Climate Change:
Towards a Buddhist Response

Dharmacarini Akasati

February, 2007

Water, Essence of Life

One hot August day at Buddhafield a couple of years ago, on a site with very little shade, we temporarily lost our water supply. It was the start of a retreat and we were expecting some 30 women to arrive. As the afternoon wore on I realised that we were down to our last few litres. What if someone arrived, hot and sweaty, picked up the container and emptied it over themselves, not realising that there was no more? I felt stirrings of fear — a primeval recognition that life can’t exist without water for long, especially under hot sun. Eventually our water supply was restored; nobody died. But I learned two things — the preciousness of water and the extent to which we take it for granted.

This experience has informed a more visceral response when I read about one of the most universal concerns about climate change — that as temperatures become more extreme, the water supplies of millions of people will be increasingly in jeopardy and that the major wars of this century are predicted to be about water, not oil. Receding glaciers and mountain snows mean reduced melt waters, those spring torrents which form so many of the planet’s rivers, great and small. Raised sea levels can lead to inundation with salt water of the natural underground water stores from which much of our fresh water is drawn. When I imagine whole communities finding themselves without water, fought off by neighbours who are themselves defending scanty and diminishing supplies, I begin to get some feeling for the suffering likely to result from climate change.

Climate Change: Causes, Evidence and Impacts

I do not find this an easy subject to write about. I am not an expert, just someone who has been reading around the subject and discussing it with others. I do not want to communicate gloom and doom, neither do I want to shrink from the truth as I understand it. I hope that my readers will not feel ‘got at’ or that I am adopting a preaching tone. This is not intended to be an exhaustive treatment of the subject. I welcome feedback and debate.

I have come across Order members who give the impression that they don’t see a link between the subject of climate change and the Dharma, the former perhaps being seen as part of a ‘political’ sphere and therefore not relevant to the spiritual life. I hope that anyone who loosely fits that description will read this, and that I will not be simply ‘preaching to the choir’.

There has been much in the media recently about this subject and in this article I assume some basis of knowledge. I include a list of resources and suggested reading at the end, for the benefit of anyone who would like to be better informed.

Suffice to say that there is far greater consensus amongst the scientific community, which has been held for substantially longer, than the media would have us believe. Scientific organisations have issued repeated calls for action. February 2nd this year saw the release of the report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, agreed by hundreds of scientists across the world. The report states, in typically cautious scientific language, that human activity is ‘very likely’ to be responsible for most of the observed warming in recent decades. This effectively means that the link between global average temperature and human-produced greenhouse gasses from the burning of fossil fuels is no longer open to dispute by individuals and by government bodies. There is now no doubt that our energy-hungry lifestyles are directly linked to drought, forest fires, rising sea levels, unprecedented species extinction and the extreme weather that is becoming more common. Our addiction to oil, manifesting as travel, consumer goods, exotic foods, steadily increasing heating levels in our leaky buildings and so on, is causing suffering on an increasingly widespread level.

Alongside this ever-increasing energy use since the industrial revolution, the other major backdrop is the destruction of rainforests and ecosystems that act as carbon ‘sinks’, capable of absorbing huge amounts of CO2. We are still losing an area of rainforest the size of England and Wales each year. In many cases this is to make way for soya bean production, also maize and palm oil, which ironically and tragically are being grown to meet massive new bio-fuel targets. [ 1 ]

Environmental writer and activist George Monbiot at a resent book launch made the point that we are the last generation to have the power to prevent the most devastating impacts of climate change. Although we cannot know exactly what form those effects will take, we know for sure that to pursue our present behaviour patterns unchecked will have a catastrophic impact on life on Earth.

Last week I met an environmentalist who reckons that we probably have less than 5 years to turn the situation around before we hit the ‘tipping point,’ beyond which the whole thing moves completely beyond our control. He is convinced that we still have time, by a hair’s breadth, to avert the worst-case scenario. His view is that as a collection of individuals with a deeper awareness and a world-view not based on materialism, spiritual communities have a vital role to play in embodying and communicating the necessary shift in attitudes. This accords with my own view. Speaking at an earlier time with reference to untrammelled materialism and proliferation of weapons, but not specifically about climate change, Bhante expresses a similar sentiment, quoted in the penultimate chapter of What is the Sangha?: The alternatives before us are, in my opinion, evolution — that is, the higher evolution of the individual — or extinction. That would be my overall diagnosis of the situation facing us.

