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In June this year Ian Johnson published a major report in the New York Times on China’s plans to urbanize 250 million citizens over the next decade or so. This drive continues the decades-long story of China’s conversion from an 80 per cent rural society into an 80 per cent urban society, a migration that…

Read More religion, nature and urbanization among china’s ethnic minorities

James Miller speaks at Andover Hall, Harvard Divinity School

In a recent column in Nature, Qiang Wang argues that responsibility for transforming China’s environment lies with its citizens. He points to several instances in which local protests have successfully prevented new industrial activity, and argues that this heralds the beginning of a new relationship between Chinese citizens, the state and the environment. China is…

Read More the philosophy of qi in an era of air pollution

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In an online report on Religious Innovation for Sustainable Future (no longer available), Nina Witoszek (Oslo University) surveys a “pastoral renaissance” taking place across the globe. This renaissance, she declares, is “not just a tide of projects and conferences, but a new-old mindset which aspires to reclaiming nature, culture and spirituality, influencing green architecture and…

Read More green spirituality and the limits to modernity

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A recent news story on Reuters, headlined Thou Shalt Not Launch IPOs, China tells temples, reports that the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) has issued an injunction against temples listing on the stock exchange. SARA official Liu Wei is reported as staying: Such plans “violate the legitimate rights of religious circles, damage the image…

Read More the business of religion: buddhism, stock markets and the “authenticity” of religion

A typical landscape: rice paddies in the valley, rubber on the hillsides.

A conservation biologist by training, I first arrived in Xishuangbanna because of my interest in the ecological value of sacred groves called “holy hills,” fragments of old-growth rainforest that remain protected by indigenous Dai people despite rapid deforestation due to the proliferation of rubber plantations. The Dai protect holy hills because they believe their gods…

Read More cultural transformation and ecological sustainability among the dai people in xishuangbanna

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For the past six months I’ve been working with Dan Smyer Yu from the Max Planck Institute for Religious and Ethnic Diversity on a conference which is finally taking place next week at Minzu University in Beijing. The title of the conference is Religious Diversity and Ecological Sustainability in China. Here’s the conference rationale that…

Read More religious diversity and ecological sustainability

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This term I have the privilege of co-teaching a new seminar course at Queen’s (with Emily Hill) on the topic of Green China: Environment, Culture, Politics. The course examines the intersections between religion, culture, politics, and the natural environment in China over the past century. One of the first books we read was Farmers of Forty…

Read More permanent agriculture and the anthropology of waste

The Guandu Temple, Taipei

According to tradition, Mazu (Matsu) was a girl who lived in the late tenth century who was renowned for her assistance to seafarers. She was posthumously deified and attracted a wide cult throughout the southern China coastal area in the Ming dynasty. Over the past few centuries she has become one of the most popular…

Read More mazu: marine ecoregion goddess