Can you hear Mother Earth?

Sister Chan Khong - Hong Kong 2013 - copyright UBCA special message from Sister Chan Khong
Plum Village, July 2016


Dear Citizens of the Earth,

Forty-six years ago, in 1970, I was a young biologist present at a ground-breaking meeting between Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh and six leading scientists in Menton in the south of France.

menton statement cover

1971 Menton Statement

We met to address the damage that was being done to the Earth through human misuse of technology, the penetration into food-chains of poisonous substances and the mounting exploitation of natural resources. Together, our small group of seven scientists issued The Menton Statement in 1970, which was published in Le Monde and The New York Times in 1971 and signed by over 2,000 scientists in 25 countries.

It was one of the very first international statements by scientists to raise concern about environmental destruction and the urgent need to protect the Earth.

Our group also established a pioneering NGO, which we called “Đại Đồng Thế Giới” (World of Great Togetherness). We met with the United Nations Secretary-General and played a key role in preparing the ground for the UN Stockholm Conference on the Environment—the first of its kind—that took place a year later in june 1972. Ahead of the talks, we held a civil society conference and issued an “Independent Declaration on the Environment” to support the UN’s good intentions and help prevent the talks being stalled or sidelined by powerful governments.

It was as a result of the Stockholm Conference that the UN established the United Nations Environment Program and national governments began to create ministries for the environment.

Thich Nhat Hanh, Walking Meditation with Children #2. New HamletSince that time, our teacher Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh continued to teach extensively, speaking out for the protection of the earth and the importance of following a “global ethic” to safeguard our planet.

He has transmitted the 5 Mindfulness Trainings to over 100,000 men and women, and over 4,000 have received the 14 Mindfulness Trainings. Each person makes a vow to contribute to building a small beloved community (“sangha”) near their home, and to live in a compassionate way to protect all species on Earth as the many thousand arms of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara.

earth crying Thich Nhat Hanh

Forty-four years since the UN’s Stockholm Conference, Mother Earth’s condition continues to degenerate, and today she is in desperate need of our engaged, compassionate action. For billions of years different life-forms have been evolving together and nourishing each other on Earth in harmonious equilibrium.

But now, humankind is destroying this balance, and Mother Earth is crying out in pain. Can you hear that your mother is dying?

Can you hear the cry of Mother Earth:

Please wake up, my children, and see what you are doing. Your atomic bombs have laid waste to billions of precious lives, even the most fragile life forms and micro-organisms, across vast swathes of silent desert and open ocean. You have cut down and set fire to my forests, and poured toxins into my atmosphere and waters. You have sliced out my mountains and precious earth to search for fossil fuels, gold and bauxite.

Your nuclear power plants, and factories of chemicals and steel have released radioactive waste into my waters and poisoned my earth. My body reeking and twisting with pain has brought forth storms and tornadoes, floods and hurricanes. I am a living earth and my quakes and volcanoes express my life-force, and my pain.

Today I am suffocating in the deep waters off the coast of Viet Nam. Billions of fish, dolphins, sharks, shrimps, crabs, and exotic rare species from the depths of the ocean, have been washed ashore, dead and lifeless, across 140 miles of coastline in Vietnam, from Ha Tinh along the coast of Quang Binh, and the coasts of Thua Thien and Da Nang Quang Nam.

vietnam dead fish

What terrible poisons have you poured in my waters? There is only one great ocean and poison in one ocean is poison in my whole body. The South China Sea is also the Pacific Ocean, it is the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean.

My dear children, please listen! These beautiful fish are also your brothers and sisters, they are also crying for your help. If living species in the oceans are dying, how long will you last? Please remember, my beloved ones, that you cannot take any steel, gold and bauxite with you when you die.

Our Mother Earth has been crying out for so long. She has never stopped giving us whatever we needed: food, water and shelter, allowing us to flourish in her abundance, never asking for anything in return. But now she asks for our support, our love, our action. We have allowed our alienation and greed to dominate our lives to the detriment and exploitation of our Mother.