James Lovelock is the co-author of the ‘Gaia theory,’ which sees the Earth as a complete, self-balancing eco-system functioning in many respects like a single being. He believes that we have already passed the point of no return, in terms of ‘positive feedback’ effects. That is, the knock-on effects already set in motion by the impact of industrialisation to date. For example, melting ice caps reduce sunlight-reflecting icy regions of the planet, adding to the warming factors that are already occurring. Lovelock, even predicting a massive eight degree temperature rise, believes that human life will, in some form, survive, principally at the poles. His view is that it is civilisation that is at stake.

Personally I prefer to stay with Monbiot and my environmentalist friend and not be one of those people who move directly from denial to the view that it is too late so there’s no point in doing anything, with no creative response in between. We banned CFCs. The Berlin Wall came down. Apartheid ended. Huge shifts happen. Looking back to the Axial Age, it seems that huge shifts in consciousness happen also, if not to the whole populace, enough to have a massive impact on society as a whole.

Some Objections and Arguments

I’ve heard a few arguments to the effect that there is no point in acting to try to prevent the destruction of our planet as a viable home for ourselves and our fellow beings. One is ‘everything comes to an end anyway’. Well, people die, but we don’t see it as OK to actively participate in their demise! As a rationale for the continuation of an unethical and untenable lifestyle, this is surely a nihilistic and inadequate response.

Another is ‘it’s already too late, so why bother?’ As cited above, expert views differ on this subject. The truth is that we just do not know. Reports from the scientific community state the impossibility of making exact predictions, precisely because so much depends on how we respond, right now and in the coming years.

Another argument is ‘there’s no point in doing anything because China & India won’t’. In fact we still produce massively more CO2 emissions per head in the rich West than either of those countries, and have been doing it for vastly longer. It is to a great extent us, the West, who have got the world to this point. Without ourselves making significant change, we don’t have a negotiating leg to stand on. [ 2 ]


There are now companies offering to ‘offset’ theCO2 emissions of individuals or companies by planting trees or subsidising energy-saving activities. This is certainly better than doing nothing, however planting trees now will not ‘offset’ the impact of emissions produced in the present for many years to come. [ 3 ] Even fast-growing species take several decades to reach maturity. Emissions produced in the present are having impacts right now. It’s later than we think.

Planting trees is an essential thing to be doing for the future. I would encourage anyone thinking of planting some trees to go ahead. Buddhafield are committed to a tree-planting programme. The problem with the whole concept of ‘offsetting’ is that it is too readily used to avoid the ethical conflict that in the absence of legislation or economic necessity is the only prompt for us to change our behaviour. As a justification to go on with a carbon-heavy lifestyle that is having real, measurable effects in the present — for example to go on taking long-haul flights that we would otherwise think twice about, it becomes counterproductive. We need to plant trees AND we most urgently need to change our fossil fuel-hungry ways.

The vexed subject of air flight, one of the fastest-growing causes of humanity’s carbon footprint, is a cause for ethical conflict for many people. We are part of a global culture that has developed through increasingly cheap and readily available flights. For example it is the norm for leading figures in organisations of all kinds, including ours, to have international responsibilities requiring them to clock up of huge numbers of air miles. Of course, there are undeniable benefits from this freedom of movement. However I would argue that the destructive effects to living beings of our unprecedented energy consumption, of which in the lives of individuals high air miles are in many cases a major component, are now sufficiently profound as to outweigh the benefits in many cases. This is not a simply resolved issue: our whole paradigm needs to change. Nonetheless, two decades ago when I was in my twenties, aviation was more reserved for special occasions. We managed to go about our lives just as productively. Organisations were of necessity more locally based. There are great benefits in that approach as well.

Sustainability: “The Third Revolution”

Around 10,000 years ago the agrarian revolution transformed human lifestyles and the face of the planet. Over the centuries the human population steadily grew, and 200 or so years ago the industrial revolution began in England with the substitution of coal for dwindling trees. Rapid change was upon us and lifestyles that had remained broadly unchanged for centuries were swept away. We now live in an Industrial Growth Society. As unlimited growth is not possible on a planet with finite resources, our current society is, as we know, unsustainable. If we fail to creatively adapt, the human and environmental systems on which we depend will collapse. What is needed is a third revolution of equal magnitude to the agrarian and industrial revolutions — a ‘sustainability revolution’, leading us into what could be termed a Life Sustaining Society.

