Dharma and the Environment
The Buddha asked us to examine things carefully. When we do this, it becomes clear that nothing lasts forever and that everything is impermanent. We become less preoccupied with selfish aims and more appreciative of positive conditions and situations. Seeing that nothing lasts, we become more inclined to take care of finite resources.
We are not isolated individuals. On the contrary, we are fundamentally interconnected as all phenomena arise through the coming together of countless causes and conditions. All our actions have a corresponding result. Everything we do, think and say matters.
In a 2010 interview
, our spiritual director Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche said:
“The negative effects of pollution and abuse of the environment tend to accumulate if left unchecked, so problems are going to multiply with the passage of time. Farmers, suppliers, merchants, consumers, politicians – whoever we are – we need to take good care of ourselves. If we don’t do so now it may become too late. There are plenty of signs that time is running out.”
Conservation at Gomde
Gomde UK occupies the Lindholme Hall Estate in South Yorkshire. Its size, beauty and isolation provide a wonderful habitat for reflecting, studying and meditating. But our unique location also puts us in a perfect position to practice what we preach.
The Lindholme Hall Estate is a 180-acre ‘island’ in the centre of the 3,500-acre Hatfield Moor. Once reachable only by boat, the island is now connected to nearby Hatfield village by a one-mile causeway.
It is understood that the gravel ridge which now forms Lindholme Island was laid down during the last ice age some 16–20,000 years ago. Two geological sections have been exposed in the south of the estate which provide rare evidence of the limits of the last glaciation in Eastern England.
Thorne and Hatfield Moors are the only true continental raised mires remaining in Britain, with a strong affinity to bogs in countries fringing the Baltic.
Raised mires are very different from other lowland wet mires and constitute a unique ecosystem. The lowland raised habitat is as rare as any patch of Amazonian rainforest and is considered an exceptionally precious part of our national heritage.
The Thorne and Hatfield Moors have been designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest; Special Protection Areas under the European Birds Directive; Special Areas of Conservation under the European Habitats Directive; and Wetlands of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention.
From 1950 to the 1990s, Hatfield Moor was milled for garden peat. The industrial scale of the extraction meant that the moor habitat was systematically devastated. At one point there were plans to turn the whole area into a landfill.
Local people and many conservation bodies campaigned to save both Thorne and Hatfield Moors. The story of the “fight for the moors” is, according to botanist David Bellamy, “a story of the real guts of conservation”.
Thanks to the efforts of a few informed, bold and tenacious conservationists, the peatlands are now owned by Natural England and one of the largest bog-restoration projects in Europe is underway. Despite the massive damage done in the past, we believe the moors can be restored.
Habitats and Land Management
Although the Island is fairly small, we have a concentrated wealth of diversity. Habitats include:
With 500-year-old oaks
Mature birch and birch scrub
These habitats all require specific management plans.
Grassland needs to be cut and the cuttings removed each year. This depletes the soil of nutrients and encourages more acidic grassland meadow species to flourish. In 2013, we were able to bring the grasslands into good enough condition to interest a local hay contractor who bought the hay after cutting and harvesting it. The land yielded over 100 bales of hay.
Peat margins and heathland
The island was orginally heathland and grassland with some woodland. The peat margins of the estate have become overgrown with birch and birch scrub, which takes advantage of the drier conditions and further dries the land as it grows. The plan is to significantly reduce the amount of tree and scrub cover to encourage the original habitat of heathland, creating favourable conditions for the nightjars and other rare species that make their homes here.
Bracken is an invasive species which can be thinned out by rolling or cutting. We aim to thin out areas of bracken in the grassland and heathland so that other vegetation has a chance to compete; this creates a greater diversity of plants and subsequent insects and predatory species.
Thorne Moors contains the fourth-largest assemblage of rare insect species of any British site. Hatfield Moor, though still under-recorded, is in the top ten such sites.
So far, the recorded insect fauna of both moors exceeds 5,500 species — around 25% of all British insect species — with over 30 Red Data Book species and over 250 nationally scarce species. Six species are known from no other sites in Britain, including three that were new to Britain in 1992.