Many of us have forgotten that we are one with the Earth. The Earth is not a separate entity from us. We are part of the Earth, and the Earth is part of us. The Earth is not a resource for us to exploit at our will. The Earth is us; we are intimately interconnected with the Earth, just as we inter-are with all other species on Earth, too. Our spiritual ancestors have taught us about the law of interdependent co-arising: this is because that is. We are here because the Earth is here. All species are our brothers and sisters; we are all children of the Earth.

When we see our deep interbeing with the Earth and with all species, we will see what to do—and what to stop doing—to help the situation. We will have the clarity and compassion we need to help change the situation, so that a future can be possible for us all.

Yes, humans and societies need to develop and progress. But at what cost? We call our political leaders all over the planet, our civil servants, and especially our corporate leaders to stop and look deeply at our behavior. Our industries and corporations are destroying the very fabric that makes life possible and beautiful. We must make adjustments to the cries of Mother Earth.

Each one of us can take action in concrete ways.

We can:

buddhists4climate-reducing-meat-by-50-per-cent-21. Recognize that what we choose to eat greatly impacts our personal health, the distribution of wealth and resources, and the global environment. We can go closer to a vegan diet as recommended by a recent study by the National Academy of Sciences to reduce our impact on climate change and global pollution, and nourish not only our health but our compassion. We can commit to reducing our meat consumption by 50%, or to not eating meat and dairy products 15 days a month.

2. Recognize that environmental ills are inherently linked to human ills. We should look deeply at our lifestyle and make changes to reduce our consumption and simplify our life. Greed is a byproduct of an individualistic and materialistic way of looking the world. It has become rampant and is a major cause of the imbalances on our planet. Each one of us can support efforts to alleviate inequities wherever we live and between affluent northern hemisphere societies and southern ones.

3. Recognize that there are alternative renewable energy sources. We can encourage governments to find sustainable energy sources and transition away from nuclear and fossil fuels. It is possible to develop society and industry in new ways, and not at the cost of Mother Earth and numerous species on land and in the ocean, nor at the cost of the wellbeing of future generations. Nuclear waste, whether hidden beneath the earth or exposed, is a toxic cancer to our planet. We will be paying for the luxuries of today with sicknesses tomorrow. Each one of us can make efforts to reduce our personal consumption of energy, in terms of electricity, water, transportation, and the products we buy every day.

Beef-Cattle-Factory-Farm-from-Socially-Responsible-Agriculture-Flickr (2)4. Recognize that the meat and agricultural industries are a major cause of environmental degradation. We must encourage governments to adopt sustainable development practices to minimize waste and pollution caused by cultivating, processing and transporting meat and fish, and to move away from meat and fish production, which are not sustainable food sources for a growing global population.


Sister Chân Không (Cao Ngọc Phượng)
Eldest Sister of the Order of Interbeing, on behalf of the 4,217 monastic and lay members of the Order

May you all enjoy the beautiful colors of spring, the fragrant Summer breeze and glowing sun, the gold and crimson leaves of autumn, and the cool, beautiful light of winter. May you remember also that every being with whom we share this beautiful planet is also a precious gem. May you enjoy everyone around you and not wait until it is too late, until everything is nothing more than a dream.

Just a simple monk!

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46 comments on “Can you hear Mother Earth?
  1. Dave Troupe says:

    Thanks Sister for the message of love without raising any hostility towards anyone who has caused this issue. A true Buddhist call.

  2. Gordon Walters says:

    A sangha is needed
    Understanding is needed
    Thays influence runs deep in me
    I will do what I can

    • Gloria Seidler says:

      A thank you to Gordon Walters.
      I, too, will continue to do what I can.

      Is there some way all of us can create a sanga together without bounds of country, race, age, etc..
      To help the knowledge touch each heart and promote right action?

      It’s one thing to talk, and of course to pray. Right action in a massively large group can create momentum and change.

      Is there a way we all can connect more than through words? It can be easy for some to look away when someone or something is suffering. It isn’t easy to look away from thousands with an authentic presence and message.