The Great Turning

One term current within ‘deep ecology’ circles for this third revolution is the ‘Great Turning’, which has three aspects:

  1. Holding Actions in defence of life on earth
  2. Analysis of structural causes of the problems and creation of alternative, sustainable institutions
  3. Shift in perception of reality, both cognitively and spiritually (understanding the interconnectedness of life)

The Great Turning is already underway. There has been a massive shift in public awareness in recent months and years. In fact there are still many people on this planet living at sustainable levels. Even in the most industrialised countries there are numerous eco-communities; renewable technologies; campaigning groups; insightful literature and so. In fact, there are Buddhists actively choosing to live simply, in community, sharing resources.

The question is whether it will happen soon enough and broadly enough.

The point about the Great Turning is that people engage with it in very different ways. One group may lobby Parliament. Another might set up sustainable communities. Another might teach the Dharma, countering the views on which materialism is based, making links with how our actions affect other living beings and so on. Others might communicate through song-writing or fiction: the possibilities are endless.

Climate Change in the Context of Traditional Buddhist Teaching

So when it comes to the challenge of climate change, what does the Dharma have to offer by way of guidance? This is a big subject, which I hope will be elaborated on by others in these pages and beyond.


Clearly ethical principles are relevant. Citing the first precept seems almost too obvious to even warrant a mention. One point that may be worth drawing out here is that the consumer society is by no means ethically neutral. The resources that go to make up each and every thing we consume, from food and drink to the electricity required to leave a hall light on, come from somewhere. They have an impact somewhere down the line. This is the nature of things. The first precept is about actively experiencing one’s connection with all of life and living our lives in that awareness. In the Dhammapada the Buddha uses the beautiful imagery of the sage going through town like the butterfly going harmlessly from flower to flower. It is impossible to be ethically active without some level of renunciation.

The second precept is equally relevant. Apparently it would take roughly three whole planets to support the world’s population at the average rate of consumption of people in the UK. Basic maths tells us that we must be taking the not-given.

The third precept, being fundamentally about contentment, likewise has obvious bearing on this subject. It also brings us into the whole area of child bearing and population. Exponential population growth, especially now in poorer countries where a large family can be one’s only assurance of being supported in old age, is a major factor in the current world picture. This is directly related to inequalities on a broadly North-South divide, which are such a feature of the current global relationships. Population is a complex issue, which I am not proposing to explore here, beyond one reflection. Countries such as pre-invasion Tibet with wide support for a celibate, monastic community succeeded not only in enriching the spiritual depth of their culture, but also in maintaining a steady population and therefore making less demands on their environment.

Truth telling involves sharing real feelings about issues that matter to us. My impression is that many of us feel strongly about the levels of destruction we are at present confronted with, indeed part of. However we often hold back from expressing our feelings, especially those of a painful nature. If we are unable to open up to painful feelings about the state of the world, we are likely to remain shut down and unable to find the emotional energy to act on these feelings. ‘The work that reconnects’, which has been developed by Joanna Macy and colleagues, is aimed at creating conditions in which we can experience and communicate our deeper emotions in response to the world we live in. In my experience this is an effective and energising process.

A surprisingly large percentage of the carbon footprint of industrialised countries is from ‘leisure activities’, which of course make up the thousand and one things we use to distract ourselves, some of which are more wholesome than others. This could be seen as being linked in with the addiction to intoxicants that we all experience to some degree, for example sessions of mindless TV watching. On that subject, did you know that flat-screen TVs use on average five times the amount of power as old-style screens?

One of the ethical issues we face in our current global economy is that we are in almost every case removed from the sources of the things we consume. If we actually saw people working in horrific conditions in sweatshops, our appetite for cheap high-street clothes would be dampened. However because we have to take steps to actively inform ourselves about these things, it is only too easy to maintain, at least on a superficial level, a state of ‘blissful ignorance’. If we could actually see great plumes of CO2 issuing from the back of the car or plane, or streaming out of our leaky houses — and with our own senses perceive the connection with dying coral reefs; polar-bears drowning in search of ice, or children drinking polluted water — we would, I trust, act to change our lifestyles. But making these connections requires information and it takes imagination. Ethical choices that would be clear-cut at first hand have to be made in a more abstract context.

