Announcement: Apologies and Stay Tuned for a Great Episode

Announcement: Apologies and Stay Tuned for a Great Episode

Hello Climate and YOU listener! I apologize for missing a couple of weeks of posting… I really want this to be a weekly practice you can rely on. However, I spent a week visiting family in Minnesota, and then found myself absorbed in research for my next episode. It turned out to take much more time and effort than I expected, but I think you’ll find it was all worth it. Next week I will release a Facing the Truth episode that walks you through the history of human knowledge of and response to the climate crisis. I’m calling it, “We’ve Known the Climate Crisis Was Coming for Over Fifty Years.” I hope you’ll tune in and thanks for your patience!




1 – Climate and You: Introduction to the Podcast

1 – Climate and You: Introduction to the Podcast

Welcome to the first episode of the Climate and You Podcast. I’m your host, Domyo Burk. In this episode I’m going to briefly introduce myself, the purpose of this podcast, and the basic approach I plan to take with it. In summary, though, so you know whether you want to keep listening: The Climate and You podcast is about living in the midst of a climate crisis – how to face the truth, stay strong, and take action.



Quicklinks to Article Content:
The Goal of the Climate and You Podcast
Making a Practice of Living in a Climate and Ecological Emergency
Facing the Truth, Staying Strong, and Taking Action


The Goal of the Climate and You Podcast

There are a growing number of great climate change podcasts out there now, most of them having appeared within the last two years. They offer all kinds of information about climate science, political responses, innovations, and protest activities. Many have high production values and include interviews with major players in the world of climate science, policy, and activism. I encourage you to check them out.

I’m not aiming to compete with these existing podcasts by trying to be a source of the latest information on the climate emergency, or by featuring high-profile interviews. Instead, I want this podcast to be a support to you as you strive to live your life, day by day, while facing the terrifying and mind-numbing prospect of the breakdown of earth’s natural life-support systems. I want to explore questions like:

  • How do I face the truth of what’s going on without falling into despair?
  • How can I continue to connect emotionally with what I’m witnessing or hearing, without going numb?
  • Is there any way out of a sense of powerlessness with respect to the climate crisis?
  • Is there anything an ordinary person like me can do?
  • Can I relax and enjoy my life even though scientists are predicting a terrible future for our children and grandchildren?
  • How do I stay engaged with the whole climate issue when it’s so overwhelming and there’s no resolution in sight?

You might say this podcast is about the “spiritual” aspect of living in a climate emergency. Maybe you like the word “spiritual,” maybe you don’t… but when I use that term, I’m referring to your inner experience as a human being, including your thoughts, feelings, desires, fears, needs, and aspirations, and how these relate to the choices you make. If you don’t like the word “spiritual,” maybe you can think of this podcast as being about the “personal” aspects of living in a climate crisis, as opposed to the physical, economic, scientific, or political aspects. I’ll certainly mention those practical, material aspects of the crisis as well, but I’ll always bring it back to how they relate to you.

My dream is that you will find yourself wanting to listen to this podcast on a weekly basis as a way to stay engaged with the climate crisis in a sustainable way. If you’re anything like me, you’ve made short forays into climate issues – reading the news or a book, watching a documentary, getting involved in activism – but then, at a certain, you find yourself at a dead end. Maybe things start to feel too terrible and overwhelming. Maybe you find yourself deeply concerned but have no idea what to do next. Maybe you’ve tried to make a difference but got burned out when the payoff for your efforts seemed terribly small compared to the scale of the emergency we’re facing. Or maybe you’re actively engaged in addressing some aspect of the climate and ecological crisis and just need some inspiration and moral support.


Making a Practice of Living in a Climate and Ecological Emergency

I believe we need to make a practice of living in a climate and ecological emergency – learning how to face the truth on an ongoing basis, learning how to stay strong and live a life with integrity and joy, and finding a meaningful way to contribute to the fight to save the life on this planet. I’m no expert on climate science, policy, politics, activism, or the growing impacts of climate chaos on people all over the world. I am a Zen Buddhist priest who has spent the last 25 years immersed in a spiritual tradition which emphasizes awareness of your inner experience and the impacts of your actions of body, speech, and mind.

In Zen, we speak of having a “practice.” We say, “How is your practice going?” By “practice” we mean living deliberately; all the choices you make as you go about your life in order to decrease suffering for self and other, and to increase true happiness, wisdom, and compassion.

