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Jordan Paper is a professor in the East Asian, Religious Studies and Women's Studies Programs as York University (Toronto), and is an adjunct professor in York's Faculty of Environmental Studies. He has written books on Chinese religion, northern Native American religions, and female spirituality. Over the last few years, he has participated in several conferences on religion and the environment, focusing on China.

 

 

Abstract of paper given at Taoism and Ecology conference
"Taoism" and "Deep Ecology": Fantasy and Potentiality

As the supervisor of doctoral dissertations relevant to religion in the Faculty of Environmental Studies at my university, I have become aware of a Western mythos concerning "Taoism" and environmental concerns. This paper will expand upon my brief mention of this phenomenon in my more general presentation, "Chinese Religion and the Environmental Crisis," to the "Religion and Ecology Conference #3" (April, 1997), sponsored by the Boston Research Center for the 21st Century. Typically, this new Western perception is not based on the religious practices and understandings of Taoism but on the two primary texts categorized under the rubric of Taojia. Western environmentalists tend to utilize the more romantic translations of the Taode jing and the Zhuangzi and interpret these texts with little or no awareness of their historical, cultural, religious and ideological contexts nor their varying interpretations throughout the course of Chinese history and for differing purposes. This paper will first analyze this new acultural perception of "Taoist" tenets and the environment. Next, it will contrast these perceptions with Chinese understandings of the relevant passages in several historical periods. Finally, the paper will suggest new interpretations of core aspects of these and related texts to accord with contemporary environmental concerns that remain compatible with the Chinese background of these texts. The above mentioned texts and others do offer understandings that can assist in creating less harmful human interactions with nature and the environment, but these would be meaningful only if they remain integral with pertinent aspects of the Chinese worldview.

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