive. Positive
change in the behavior of individuals would occur, over and beyond
market and other policy directives, as a direct result of widespread
recognition of interdependence and greater knowledge and aware-
ness of the full consequences of one's motives and actions. More
sustainable lifestyle and consumption and technology choices would
ensue. The perennial notion of consumer sovereignty in economics
can become a powerful ally of sustainability changes in demand,
combined with better information, intent and freedom to do so,
promote appropriate changes in production.
However, there are many forms of collective action and policy to
encourage and facilitate behavioral change by individuals as producers
andconsumers inorder to ecologize NandT (patterns of consumption
and environment-related technologies) under Buddhist perspectives
suchas minimumdisturbance and true well-being through mindful and
moderated consumption. A selection of direct policy climate change
responses, based on Buddhism's world view, is presented below.
5. Direct policy tools to foster change
Response 4. Adjust market prices to incorporate the full inter-
dependence costs and benets of production and consumption.
As with the standard environmental economic approach, a major
policy tool based on the Buddhist ideas surveyed here would involve
the use of taxes and subsidies that internalize the full karmic
consequences of specic goods, services and activities. Such corrective
accounting policy would be based upon much more accurate
knowledge of economic and well-being social costs and benets of
specic consumption types (and their associated technologies). It
would be authenticated by the value changes discussed more in the
next section.
Two major classes of goods and services would be discouraged via
market-based instruments (such as taxes). These are (1) output with
substantial negative spillovers on society, nature (and hence back on
the initiating individuals), and (2) goods and services that have
signicant environmental demands but actually end up contributing
little to increases in individual or community well-being. The extreme
environmental and social disruption and externalities of fossil carbon
use are obviously a case in point for the former class.
The second group includes many adaptive and positional goods
(Hirsch, 1976; Frank, 1997, 2003; Mainwaring, 2001; Layard, 2005;
Baucells and Sarin, 2007). Unlike basic goods such as food, sleep and
social relationships, adaptive goods are subject to rapidly diminishing
loss in utility after possession or provision, and are evidenced by
items such as house size and views, rich food, competitive professional
status, freeways, and increasing audio-visual quality, performance and
size. Positional goods only provide short-lived welfare gains to their
consumers whilst others do not possess them. As societal consumption
increases and social comparison-based welfare dissipates, they
ultimately involve zero sum welfare games. Typical positional goods
often have signicant elements of conspicuous consumption and
include exclusive real estate or fashion items, exotic tourism and
travel, and luxury or fast cars. The two types of goods are related via
their dependence on welfare gains via a dynamic reference level.
People often commit or sacrice large amounts of their time, energy
and other life options into the pursuit of these forms of consumption
in the misguided belief that the net result of their pursuit and
consumption they will bring lasting satisfaction (Baucells and Sarin,
In addition to its major land degradation, biodiversity loss, water use and human
health impacts, global livestock-based industry generates more greenhouse gas
emissions (in CO
equivalents) than transport (Steinfeld et al., 2006).
968 P.L. Daniels / Ecological Economics 69 (2010) 962972
Alternatively, lower production costs and prices and other market
adjustments can be used to nurture and encourage socially productive
enterprise and organizations that produce compassion or positive
interdependence goods and services (or PIGS!). These activities
are replete with spillover benets through the individual, societal and
natural realms. Examples might include health promotion; education;
peace initiatives; appropriate, sustainable technology transfer and
development assistance for low income nations; nature conservation
and restoration; renewable energy supplies and products; lowimpact
and healthy food production; physical and mental health and stress
relief programs such as meditation, yoga and other forms of low
energy welfare enhancement; friendship, social capital programs, and
community building; charitable activity; spiritual activities; transport
and housing forms that reduce non-renewable energy needs;
balanced family and leisure time; and material and energy saving
appliances and practices. Technology change, such as a shift to
renewable energy, does not guarantee sustainability as many
alternatives have signicant negative consequences such as land
and ecosystem loss. Desire and demands that, by their very essence,
require substantial intervention and disruption in the natural world,
must be mitigated as part of an effective response.
The provision of basic goods such as food and shelter to im-
poverished in low and higher income nations would also become a
societal priority given the substantial and real well-being gains that are
amplied by interdependence, and undiminished by adaptation and
social comparison tendencies.
Other more command-and-control approaches such as legal and
regulatory instruments and standards could play a complementary
role in forcing a shift in the nature of consumption and associated
technologies towards less disruptive patterns, and modifying societal
denitions of status. However, their coercive nature does not t well
with the tolerance and individual spiritual path freedom emphases of
the Buddhist way.