Ground beetle bembidion humerale Category I endangered
Pill beetle curimopsis nigrita Category I endangered
Muscid fly phaonia jaroschewskii Category II endangered
The acidic peat of the moors creates an environment in which few bacteria are active and where there is minimal free oxygen. This inhibits the process of decay and has allowed a veritable Domesday archive of four millennia to be preserved. Two trackways and charred tree stumps yield rare clues to the activities of Neolithic and Bronze Age human communities — but if the mire is allowed to dry out, the record will be lost forever.
Objects of botanical interest include royal fern, bog rosemary, the insectivorous round-leaved sundew and bladderwort, and the greater yellow-rattle.
The peat crisis
Peatlands remove and store carbon from the atmosphere. UK peatlands store 3 billion tonnes of carbon, almost four times as much as UK forests, making them a vital natural resource in the fight against climate change. They could perhaps be seen as the UK´s equivalent to tropical rainforests.
Due to the continued degradation of the UK’s peatlands, a significant amount of carbon is being put back into the atmosphere. This is particularly alarming, as a loss of only 5% of stored carbon equates to the UK´s total annual green house gas emissions.
There has been a dramatic decline and extensive degradation of these areas and over the past 200 years, 94% of Britain’s lowland raised bog habitat has been lost. The decline has occurred through agricultural changes, afforestation, and industrial peat extraction.
Currently, almost all peat dug out of the ground is used to make peat compost. Our use of peat compost is responsible for 630,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year, the equivalent of 300,000 cars.
is a government scheme designed to protect and enhance the diverse nature of England’s landscape, habitats and wildlife.
In April 2011, after much form-filling and many meetings, most of the 120-acre Lindholme Hall estate land was accepted into Higher Level Stewardship. By 2013 the entire island had been purchased and included in the scheme.
Our plan is to re-establish the traditional habitat which has been degraded due to the industrial milling of the peat and the subsequent drying out of the land. We aim to restore peatland, heathland, acidic grassland and orchards. This is done through various techniques including the removal of invasive species and re-wetting in some areas. All the methods we use are designed to protect the habitat and wildlife, and the use of chemicals is kept to an absolute minimum. The funds received will help pay for things like fencing and machinery.
We also work in partnership with the Lindholme Old Moor Management Group
, a group of experts whose remit is our 60 acres of uncut peatland. This valuable and essential expertise enables us to properly manage this very rare resource.
Sustainability & Self-Sufficiency
With Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche’s kind permission and encouragement, in December 2011 we installed a 9.9-kW-peak 44-panel photoelectric array on the south-facing roof of the meditation hall. It produces about 70% of our electricity and is connected to the National Grid.
This Micro Generating System (MGS) is subsidised under a UK Government scheme. The Government guarantees payments to MGSs for 25 years, in the form of a payment for each kilowatt of electricity generated, whether used here or exported to the grid.
The system was purchased for £20,900 and is funded through a short-term private loan. The estimated savings are between £3,500–£4,000 per year. For the first five years, the savings will be used to pay off the loan. In the course of the 25-year agreement, the benefit to Gomde will be approximately £125,000.
In January 2015, we installed a log gasification system. This has immense environmental and financial benefits. Our buildings were previously heated with oil. With the log-fired boiler we now use sustainable wood harvested from our land — an amazing, free, renewable resource!
This was achieved through the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme, a 20-year agreement under which the government pays us to use renewable energy for heating and hot water.
The log gasification system is a large wood-burning stove which stores heat in thermal tanks — an 80kW log boiler with an 8,000-litre hot water thermal buffer tank. It is super-efficient and requires burning once per week in summer, and in the coldest winter, once per day. This size of boiler entitles us to an annual subsidy of around £6,000. We estimate the total savings at £10,000–£11,000 per year.
We want all building and development at Gomde to be energy-efficient. Upgrades and renovations already undertaken here are in line with this policy and include the meditation hall, attic rooms in the Hall and resident community rooms. The recently acquired Lindholme Cottage also needed some refurbishment, which has been be undertaken in line with this policy.
Ultimately we would like to produce all of our own food. We have a walled vegetable garden with a number of plots which have produced significant amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables. We also harvest a lot of wild fruit and exchange produce with local gardeners.
We plan to steadily increase the area devoted to fruit and vegetable production, add trees to the traditional orchard on the land, and create a nuttery near the meditation hall.