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Buddhist Eco-monks Work to Protect Thailands Environment

Eco-monk Phrakhu Sangkom Thanapanyo Khunsuri at his farm in Thailand’s Surin Province, where he encourages and teaches sustainable farming practices. From mongabay.com As a consequence of extensive deforestation and widespread dam projects, the country is regularly affected by both flooding and droughts, but some Buddhist monks are actively working to protect the environment by integrating Buddhist principals with environmental awareness, consulting with government officials about environmental problems, and implementing sustainability projects, such as installing solar panels at Buddhist temples and helping villagers fashion environmentally friendly cottages out of mud and other naturally available materials.  “There are places in northern Thailand, particularly in Nan Province, where there has been a lot of deforestation, so the watersheds areas fill the water with mud, silt, and pesticide runoff causing more severe flooding in the rainy season and more severe drought in the dry season,” said Gordon Congdon, conservation program manager for WWF-Thailand. (Mongabay)  The environmental and conservation activities of monks in northern Thailand also extend to performing tree ordination ceremonies. Tree ordination, adopted from traditional Buddhist practices, is a popular practice in many Buddhist-majority countries seeking to reduce deforestation and establish wildlife reserves. Trees are given monastic ordination and wrapped in the iconic saffron cloth worn by Theravada monks, making them sacred and thereby protecting the trees from damage, destruction, and deforestation.   “Making merit is extremely important for Thai Buddhists,” said Dr. Susan Darlington, professor of anthropology and Asian studies at Hampshire College in Massachusetts and author of The Ordination of a Tree: The Thai Buddhist Environmental Movement (Suny Press 2013). “They see [tree-ordination ceremonies] as an act of making merit, which can help with rebirth and, in some cases, having a better life now.” (Mongabay) In a bid to make merit and discourage deforestation, trees are ordained and wrapped in the saffron cloth of a monk’s robe. From humanlife.asia Dr. Chaya Vaddhanaphuti, a geography professor at Chiang Mai University whose PhD studies focused on climate change, said one of the most harmful environmental issues in modern Thailand is the lack of knowledge and awareness.

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