Hidden Dukkha

Edward Conze uses the term ‘hidden dukkha’ for the suffering that we experience, for example knowing that our wealth is on the back of someone else’s poverty. Knowing we are consuming more than our share, unconsciously, we feel bad. I am of the opinion that a lot of the mental suffering in the West is rooted in this. Ultimately, there is no such thing as ‘blissful ignorance’.

No Separate Self

The evidence that we cannot separate our lives from the lives of other beings and the eco-system we are part of is incontestable. The rainforests are our lungs, from the point of view of the species as a whole. We are part of nature. We do not exist in a split-off, separate department. As Joanna Macy vividly puts it, we would not need to remonstrate with someone to desist from cutting off their own leg on grounds that it was unethical. Ethical exhortation sadly doesn’t generally work. Making deeper connections does work. Putting the same basic point another way: ‘there is no “away” to throw things’.

Emptiness and Compassion

From the point of view of emptiness, none of this is real in the way we think it is. In the vast context of kalpas and innumerable world-spheres, the problems facing humanity in the 21st century are relatively insignificant. Yet at the same time our beautiful world, with its miraculous diversity of living creatures, does matter. Compassion says life matters. In this article, I am attempting to say ‘this matters’.

Revisiting the Simple Life

My own reflections have led to a reclaiming of some of the basic methodological principles that Bhante has laid out for us with such clarity, particularly questions of lifestyle. One theme I keep coming back to where I see an overlap between environmental concerns and a Buddhist life is the aspiration to lead a simple life. I rejoice in the extent to which we in this Order and movement are able to demonstrate being happy living relatively simply. Ratnaprabha wrote recently about the pleasures and ecological benefits of living in community and sharing resources. Buddhafield, at its best, demonstrates this for me — a group of people living together on the ground, along with innumerable non-human beings in all their amazing forms, small and large. Getting wet when it rains; getting warm by a fire; sheltering from hot sun under trees: there seems to be a level of alienation and neurosis that drops away in this materially pared-down environment, in virtually every case. I have recently been reflecting on the extent to which I am capable of being easily contented, even joyful. Our culture so strongly reinforces discontent. The forces of greed have never been more pervasive, cunning or well organised. But when I think of the most joyful moments of my life, some flavour of letting go, of renunciation & quiet contentment, has been part of that experience.

Levels of Action

Working on a Personal Level — Habits

It is clear that each of us needs to do what we can to reduce our energy use and therefore our carbon footprint. In spite of giving a lot of attention to this subject, I have found that learning to appreciate the link between my own energy-use and these profound global consequences seems to be a slow business, given what’s at stake. However it feels essential to me that I keep making incremental attempts to change my behaviour. A friend recently illuminated the ethical dimension of life as potentially that dimension in which one can see time as a whole: the actual future consequences of ones actions, clearly laid before one. How am I going to feel, witnessing species, lands and who knows what else disappearing? I know I must at least try.

Personally I feel that as an individual it’s important to ‘walk the talk’. I have managed not to fly for the last 6 years [ 4 ]. I have a heart-connection with the ‘Akasa’ element. I feel disturbed that so often as I look up, wherever I am, whatever the time of day or night, I see contrails relentlessly pouring forth into our overloaded atmosphere. It’s an area I have chosen to try to make real change, even though I am overall still leading a roughly ‘two planet’ lifestyle. However this is a situation that faces the human race as a whole and I’m not under any illusions that my little actions on their own are going to have any meaningful effect — not without being part of some bigger, synergistic trend sweeping the globe. That may not be as fanciful as it sounds. It happens with fashion, of all things! [ 5 ] And where else can that critical mass possibly arise from but individuals?

Community Networks

It is virtually impossible to opt out of the society we’re part of. To have any positive impact on these issues, we need to look at ourselves in the collective. It’s basic Dharma that we all have an effect on the world. But one thing is for sure: ‘the whole is greater than the sum of the parts’. In my view it is time to re-explore the notion of the new society, in which we collectively work together to form a nucleus of something more healthy. The process begins with visioning. What kind of society and world do we really want? Vision without action may be useless, however action without vision is directionless and likely to follow habit and least-resistance tracks of greed, hatred and ignorance. According to systems theorists, vision, when widely shared and kept in sight, does create new systems.

