The Interfaith Climate and Ecology network (ICE) of the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB) was initiated in 2012 after many years of individual members in the INEB network engaging in a wide variety of Buddhist/faith based environmental activities. These activities came from our commitment as Buddhists to engage in the suffering we encounter in the world (1st Noble Truth). In this context, it has been the suffering throughout Asia brought about by environmental degradation from the modern industrial development process, such as deforestation and the destruction of numerous habitats. A critical aspect of this process has been the economic marginalization of rural communities and the exploitation and destruction of their environments for the creation of massive energy projects for the creation of high consumption urban lifestyles— e.g. massive dams that have relocated hundreds of thousands of people and nuclear power plants that endanger the entire fabric of life in rural areas. As such, INEB members in their environmental activities have pushed deeper into the structural and cultural causes of environmental suffering in their regions (2nd Noble Truth) and have articulated alternative visions based on Buddhist teachings (3rd Noble Truth) with activities to realize these visions (4th Noble Truth). The Eco-Temple Community Development Project is a plan to bring many of these activities in different regions together to bolster the integrative efficiency of each individual project and support and advance a wider movement among Buddhists, other communities of faith, and wider civil society, business, and governmental initiatives to build sustainable and ecological societies.
The Eco Temple Working Group was formed at the 2nd ICE international conference in Seoul, Korea in April 2015. This working group has emerged from the participation of Rev. Hidehito Okochi of Japan in the 1st ICE Conference in Sri Lanka and the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear incident. Since then, the Japan Network of Engaged Buddhists (JNEB) has created an International Project on Energy to share experiences on nuclear energy among Buddhists and other religious groups in the Global North, and in coordination with INEB conduct two study tours (2012, 2015) for those in the Global South to learn of the resiliency activities of Buddhists priests and other civil society groups in Fukushima and to study more in depth Rev. Okochi’s own eco-temple communities in Tokyo. A two-day meeting held just after the INEB General Conference in Sri Lanka from January 29-30, 2016 was the first time this new sub network had an extended period together to share their activities and delve more deeply into the numerous interconnected issues in eco-temple community design. In this way, the meeting sought to: 1) share experiences, identify needs, and begin collaboration among core members to support the development of eco-temple communities; and 2) from this shared knowledge, further develop and articulate an Eco-Temple Community Design Scheme, which can be a planning tool for our own and other eco-temple community initiatives. Our focus was not on technology transfer or aid, but rather sharing perspectives and experiences to empower participants to develop answers in their own localities.