Green Dragon Earth Initiative

Interview with Geoffrey Shugen Arnold Sensei
by Valerie Meiju Linet, MRO

Featured in Mountain Record 30.1, Summer 2011

Editor’s Note: The Green Dragon Earth Initiative is an ongoing effort by the sangha
of the Mountains and Rivers Order to address the individual, institutional, national and global degradation of our planet. The Initiative functions on multiple levels to address various areas of study and action, through: 1) clarifying our understanding of the nature of the self and its relationship to the Earth through traditional study of Buddhist teachings, practice and training; 2) reducing the ecological footprints of Zen Mountain Monastery and the Zen Center of New York City; 3) examining and adjusting individual life choices to improve our impact on our planet; 4) undertaking community action; 5) studying and advocating for policy making (at the local, state, national and global levels); 6) identifying global systems and their interdependence; 7) educating ourselves and others about relevant issues and 8 ) challenging cultural assumptions that undermine sustainability.

Mountain Record: It's been about a year since the Mountains and Rivers Order launched the Earth Initiative. What is the sangha doing now, and how the project is functioning?

Shugen Sensei: So far I feel the sangha has responded and the Initiative is functioning fairly well. When it began I really didn't know what the response would be, how many sangha members would be interested in and feel committed to continuing with it on a monthly basis. That has been very encouraging, although I would like to see more of our sangha getting involved on a regular basis. Our original vision of how the Initiative might function has been developing nicely. Education is an important part of it and we've been working to help all of us become more informed about the depth and breadth of the issues from the perspectives of the environment, social justice, the economy, lifestyle, social attitudes, and of course, spiritual practice and the teachings of Buddhism.

We also wanted to make sure that we were engaged in hands-on work. So we've done things like learning about city trees, container planting and outside gardening, writing to government representatives, visiting local CSA farms and tree planting.