Response 5. Extensive support and funding of technology for
minimizing sources of climate change (and other environmental)
Very substantial investment in material, energy and waste-saving,
and renewable energy technologies, would be a foundation for
successfully inducing appropriate changes in T (the environment-
intensity of economic output). The ability to globally diffuse a green
techno-economic paradigm based on the material and energy-
saving potential of pervasive information and communication tech-
nologies would provide virtuous circles of innovation and resource
productivity gains, thus supporting sustainability and reduction of
climate change pressures (Daniels, 2003; Phillimore, 2001). This must
take into account offsetting growth in consumption and resource
ows from the rebound effect of greater productivity and income.
Technologies must also be assessed in terms of their inter-related
social and environmental impacts. In contrast to the current proigate
consumption of fossil carbon energy, their use should be directed
towards removing their centrality in existing and emerging higher
income economies. This investment in technology would be reaf-
rmed by widespread appreciation of the inuence of the nature and
levels of consumption upon well-being (as outlined in Section 3 and
investigated scientically in proposed responses 1 and 2).
Response 6. International policy and assistance for welfare
growth and minimum environmental disturbance in the develop-
ing world.
The implications of Buddhist ethics for climate change and
sustainability in lower income and developing nations is a huge
topic and worthy of an entire paper in its own right. Briey, some
useful strategies consistent with the Buddhist world view would
include the non-exploitative transfer of knowledge, technology and
capital ows focused on encouraging output and consumption with
positive and undisruptive social and environmental effects. There is
great potential for leapfrogging the historical problems and techno-
logical and well-being assumption errors of the higher income nations
and in facilitating material and energy-saving technology and capital
forms. Consumption choices in higher income nations and careful
consideration of the chain effects and consequences of trade and
capital ows would constitute primary concerns.
6. Encouraging change from within
Response 7. Moral suasion, education, social policy, media
Internal value changes to ameliorate climate change pressures
would be related to people's awareness of the interconnected impacts
of their choices and actions. Based on the research about the true well-
being outcomes of consumption, many forms of formal and informal
community education and information dissemination via mass and
specic media could help fundamentally change many of the key
drivers underlying climate change. A major goal would be to help
redene collective denitions of status and promote meritocratic
systems where merit is assessed in terms of positive, interdepen-
dence economic output, non-violence and compassion, and judi-
cious action hinged upon minimum disturbance and loving-kindness.
Response 8. Changes in individual's roles as producers.
The impetus for positive climate change actions by people as
business would derive from both external social inuences, and the
discursive and practical consciousness of producers as actors or free
agents of change. Externally, producers would respond to the
interdependence-conscious consumer, household investor, general
community and their representative governance. These forces help
push social responsibility, triple bottomline reporting, environmental
management systems (EMS), voluntary agreements and other
volitional institutional and behavioral changes that work to reduce
producers' environmental and resource impact demands. Fossil fuel
and other sources of greenhouse gas emissions lie at the heart of
current pressures threatening sustainability. External market forces
also drive positive change because of the cost-competitiveness eco-
efciency gains associated with less environmental resource demands
and impacts.
A related impetus comes from the recognition of transaction
cost advantages of Buddhist ethics with its implicit yet powerful
underlying quality of compassion and a no-harm world view and
motives. Trust, strength of social capital, and other aspects of
transaction costs and informal institutions are well-known as very
signicant inuences upon the functionality of economic systems
(North, 1990). This also applies to corporate culture and co-operative,
harmonious and productive performance within the rm's social
environment (Tideman, 2001).
Finally, producers are subject to growing pressure to restructure in
favor of reducing greenhouse gas emissions amidst other forms of
sustainability from the increasing use of government carrots and
sticks such as market-based instruments, regulation, eco-informa-
tion and other strategic policy targeted at sustainability.
However, with an economy imbued by the world view and
Eightfold Path of Buddhism, a key internal impetus for change from
business leader and workers would simply come from their afliated
ethical principles intertwined with the realization and knowledge
that their personal long-term welfare is also tied to the economic,
social and environmental consequences of their choices and activities
as producers. Producers do have many options in providing the
services demanded by consumers, and non-violence and minimum
disruption of nature can be intrinsic criteria of one's labor activity
(DesJardins, 2007). Environmental responsibility falls naturally in the
lap of the producer cognizant of the Right Livelihood aspect of the
Noble Eightfold Path (Phrabhavanaviriyakhun, 2008).
