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journey of the universe

At the end of June I had the privilege of speaking at the Chautauqua Institution in upstate New York. The topic for the week was the film Journey of the Universe, by Brian Swimme and Mary Evelyn Tucker. If you haven’t seen it, you can read all about it on the website at http://www.journeyoftheuniverse.org.

The film narrates the 14 million year epic of cosmic evolution from the big bang through to the present day. The purpose of the conference was to present responses to the film from the perspective of various world religions. Below is my 15 minute presentation on Daoism, Ecology and the Journey of the Universe.

the philosophy of qi in an era of air pollution

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…

green spirituality and the limits to modernity

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…

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

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…

cultural transformation and ecological sustainability among the dai people in xishuangbanna

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…

religious diversity and ecological sustainability

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…

permanent agriculture and the anthropology of waste

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…

contested sacred space on maoshan

In May 2010 I had the opportunity to visit Maoshan, an important Daoist site in Jiangsu province (see here for my earlier post). One result of my fieldwork was that it gave a deeper insight as to the way Daoism and nature are represented together in contemporary Chinese culture. The evidence suggests that just as…

mazu: marine ecoregion goddess

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…

religion, ecology and nationalism

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…