      Asking with great love and respect. Glo

  3. enrico mainato chiesa says:

    Mother Earth is a living creature whose buhaviour is difficult to analize. Even through the recent past movements and changes in the climate have occured, causing deep impact over living beings. This
    has occured infinite times and will probably happen again. this has nothing to do with the will of
    human beings.We should be humbler and free of fear, which is the real disease of our times.
    As our teacher taugth “Fear makes you see real whar is unreal and believe that lies are truths”
    In the present days liars have got lots of credit thanks to super development of so called science,
    technology, mostly in the field of communication. Yes our species is overgrowing and eating off
    nature with its resources, but historical experience says that when a givem species overgrows, then
    a severe halt measure will come..Vegetarianism is to be fostered, but firstly for hetical purpose.
    We are what we eat and if we continue to eat meat, a nature of ferocious beast will appear. All
    beings shyould live in peace with no fear, yet this is far to come. That is why our species
    should be an example to others. Thus Mother Earth will rejoice and relax-
    I wish that our teacher to be always present to guide us as his task seens not finished yet.

    Enrico Mainato Chiesa from Lucca, Italy

    • Lynn says:

      Wonderful thoughts but having a background in holistic nutrition (and much more) would like to say we are much more then what we eat. Digestion, metabolism, the soils on which the food is grown, “acid rain” (or not)and so much more. All truly is connected. As well those who lived in Arctic lands could never survive on a vegetarian diet, at least not when living off of the land as was prior to electricity and modern technology. (Whale blubber provided much needed fat for warmth).

      I think what you are referring to is the “bell curve” – when any species populations explodes then a force (disease so on) enters in to put it in harmony or balance). Our technology overrides that innate balancing system, yet always there is something that evolves to do it’s task (on a individual scale painful, on the larger scale a balancing). And yes climate does change, perhaps we are accelerating these natural occurrences.

      That said having raised aquarium fish since a small child, Co2
      is absorbed into water systems and our oceans are a “sink” which means eventually it acidifies the water and although their are species that evolved for differing Ph conditions most fish in the ocean have not. The oceans are acidifying (a dream I had as a small child mid 50’s – the oceans were dying, now I know it to mean acidifying and other pollution causing destruction). Ditto for air, land, river systems. What is often not mentioned with regard to climate change discussions is the pollution and toxicity involved due to our “modern” technology.

      As you can see I have a background in science, along with the esoteric sciences – ideally we question all sources, lol.

  4. Antony Smith says:

    This is all very inspiring. It is good too see such inspirational people giving a strong lead.
    I am pleased that there is now a strong movement in making these changes.

    Antony Smith

  5. Ever Sylvan says:

    much wisdom here, from all replies too, but the one concern I have is the depiction of wind and solar Sadly it is NOT free and comes with great consumption of natural resources and destruction of invironment wildlife undergound water systems not to mention human health. We have a huge challenge ahead of us.. but I am optimistic when I read the comments above There are a lot of good people out there we just have to wake up

    • Lynn says:

      As well some of the components are highly toxic “rare earth metals” and many environmental consequence for those that produce and work with these toxins (China, other countries).

      Mother Earth, Father Sun, Brother Wind, Little Sister (wild flowers not weeds, lol!) Quote from “Touch the Earth” original peoples on what is now called America.

  6. Manu Farenzena says:

    Saving the earth is about paying attention to minor actions of daily life. Eg. the drain of my shower is blocked. It is very inconvenient. This product was recommended to me. It unblocks drains… in the package it says – that the product is toxic to all life forms and has a long term toxic effect for life, fish, plants, water. It is written in the package! For convenience, I used it anyway and it did unblock my drain. However, the drain is now blocked again and I’m resisting the ‘convenience’ of short term to think of the intoxicating power this product has on me, and everyone/everything around me really. It is in the small, tiny things that we do everything that we have to concentrate… Lets find alternatives, I’m sure they exist.

    • Susan says:

      Yes, take your drain apart and clean it out. Why have we lost the ability to do the simple tasks? Instead of throwing our toys out, get off your machines and manually fix your toys. Grow your garden, sew your clothes, cook your food.

    • WitchettyGrub says:

      To unblock your drain, try bicarbonate soda. Add household vinegar and it will bubble up. Let it bubble away, adding more of each if you need it. Then wash away with water. Much better for the environment!