Work is a major time use of an individual's life and better well-
being will depend on changing physical and social conditions and
production activities and consequences so as to enhance the joy of co-
969 P.L. Daniels / Ecological Economics 69 (2010) 962972
operative work. There is evidence of such ethical change in the
pronounced shift towards peer-to-peer (P2P) production associated
with information and communication technologies and on-line, open
source collaborative design (Bauwens, 2006). This third or distributed
mode of production has immense potential for positive spillovers
(akin to the PIGS) with its negligible marginal cost of information
transfer and intellectual synergy. The selsh monetary gain motives of
neoclassical thinking are effectively replaced by respect and status
benets from giving and valuable contribution for the collective and
interconnected good. In the right context, this cooperative production
mode seems more than adequate in displacing competitive-based
outcomes. P2P production has been openly linked to ethical changes
associated with Buddhist notions of sustainable economies (Bauwens,
The Buddhism and business interface is a primary example of the
profound potential for positive change from actions informed by the
assumption of pervasive interdependence. As with many views on
corporate social responsibility, morality and business vitality can co-
exist and prosper under the Buddhist economic model (DesJardins,
2007). Self-interest is compatible with concern for well-being across
the three interconnected realms. The actual welfare of producers is
not a product of short-term prot maximization but derives from
effective and efcient activities and material outcomes that supply
goods and services imparting genuine well-being at a society-wide
level (and at fair prices) over the long-term. This is not just a response
to coercive policy and regulation or even market survival, customer
demand and patronage, and inter-rm and intra-rm trust and
operability but stems from awareness and deeper value change in
people in their producer roles in society.
Response 9. Encourage the liberation of personal time as the
ultimate resource required for compassionate and loving-kind-
ness relationships.
The drive for success based on material accumulation and control of
people and energy has led to poverty in perhaps the most important of
the resources available for the potential improvement human well-
beingtime. The substitution of time consumed for self-interested
material gainbythat involvedinreectionandactivity withcompassion
and other-regarding positive consequences is central feature of the
Buddhist outlook(ThichNhat Hanh, 2008). Timecanbe considereda gift
and a fundamental requirement for careful and welfare-enhancing
choices and actions based on compassion and loving-kindness in taking
care of oneself and other people. Baucells and Sarin (2007, p.31) note
that Time is the ultimate nite resource; therefore, its allocation
betweenworkandleisure toimprove happiness needs further empirical
and theoretical inquiry. Restoring a harmonious balance between work
and leisure is a precondition to catching the elusive goal of happiness.
Obsession with consumption, and the work to afford that consumption,
shrinks time. Average hours worked person grew by almost 20% in the
United States between 1980 and 2000. Paradoxically, free time is
currently treasured as the most important priority of life in the U.S.
well above money (Kuan, 2008). Of course, there are many structural
constraints (for example, housing needs and costs) and collective effort
would have to combine with expectations and motives to reduce this
7. Conclusion
In this article, an integrated systems framework has been developed
for comprehensively analyzing major environmental problems like
climate change in terms of the ethical and welfare dimensions that are
considered to be critical under a world viewsuchas Buddhism. Inpart 1,
the innovations embedded in the heuristic framework include the
integration of the two major environmental assessment tools (DPSIR
andextendedIPATapproaches) witha key role of values andwell-being.
The sociocultural extensions to the basic biophysical-economic model
show how Buddhism provides a clear analysis of the problematic
sources of driving forces behind behavior. Throughout, the resulting
tool has been used to demonstrate and specify howthe Buddhist world
view can make a valuable contribution towards effectively addressing
anthropogenic climate change. The integrated systems framework
provides anideal basis for understanding and studying the fundamental
sources, relationships and possible responses to climate change, in
terms of human beliefs, thought, behavior and social patterns and
structures. The mode of analysis has had much in common with
ecological economics with primary conceptual and methodological
roles ascribed to ethics, the ecologization of society, social capital and
sustainability, and ultimate means and ends via an extensive consid-
eration of well-being and the goals of human endeavor.
In this concluding paper, the focus has been upon using the
systems framework to demonstrate how Buddhist and related world
views can feed into appropriate and effective responses to the
impending challenges of climate change. With knowledge of the
underlying nature of beliefs, goals, wants and choices, appropriate
strategies can be designed and implemented. The strategic contribu-
tion from Buddhism draws from the 3rd and 4th Noble Truths and
Eight-fold Path which have a series of practical themes to guide such a
response. The focus has been upon overall afuence (A), and the link
between types of consumption (N) and associated the environment-
technology relations (T) as the driving force factor groups behind
climate change. However, this has been delineated to a need for
targeting N and T for climate sustainability given the practical
limitations of attempting to constrain overall growth in current
global economic conditions (especially for lower-income nations).
General themes that pervade the Buddhist contribution include
the capability for enhanced well-being through reducing the
socioeconomic metabolism via moderated consumption and the full
analysis of economic, environmental and welfare impacts of different
types of consumption and lifestyle and associated technologies.
Adaptive principles for positive change include non-harm, the Middle
Way and minimum intervention and disruption of the natural world.
