Saturday, March 31, 2007

On the Cutting Edge on the Left Coast

We visited Costco today, our favorite big box store and the only one of that size that we frequent, and picked up some organic pomegranate juice. As we weaved through the aisles, I spotted a Buddhist monk in a red robe. I have a curiosity about the various flavors of Buddhism and wanted to speak to him, but couldn't think what to say, so I gave up on the idea and headed for the check-out aisle.

While inching forward in line, I thought to look behind me and found that the monk had joined the line behind me. Without thinking about it, I turned and asked if he was a Tibetan monk. When he affirmed my suspicion I told him of my interest in Buddhism and he told me that one group of Buddhists have a hospice and a center for the treatment of cancer in Santa Cruz County. This was news to me and I know where I'll go if I ever get cancer.

He was friendly and very approachable. I wondered about which Buddhists are vegetarians and learned that Tibetans are not because, in Tibet, they can't grow enough produce. He says that the Dalai Lama tried a vegetarian diet, but his doctor felt that it wasn't right for him. He still wants to be a vegetarian though and is persisting. I can understand how a truly compassionate person would prefer to not eat meat.

Most religions are rife with hypocrisy, but Buddhists are sincere in their attempts to live up to the teachings of the Buddha and they embody compassion for all life forms in their daily activities. If only we had more Buddhists, the Earth might survive the mass extinction currently underway.

Other than Buddhists who quietly raise the level of consciousness on the planet through their daily meditations, there may be some hope for us in the world of finance. (Nope, that was not a typo - read on.)

John Doerr, venture capitalist, made a fortune on his foresight by investing in the future of high tech; he helped launch Sun Microsystems, Google and Amazon, and so it is significant that he now expresses pessimism about the future of our planet.

According to BusinessWeek Online, Doerr recently addressed an audience at the annual Technology Entertainment, Design (TED) Conference in San Francisco, saying that he fears that global climate change is irreversible and that the planet is doomed.

He asked his fellow financiers to invest heavily in alternative energy and green technologies and many already have.

Venture capitalists invested $727 million in 39 alternative energy start-ups last year, up from $195 million in 18 start-ups in 2005, but Doerr believes that these efforts are inadequate and that the world's economy must make a radical shift from greenhouse-gas-producing fossil fuels. He worries that the shift may come too late.

"I'm really scared. I don't think we're going to make it," Doerr said.