I wonder if some of us have been put off notions of the new society because when we were younger we fell into a spirit of arrogant separation from the rest of the world: ‘We have THE answer!’ Complacent, cynical age is hardly an improvement on arrogant youth! There must be a creative middle path.

Our particular network is the WBO and the FWBO . Moreover we are each part of various other networks too. As with all human beings, we have a sphere of influence. That sphere may be a lot bigger than we realise. As Buddhists, changing consciousness is what we engage with. The shift in consciousness described as the third level of the Great Turning for many of us could be a sphere that interests us, as opposed perhaps to political action. We are accustomed to the idea that sitting with dukkha is essential to spiritual progress. I believe that one essential role Buddhists can take is that of witnessing. I mean holding a steady gaze at the difficult realities of being alive at this time on this planet, without falling into denial, horrified anxiety or whatever. This is a task of heroic dimensions. Difficult, but not to be shrunk from: we can only act appropriately to the extent that we face the truth, no matter how scary or unwelcome. I believe that this process needs to be done in communication with others, not just in the privacy of one’s own mind.

The Global Level

In the big picture, meaningful action on the level of governments and international bodies is necessary if we are to prevent the most catastrophic of the predicted outcomes. The national and international levels are important points of leverage. Some of us need to be campaigning on this level. My environmentalist friend would like to see every one of us give up a few hours a week for the next four years, which he believes are ‘the most important in our 400,000 year history as a species’ to campaign relentlessly and at as high a level as possible on this issue. [ 6 ].

Governments, however, will only make the genuine changes needed if they are getting the message that this is what their voters really want, even at cost to their own material prosperity. To the extent that they sense that the majority of people are not prepared to make any sacrifices over this issue, they will be unwilling to act. This quantum shift has to come from us all. By working together and changing patterns in our own community, we in turn have all kinds of broader effects. Buddhism is a much respected and growing religion in the Western world. I believe that we can have a huge positive impact if we can work creatively and collectively on this.

Ritual and Myth

The myth of the thousand-armed Avalokitesvara could be seen as the myth of transcending individualism and achieving collective action at the highest level, of Bodhicitta. Thinking whether there is a myth that encapsulates the Great Turning, for me this comes close, with each hand extending, offering its own particular gift.

On a more popular level, the Lord of the Rings encapsulates an archetypal battle to save the world, drawing on the language of archaic European myth. Personally I believe it was no coincidence that the recent films were so spectacularly popular — they tell a story of the spirit of the age.

Honouring the Elements

One of the most interesting authors I’ve read in the last few years is Maledoma Some (pronounced ‘Somay’), a Western-educated West African Shaman and ritualist who has worked with Robert Bly. Some is interesting partly because he spans two cultures and is a translator, a bit like Bhante, but in his case between African indigenous and industrial Western society. I find some of his comments on our society illuminating, particularly when it comes to our relationship with the elements. In The Healing Wisdom of Africa, observing that Westerners frequently come to him wanting to do fire rituals, Some expresses reservations, because in his view the negative aspects of the fire element, representing speed, restlessness, radical consumption, and eventually death already predominate to such a destructive extent in our society. Some believes that we are much more in need of the calming effects of water:

[...] to the indigenous, challenge or crisis is cosmologically and spiritually symptomatic of a rise in fire. When someone is in crisis, regardless of the nature of that crisis, that person is said to be returning to fire. The distress of a person drifting toward fire is a plea for the radically reconciling introduction of water. When there is no water around, we are vulnerable to crisis. People, especially people in crisis, are naturally attracted to water. Many recognise that when they are agitated about something in their lives, they find peace at the waterfront. Just the sight of a large body of water brings a feeling of quiet and peace, a feeling of home. Water resets a system gone dry in which motion is accelerated beyond what we can bear. African healing wisdom looks at physical illness as a fire moving a person’s energy beyond the limit of what he or she can bear. This suggests that we all need water, and need rituals of water to stay balanced, orientated and reconciled.

Going on to talk about balancing the water element, Some moves on to the subject of emotion, and the profound importance of expressing our grief, individually and collectively.