If we make a “practice” of living a climate emergency, it means we’re choosing to face reality and make the best of it. It means we refuse to succumb to fear, confusion, denial, dread, depression, or overwhelm. It means we refuse to accept the destruction of life as we know it and intend to stand up for life no matter what happens, because that’s the right thing to do. It means we’re opening up to growth and learning, because we know we’ll face many challenges. It means cultivating determination and patience, because we’re going to make lots of mistakes and face lots of disappointments. It means digging deep into our well of love and creativity, because if there’s any way forward, we’re going to find it.

A “practice” is something we do every day, moment by moment. It has to be sustainable. We have to make living in a climate and ecological emergency into a practice, because the emergency isn’t going away. You and I will be living with it for the rest of our lives. Our children and grandchildren will be living with it, even if humanity manages to get its act together and radically change the way we live on this earth. We need to settle in for the long haul.


Facing the Truth, Staying Strong, and Taking Action

Although I’m a Zen priest, this is not a Zen or Buddhist podcast. I will certainly mention useful Zen teachings and practices at times, and my own spiritual formation took place within the Zen tradition. I will also happily mention useful and inspiring things from other spiritual and religious traditions if I’m aware of them, and if I neglect other traditions, it’s simply because I’m not as familiar with them. Please feel free to email me with additional useful sources if you know of any! And if you don’t consider yourself religious or spiritual at all, don’t worry, most of the time I’ll be talking about things in a way that has nothing to do with Zen or any other spiritual tradition. When I do, nothing I discuss will require any kind of belief (Zen is a nontheistic tradition), and I’ll always make things accessible to a secular audience.

The focus and format of the podcast may end up changing over time, but my initial intention is to frame my topics in terms of a vision for sustainable practice I’ve developed over the last ten years or so. If we want to live sustainably, authentically, and generously in the midst of our climate and ecological emergency, I believe our practice needs to include three essential ingredients:

1. Facing the truth. Facing the truth can be difficult, painful, confusing, and exhausting, but it is a necessary part of living an authentic and full life. It’s also necessary for informing us and arousing our natural instincts to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and all life. Learning how to face the truth without getting overwhelmed, depressed, or anxious is a practice in and of itself.

2. Staying strong. If we don’t take care of ourselves and our responsibilities, we won’t be capable of facing the truth or doing anything about it. There are many ways to stay strong, including maintaining our physical and mental health, nurturing relationships, engaging in spiritual practice, connecting with nature, and appreciating art, music, and beauty. When our practice is integrated and strong, we can see these activities as being in service to our concern for life on earth, as opposed to being selfish or tangential things we engage in despite the emergency we’re in.

3. Taking Action. In our climate and ecological emergency, it’s “all hands on deck.” Each and every one of us needs to contribute something in the effort to prevent the complete breakdown of earth’s natural life support systems. To do this, we need to vastly expand our ideas about what it means to take action, and what’s possible. The powers of greed which are bound and determined to keep up business as usual are thrilled that most of us can think of an extremely limited menu of options when it comes to climate activism: green consumerism, recycling, reusable grocery bags, voting when elections come around, and/or getting sucked into some kind of activist group which will seek to remake our identity and make us really boring to talk to at parties.

Taking action is essential not just because our contribution is needed in the struggle to save life on earth. It’s essential because as long as we stand by and do nothing, or hold back from doing what we see is really needed, we’re compromising the state of our own heart and mind. We suffer from cognitive dissonance, which is a state of mental and emotional stress caused by a lack of coherence between our behavior and what we know to be right. All aspects of our life are tinged with a sense of guilt and dread, even if we try to ignore it. On the other hand, as Greta Thunberg said, “Hope is not something that you have. Hope is something that you create, with your actions. Hope is something you manifest into the world, and once one person has hope, it can be contagious.”
If you feel any trepidation about listening to this podcast because you’re not taking action on the climate, or because you don’t want to, or don’t think you’re up to it, don’t worry. I experience all three of those attitudes myself, pretty much simultaneously. I’ll be exploring this topic in an open-minded way, including all the biases, ideas, obstacles, ambiguity, and challenges you face if and when you decide to take action.

At least at this point, I intend for each episode to be relatively short and simple – something for you contemplate over the course of your week. As I mentioned earlier, there are other podcasts to listen to if you want to educate yourself about what’s going on or stay up to date on the latest developments in the climate and ecological emergency. I’ll also be mentioning various books and articles in the podcast you may want to check out for yourself, but it won’t be necessary to work your way through a giant reading list in order to benefit from the Climate and You podcast. I’m beginning to believe that, when it comes to the human heart and mind, sometimes less is better. Better to spend some time absorbing the reality of something, letting it work on you, than to speed ahead to the next headline and try to comprehend it all.