Using the Buddhism-inspired principles in reference to the integrated
systems framework, nine specic inter-related strategies have been
outlined ranging from extensive research into the nature and
measurement of well-being and biophysical and economic chain
effects of economic activity and technologies, to policy to encourage
the technical and economic means for embedding well-being effects
into behavior, to the provision of mechanisms to sway values to be
more consistent with sustainability and better welfare in a highly
interconnected universe.
The discussion concludes that Buddhism does indeed have much
to offer in terms of the identication, acceptance and implementation
of appropriate and effective responses to climate change.
Many of the
strategic recommendations from a Buddhist-inspired analysis are
similar to those from conventional environmental or ecological
economics. However, the unique and useful aspect of Buddhism,
over more secular approaches, is that it provides a viable option to
build and ll the missing logical and practical ethical basis for
sustainability. The secular path alone has not been convincing as a
sufcient means towards sustainability, real improvements in human
well-being and survival itself (Zadek, 1993).
A shift away frommaterial and energy-intensive economies would
have complex and contingent implications for employment (and
social stability). Global evidence for more sustainable, dematerialized
economies does not suggest that such changes bring unemployment
and economic malaise. Competitive losses in environment-intensive
activity may cause structural unemployment but it is unlikely that
these sectors and related technologies would persist in new,
Given space limitations, we have not surveyed the many possible aspects and
interpretations of Buddhism that can be considered to inhibit required social and
economic change for sustainability. For more on this issue see Daniels (2005) and
Pryor (1991).
970 P.L. Daniels / Ecological Economics 69 (2010) 962972
sustainable economies. A more fundamental aspect relating to
Buddhism would be the questioning of the need for long working
hours and high income for positional or adaptive goods and services.
Low-intervention economies can still have vital levels of activity and
employment providing real well-being enhancements across society.
The most important contributions from Buddhism include its
discourse on the nature of human well-being and centrality attached
to interdependence which explains the adverse consequences of
anthropogenic disruption and disturbance of the processes and ows
of the natural environment. Its real strength is in the guidelines that it
provides for consumption, and related production imperatives and
choices driving the environmental pressures behind climate change.
Its thematic response is focused upon moderated and mindful
consumption drawing upon scientic understanding and the funda-
mental idea that minimizing selsh external attachment leading to
disturbance of nature, is in the best interests of people and societies.
Awareness and knowledge provide the basis for mindfulness and
action, and behavioral change. These changes invoke the need for
more simple living and timespace activity patterns, and consump-
tion bundles and levels that involve less environmental demands and
the freeing up of personal time away from the ineffective pursuit of
material success focused on self-interest. Zadek (1993, p.8) aptly
describes the Buddhist economic approach:
Buddhism acknowledges the need for production and consump-
tion, and accepts that this involves processes of negotiation,
trading, acquisition of capital, and so on. At the same time,
Buddhism challenges the individual (and society as a whole) to
contextualize these processes in Buddhist values, including for
example the idea of Right Thought, Action and Livelihood
The objective of economics should shift explicitly to the actual
welfare consequences of creating wealth from nature. Wealth must
be assessed in terms of its full social net benet (karmic spillovers)
and attendant impact on actual well-being. Well-being, rather than
wealth accumulation, is the variable to be maximized in effective
economic systems (Phrabhavanaviriyakhun, 2008). Maximum well-
being with minimum consumption and nature impact is the essential
Buddhist economic rationale (Schumacher, 1973).
Beyond direct economic facets, Buddhism has many other roles in
the task of addressing climate change as part of its more general
potential offerings for sustainable development. Examples include its
envisioning capacity and its support for social capital centered around
community building and compassionate interdependence traits
that are critical for sustainable development.
Many developing nations including several where Buddhism
prevails seem bent on the consumption-desire path that is
increasingly looking imprudent for those who have followed it before.
A certain threshold of material need fulllment is necessary to avoid
poverty and for compassionate generosity. However, with hope, the
experience of the past could be used with the essence of Buddhist
world views to help direct new forms of economic development that
are more sustainable and better at engendering real improvements in
While acceptance of its basic precepts requires a level of intuitive
appeal that will not sit comfortably for some scientists, the world view
of Buddhism as a practical philosophy for sustainable living is replete
with notions in accordance with those now central to the contem-
porary array of environmental, social and ethical sciences. The non-
dogmatic, empirical and accommodating nature of its philosophy will
strengthen its potential to contribute to the profound, but necessary,
socioeconomic changes for sustained well-being. Individual liberty,
entrepreneurship and markets guided by appropriate sustainability
ethics and mindfulness that make up the essence of Buddhism are
likely to play a key role in any paradigm capable of coping with
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