china doesn’t have an “environmental” problem

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.

  3 comments for “china doesn’t have an “environmental” problem

  1. 17 November 2014 at 16:52

    I’d like to ask you a question re a comment I made that corresponds to the topic of your blog; a false notion of environment . I stated, “Good for China in leading ‘the way’ which is the ‘to’ in Shinto. Hopefully, Japan will welcome their giant neighbor in a peaceful resolution for an ecofriendly environment.” I should have stated “ecofriendly discourse,” which would be linguistically proper because of the central principle of wu wei in Chinese philosophy. Is this correct, Professor Miller?

  2. 21 November 2014 at 11:37

    I wholeheartedly support your hopes that Japan and China will work together on issues of environment and climate change. I think that when religious traditions become associated with national identity, as Shinto is in Japan, then they may be useful in terms of local environmental discourse, but could perhaps be problematic in terms of creating a global discourse. The same may be true of Daoism, which is increasingly referred to in China as “Chinese Daoism” and may become associated with Chinese nationalism, as has happened to Confucianism.

  3. 21 November 2014 at 13:47

    Thank you, Professor Miller. I appreciate your time, aiding my thinking on the topics you have written clearly and thoughtfully on, which I am in the process of learning more about—most grateful.

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