    • Deepa says:

      Dear Manu,

      To unclog a drain you can pour a handful of baking soda into the drain and add one half cup of white vinegar. Rinse with hot water. There are many alternatives to using chemical toxic cleaners in our homes. Pl refer to ‘Clean’ by Michael Dejong, it shows how to use baking soda, borax, lemon salt and vinegar to clean just about anything at home. Cleaning this way may need more awareness and a willingness to work a bit more but it causes no harm to anyone .. all the best.

    • Lynn says:

      Not to mention all of these toxic chemicals are tested on animals. ALL repeatedly due to the billions gained by doing so. The pharmaceuticals for the most part make them (think Bayer Aspirin Bayer pesticide) then more toxic Rx to “cure” when the toxicity of many modern *synthetic chemicals are used (not side but toxic effects in research literature. *most perfumes, colognes “fragrance” products are made from left over petro sludge – the companies fight hard to keep the label from stating that (easily online search now – toxins in your perfume for starters).

      Rabbit eyes, draize test(vocal cords cut so lab workers can not hear them scream, they often break their necks trying to escape the pain. Beagle – 50/50 chemicals pumped down tubes into stomachs until 50% die. And more horrors. It was my research paper and multi millions are experiencing such horrors due to our “better living through chemistry – NOT” (synthetic of course)

      You can google for the images and perhaps put one near your sink – then true “Love is Action based on compassion” and imagine it in your eye.

  7. Martina says:

    Thank you sister Chang for your beautiful thoughts and words. If we could all make even a little effort to be kinder and gentler to our selfs, our fellow human beings, the animals and our beautiful earth. Thick nhat hanh and sister Chang have done so much to try make us too become more aware,also the sisters and brothers of plumvillage.

  8. Gloria Seidler says:

    Thank you Sister Chan. Your words and the energy behind them are so important. May the message reach all our hearts and motivate right action.

    I am searching for a Sanga both to bring forth the message and to find a place where I belong.
    I hear the Earth and teach others to listen (as my work). However here in Vermont I have not found connection with others. I reach out and respectfully ask for healthy community.
    Blessings to all.

  9. Monica says:

    Peace & Love ???

  10. sister chan. so well written. so perfectly said. thank you

  11. sangsuan.gam says:

    peace in every step …

    deliberately …

  12. Arlene says:

    I respect the sentiment here but can we please not associate it all as “mother” earth / “mother” nature?

    • Dear Arlene,
      Thank you for raising this point. Perhaps Thay, and Sister Chan Khong, use the word “mother” in order to remind us to see our profound connection with the Earth, and to see the Earth as more than just inert matter, and to recognize that the Earth is as much (if not more) our mother than our biological immediate mother in this lifetime. We don’t need to be caught in the terminology; it is just a skilful way to remind us of something deeper. If you’d like to read more about Thay’s vision of the Earth as mother, you can read his book: “Love Letters to the Earth”.

    • but it is mother earth. a mother nourishes and feeds her chidren. such has mother earth since the beginning of life

  13. Juan Carlos Sanguino says:

    Thank you very much Sister. I can hear yours

  14. Brian Horrigan says:

    It’s never too late to start living! Insurance companies stops our generation from running through the fields! People should STOP! And have a good look at what greed has done and is doing! All PEOPLE! Are to blame every human being is RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DAMAGE! Now PEOPLE SHOULD GET RESPONSIBLE FOR REPAIRING THE DAMAGE! And NURTURE AND LOVE WHAT YOU CALL MOTHER EARTH! Thee ONE AND ONLY PLANET WITH LIFE IN THE WHOLE UNIVERSE! START NOW EVERYBODY! HARMONISE WITH NATURE!

  15. Lyell says:

    I am the change we want to see in the world I am vegan ???

  16. BRIAN GROGAN SJ says:

    Thank you so much. It encourages me to keep going in my small efforts!

  17. Raja jaber says:

    Thank you sister Chan Khong for this poignant and beautiful message.
    When I hear fracking..I hear the cries of a mother that is being raped by her children.
    Gratitude and love to you.

  18. Thank you Sister Chân for your work and insight and for mentioning the biggest enemy to Mother Earth, animal agriculture. We need to walk away from the murder of other sentient beings and start living compassionate lives, in harmony with nature, mindfully.
    May we, ALL living beings live in peace.

  19. Brenda says:

    Thank you

  20. Tanya Dieu Thanh says:

    Thank you so much Sister Chan Khong for your profound, beautiful, and practical message! “The Earth is us. We inter-are with all other species in Earth.” May all beings respect and love our Mother Earth to the fullest ❤️?❤️

  21. Elizabeth Gibbens says:

    Thank you, Sister Chan.

  22. Serena Long says:

    Thank you so much Sister Chan Khong. It’s a passionate call for our dear Mother Earth. I will never ever stop practicing the Five Mindfulness Trainings.

    With joint palms, respectfully.
    Joyful Presence of the Heart.

  23. Gregoa says:

    We should leave (capitalism) the old system behind and resuscitate Homa-Therapy in our daily actions as expected by the old Gautama. Om Shree. Make a proof 1. and 2. The most efficient ways to heal the earth and get health as wealth.

  24. Amalie Kauth says:

    Thank you Sister Chan for your beautiful letter.
    To all Sangha.
    When you go for a walk, please take a bag with you and collect all plastic garbage you find on your way else the next big rain will wash this into the rivers. With this action rivers and oceans can be protected. Our water and all beings who live in it thank you very much for this.
    It’s just a little help but if many people do that it is a great benefit.
    May all beings be happy

  25. Maxim says:

    Go vegan for total Freedom ❤️❤️❤️

  26. Yu Yin says:

    Thank you Sister Chan! It is a very inspiring message! Can I translate it into Chinese and share to my friends?

  27. adriana rocco says:

    as promised we are translating it just now and trying to spread as much as possible (not only through ecology magazine)

    we keep you informed

  28. A passionate call for our dear Mother Earth. I’d like to share on Facebook but for some reason your website won’t let me.

  29. Vivian Taube says:

    Thank you, Sister Chan Khong. Personally, I am mostly vegetarian, but I admit, sometimes, I still eat meat. I do like dairy and egg–especially cheese, which I have pretty much daily, I admit. But, I “offset” my carbon emissions, using this site: It is run by indigenous people in the US. I like using their site to do the actual offsetting, each year. However, I use this site, which has a very accurate calculator, to figure out my carbon emissions, each year. I also opt, as a Marin County, CA, resident, for all green energy, when buying my energy from the local company, PG&E. It costs a bit more, but I would rather not create the pollution in the first place, to then, later offset it. I am considering giving up dairy, as well as meat, for 6 weeks, as part of a program I read about in a book, “The UltraMind Solution,” by Mark Hyman. If it turns out that I am allergic to dairy, as apparently many people are, I might continue to be dairy and meat free, then. We shall see. I have tried going vegan, in the past, and unless I have the support of a community, doing it with me, that is very hard for me. Love, Vivian :)

    • Beverly says:

      Dear Vivian, I am just north of you in Sonoma County. I struggled wth this all my life until about 8 years ago. The book that helped me most was Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Caldwell Esselstyn. It has many creative, simple, quick, and delicious recipes in the second part of the book. There is also a MeetUp group that meets at Gaia’s Garden (mostly vegan) restaurant on Tuesday nights in Santa Rosa. Wishing you…and everyone… happiness at the table!

  30. Carolyn Swindlehurst says:

    Thank you for everything you do to save our beloved earth.

  31. Jill H Cooper says:

    Thank you Sister Chan for your beautiful letter to us all. It was a warm way to wake up the day, and gave me an added boost of mindfullness to start the day. in agreement with you, and am sure many others, may we all take a mindfullness day to remind ourselves what is truly important for our Earth. May your day be blessed for sharing your thouights with us.


    • Claudia says:

      Gratidão,Sister Chan!
      Li sua carta e posso lhe dizer: sim, eu ouço nossa Mãe Terra chorar há anos. E percebo que o sofrimento só aumentou nas últimas décadas.Todos estamos doentes depois que tão graves feridas foram por nós provocadas no coração de nossa Mãe. Querida Irmã Chan, a Terra ainda pode ser salva? Ou já chegamos a um ponto onde não há volta? Vamos nos unir para promover a cura de nossa Divina Mãe. Vamos criar um grupo e dividí-lo planeta afora, para salvar nossa Mãe.
      Abençoados sejam, Irmã Chan, você e todos que lutam para curar o planeta!