08/19/2011 06:34 pm ET | Updated Oct 19, 2011

Thich Nhat Hanh and David Suzuki in Conversation About the Health of the Planet

Despair and anger are contributing to a feeling that people have no power to stop the destructive forces behind climate change, but the feeling can be reversed through personal hope and inner peace, an audience in Vancouver was told earlier this week by Buddhist monk, poet, peace and human rights activist, Thich Nhat Hanh.

In Vancouver for a week of teaching and lectures, Thich Nhat Hanh, sat down with Canada's David Suzuki, a world-renowned authority on sustainable ecology, to discuss the path forward to a more sustainable way of living.

Their conversation, based on the premise that it is well-known that humans are harming the earth, destroying its ecosystems and disrupting the climate, focused on how to bring about the change in human behavior that is needed to put the world on a path that will ensure a healthy planet for future generations.

With contributions to the discussion from Vancouver's mayor, Gregor Robertson, the audience listened for an hour to a thoughtful dialogue on tackling attitudes to climate change. The following clips provide a snapshot of the discussion. They will also be featured on the David Suzuki Foundation website and Plum Village, Thich Nhat Hanh's website. A full version of the event is available for viewing here.

Thich Nhat Hanh said we have to accept that our civilization can be destroyed, not by an outside force, but by ourselves, just as many civilizations before ours have been destroyed. If we allow despair to take over, we will lose the strength to do anything to protect and preserve our civilization. Personal hope and inner peace will help build the strength we need to become instruments to protect the environment.

The conversation was structured around the following questions:

1. I would like your reaction to this economic advice a Lehman Brothers banker, named Paul Mazer, gave American business in 1930 when the age of consumerism was beginning: "People need to be trained to desire, to want new things even before the old have been entirely consumed... Man's desires must overshadow his needs."

2. What gives you hope that we can bring about the collective awakening needed to restore health to the planet? Most of us know we are harming the earth, destroying its ecosystems and disrupting the climate. But we act as if it is not happening. How do we bring about the change in human behavior that is needed to put us on a path that will ensure a healthy planet for our children and grandchildren?

3. Oil industry groups over the past few decades have financed misinformation campaigns to cast doubt on climate science. Today 45 per cent of Americans mistakenly believe there is disagreement among climate scientists that global warming is even happening, this number is up 12 percent since 2008. The number climate scientists saying Climate Change isn't happening is actually closer to zero. It seems to be very easy to pull the wool over the eyes of the public, why are we so gullible? What do you think we can we do to change from deniers of the environmental problems we face to responsible stewards of the environment?

4. What responsibility does government have for solving these problems? How do we motivate government to do the right thing?

5. Social science research in Canada and the U.S. shows that public mistrust is at an all-time high. People believe Government and business say one thing and do another. They don't trust Government; they don't trust business and wonder about each other. This is particularly true when it comes to the environment. This mistrust has led to a kind of social paralysis where people believe their own actions won't make a difference. How do we overcome this mistrust?

Here are two short clips from the conversation: