is china’s one child policy environmentally ethical?

"carry out family planning"

"carry out family planning"

By James Miller

I’ve been following Andrew Revkin’s dot Earth blog at the New York Times. The tag-line of the blog is “Nine Billion People. One Planet” and is premised on the demographic likelihood that by 2050 the world’s population will have increased from six to nine billion, effectively adding another two Chinas to what we have already. 

At the same time, the populations of China, Brazil and India are developing their economies at a relatively rapid rate which means that those populations will be commanding a larger ecological footprint than they are doing already. China’s 2001 ecological footprint was 1.5 global hectares per person. Canada’s was 6.4. Assuming that China’s economic development will bring about an expansion of its ecological footprint, the results could be catastrophic to say the least. (More…)

environmental law or environmental ethics?

By James Miller

The image of China in the Western media is often that of a monolithic totalitarian state, run by a cabal of shady figures in Beijing whose decisions affect the lives of downtrodden millions. When I bring visitors to experience the incredibly vibrant new China, the most common reaction I get is “I did not expect it to be like this!” This tells me that many people in the West have a strong idea of what China is like. It’s just the wrong idea.


the end of environmentalism?

By James Miller

In October I was invited to participate in a symposium on International Perspectives on Nature and Culture organized by the Institute for the Humanities at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. I was on a panel responding to a paper by the French philosopher Augustin Berque. His most recent book is called La pensée paysagère (Paris: Archibooks 2008), and it articulates a fundamental distinction between “thinking of the countryside” or “la pensée du paysage” and “country thinking” or “la pensée paysagère.” In modernity, he claims, we have ideas about “nature” or “the environment,” but we do not have ideas that are grounded in nature as a biophysical reality or which express themselves in the flourishing of nature. We have too much “pensée du paysage” and not enough “pensée paysagère.” The contradiction of modernity is that the theorization, symbolization and fetishization of nature as a concept proceeds apace and at the very same time as the annihilation of nature as a biophysical reality. (More…)

daoism and climate change action

By James Miller

I was very interested to read this article, published on the UN website, on Daoism as the “Way” for climate change action in China. The article was written by Olav Kyorven, an assistant secretary general of the UN Development Program. In the article he reports enthusiastically on a recent conference of Daoist leaders in Nanjing to agree on a seven year action plan for climate change. Measures include retrofitting Daoist temples with solar panels, managing local environmental projects, and educational programs.

Kyorven is right when he states that Daoism “probably has more on offer to the environmental cause in today’s China than any other major, organized religion.” The problem is that Daoism has not wielded significant political force in China since the end of Ming dynasty in 1644. The subsequent Qing dynasty generally favoured Buddhism and expelled the Daoist Celestial Master (the supreme leader of the Daoist priestly order) from the imperial court. Now Daoist leaders, it seems, are key to recover a strong position within Chinese society and assert their relevance for 21st century society. (More…)