Until grief is restored in the West as the starting place where modern man and woman might find peace, the culture will continue to abuse and ignore the power of water and in turn be fascinated with fire…From the point of view of my people, the growth, expansion, and progress by which the modern world measures success is a conflagration, a fire burning out of control and consuming everything it touches. It is essential that the modern world stop burning itself and the rest of the planet and to learn to see the aspects of fire that can lead to transformation, healing and a renewed connection to [...] our [life] purpose.

Some is not saying there is something wrong with fire, he’s saying that the water/fire balance is out of kilter. One small thing I have noticed over the years is that although we still universally light candles on our shrines, the seven offering bowls filled with water, which used to be pretty universal, are no longer in evidence on many of our shrines. Is this an unconscious expression of our fascination with fire and non-valuing of water?


However we approach this issue, it is clear that we members of the human race are being called upon to work together. The consequences of not doing so are unthinkable — and real. This could be a time of breakthrough. The co-authors of The Limits to Growth, drawing on 30 years of analysis of current data and computer modelling exploring potential future scenarios, cite several different ‘mental models’ or views that we can choose for our working hypothesis. Each of these has a different logical outcome.

One view, widely held by people who have not given much thought to these questions, is the assumption that there are no limits to the resources we extract from the Earth or to the pollutants we continuously pour into the earth, water and air — there is no problem with the concept of continuous economic growth or our current consumption habits.

Scientists have indicated that to run with this view and to carry on with ‘business as usual’ will result in the destruction of life on this planet as we know it.

Many better-informed people hold the underlying view that there are severe problems already, worse problems to come, and no hope of solving them. This is liable to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

A third view hold that the limits are real and close, but there is — just enough time, energy, environmental resilience, human virtue and adaptability to bring about a planned reduction in the ecological footprint of the human race — a sustainability revolution resulting in a better world. Forecasts suggest that this is still possible, if we act now.

The only way to find out if this view can be made true is to try it.


1 ] It costs £25 to buy an acre of rainforest through ‘Rainforest Concern’ www.rainforestconcern.orgReturn ]

2 ] According to the world development movement, by the 9th February 2007 the average UK citizen had already emitted as much CO2 as the average Indian will in the whole year. If the whole world emitted at the same rate as India, there would be no climate change problem. [ Return ]

3 ] According to the UK Forestry Commision: the rate of carbon accumulation is relatively low in [the trees’] establishment phase (and may even be negative as a result of carbon loss from vegetation and soil associated with ground preparation). This is followed by the full-vigour phase, a period of relatively rapid uptake, which levels off as the stand reaches its mature phase, then falls. [ Return ]

4 ] For example it is possible to travel overland within Europe by coach or train, producing half or less emissions than by air flight. (See Eurolines for coach travel and Eurorail for trains) [ Return ]

5 ] see The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell [ Return ]

6 ] Two key areas are global reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and protection of ‘carbon sinks’ especially old-growth rainforest. A good question to ask your MP is what emissions target (if any) they support and what they are doing to help ensure these targets are met. Organisations such as Friends of the Earth conduct well-organised lobbying campaigns. [ Return ]

Further Reading

Robert Henson, The Rough Guide to Climate Change (Rough Guides, 2006).

George Monbiot, Heat: How To Stop the Planet Burning (South End Press, 2007).

Joanna Macy, Coming Back to Life: Practices to Reconnect Our Lives, Our World (New Society Publishers, 1998).

Akuppa, Touching Earth: a Buddhist Guide to Saving the Planet (Windhorse Publications, 2004).

Meadows, Randers and Meadows, The Limits to Growth (Earthscan Publications Ltd, 2004).

Andrew Harvey, The Way of Passion (Tarcher, 2000), Ch 2.

Maledoma Some, The Healing Wisdom of Africa: finding life purpose through Nature, Ritual and Community (Tarcher, 1999).

Other Sources

Al Gore’s excellent film An Inconvenient Truth, documents the evidence for climate change in an accessible, even entertaining manner. gives up to date press clippings from around the world. is a coalition of concerned groups.

Check out the Royal Society website for a more scientific viewpoint.

Or just do your own internet search, however be wary of anything connected to the website or the associated ‘Advancement of Sound Science Coalition’ which are proved to have received £30,000 from the oil company Exxon for the express purpose of spreading confusion about this issue).