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Should environmentalists support conservation projects that also serve to bolster right wing nationalist agendas? This was one of the questions that was discussed last month at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion, in San Francisco. I spoke on a panel organized by the Religion and Ecology section which featured a vibrant discussion on…

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The Blang village of Laoman'e

The question of how to promote a culture of ecological sustainability in China took me this summer to conduct exploratory fieldwork among the Blang minority nationality, in Yunnan province, close to the border between China and Myanmar. The Blang are one of China’s smaller nationality groups and occupy a remote mountainous terrain that is a…

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Image from National Geographic

It’s been three weeks since the devastating tsunami in Japan, and I am still haunted by the familiar phrase from Daode jing ch. 8: Best to be like water, Which benefits the ten thousand things And does not contend. It pools where humans disdain to dwell, Close to the Tao. (Trans. Addis and Lombardo, Hackett:…

Read More “best to be like water”: tsunamis, religion and non-human agency

The electronic prayer hall at Wong Tai Sin (photo: Sik Sik Yuen)

As China overtakes Japan to be recognized as the world’s second largest economy, it is inevitable that Chinese religions will undergo change and transformation. But since Marx infamously compared the social function of religion to that of a narcotic, religion has consistently been framed in the modern imagination as backwards, anti-modern, and anti-science. China’s modernizers,…

Read More daoism and technological innovation

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Last year I wrote an article for atlantic-community.org on China’s quest for ecological sustainability. The basic point that I tried to make was that China has to create its own model for development because China simply will not be able to function as a country if its nearly 1.4 billion people expand their ecological footprint…

Read More consumptionomics: asia’s role in reshaping capitalism and saving the planet

http://www.youtube.com/v/YlOA_eO8IsQ&rel=0&fs=1

As the trailer for this new documentary from Mandarin Films makes clear, the global environmental crisis will be solved in China, not in America, for the simple reason that China has no other option. As I noted recently in my post on ecological civilization in China, there is a widespread recognition in China that the paradigm of industrial civilization must be changed so that China can bring economic development to its people without a correspondingly large increase in its ecological footprint.

In a fascinating article on metaphors for progressive politics, George Lakoff summarizes succinctly the message that progressives need to be communicating as regards the issue of sustainability: The economic crisis and the ecological crisis are the same crisis. It has been caused by short-term greed. I fully agree that the economic crisis and the ecological…

Read More sustainability as cultural and psychological transformation

I was in Beijing and Tianjin recently for a week of conferences related to “ecological civilization” (shengtai wenming 生态文明) an important new buzzword, the precise meaning of which thought leaders and government officials are vying to define. The first conference I attended was one on “Traditional Culture and Ecological Civilization”, held in conjunction with the…

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Laozi Statue on Maoshan

In May this year I had the opportunity to visit Maoshan (Mt. Mao) a Daoist mountain sacred to the Shangqing (Highest Clarity) tradition of Daoism that I studied in my most recent book. Located in Jiangsu province, it is about an hour’s bus ride south of Zhenjiang, a stop on the main high speed railway…

Read More daoist religion and ecotourism: a visit to maoshan

In Sunday’s New York Times, Wayne Arnold published a column on the perennial topic “rethinking the measure of growth.” The story concerns attempts by Asian economists to come up with alternatives to GDP growth as the be-all and end-all of development. As is often the case with the New York Times, I found the most…

Read More chinese religions and economic sustainability