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china doesn’t have an “environmental” problem

By: James Miller

From an article on China's cancer villages at
From an article on China’s cancer villages at

China doesn’t have an “environmental“ problem. The language of “environment” continues the false notion that nature constitutes an objective reality extrinsic to human subjectivity, accessible through science, transformable through engineering. This paradigm gives us the sense that the environment is something outside us that we can save or preserve through science and technology or other modes of intervention.

The reality from a Daoist perspective is that there is no such thing as an “environment” upon which humans individually or collectively act. Conversely there is no “environment” to be “saved” or “preserved.” Daoist thought posits multiple, co-creative subjectivities rather than a discourse of subjective agents who act on passive objects. This correlational agency is visualized in terms of the interdependence of landscape and  body. Each is mapped upon the other. Qi flows through the landscape just as it does through human bodies. Both are mutually implicated, and mutually co-constituting. 

This way of seeing human bodies in relation to the natural landscape opens up the possibility for an indigenously Chinese ethic of ecorelationality and new modes of discourse for framing problems of water scarcity, air pollution and food security. Furthermore, Daoist somatic praxis can support the development of a heightened aesthetic of ecological sensitivity.

Daoist thought and practice can thus support the development of an indigenous Chinese approach  to health, food and environment aesthetically, culturally, ethically and philosophically.

To learn more, please come to hear me speak in California on November 18 and 19.

Categories: Blog, Conferences, Opinion