When Buddha saw that being self-absorbed creates a kind of myopia, nearsightedness, he recognized that our limited view is the reason for all suffering. When we do not look beyond our own perspectives and focus only on our individual immediate needs, someone somewhere suffers. A case in point is the issue of water resources.
I had a conversation with the director of our local water utility about planning for future water availability. He responded by saying our municipal utility had all the water rights necessary to accommodate the rapid growth of our city. The cities to our north, however, might be more challenged in the future. I asked why we were not considering other communities that share the same ecozone. He did not have an adequate response.
All the communities in our area share the same or interconnected aquifers. If we in Bend suck the moisture out of the water table as it flows to the north, those downline communities will suffer. So, why don’t we consider them? It is simply because our city’s needs are being met. But this is delusion. If everyone’s needs are not being met then no-one’s needs are being met. When act as though individual survival does not need to consider others we are fooling ourselves. In terms of ecologically interconnected regions we must be aware of the larger picture.
In this moment, I reflect on the amount of water the nearby Facebook and Apple data farms use in one day to satisfy our digital habit. This along with 25 golf courses and a similar number of craft breweries in the area is insane. The average annual rainfall in our high desert is around twelve inches. We have received less than five inches this year. You do the math.
I am sometimes asked about the practical application of the Buddhist perspective. Next time you take a drink of water, consider the person downline who may be water insecure. Generate bodhicitta and move beyond your myopia. Maybe we could work together to share a limited resource.