Controversies 1 - Buddhist Ecology and Environmentalism as...

Info iconThis preview shows pages 1–2. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Buddhist Ecology and Environmentalism as Spiritual Ecology The subject of Buddhist ecology and environmentalism is only part of a much broader and more diverse intellectual, spiritual, and practical arena of activities focused on the relationships between world religions and nature that is sometimes called spiritual ecology (Sponsel 2001a). To better understand Buddhist ecology and environmentalism, including some of the controversy it entails, the larger subject of spiritual ecology must be considered. Ecotheology and Environmental Ethics While spiritual ecology has ancient roots (Kinsley 1995), at least in the realm of modern academia a convenient starting point is a provocative article by Lynn White, Jr., titled "The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis," which was prominently published in the prestigious journal Science in 1967. It quickly became a classic and is debated to this day. [White (1907-1987) was a history professor at the University of California in Los Angeles and a specialist on medieval Europe (Hall 1988, Nelson 2001)]. White's (1967:1205) mentalist thesis is that: "What people do about their ecology depends on what they think about themselves in relation to things around them. Human ecology is deeply conditioned by beliefs about our nature and destiny--- that is, by religion." [See Eckberg and Blocker 1989, Holm and Bowker 1994, Proctor and Berry 2004, Tuan 1968, 1974]. White (1967:1206) continues: "More science and more technology are not going to get us out of the present ecological crisis until we find a new religion or rethink our old one" (cf. Mander 1991, Postman 1992). Accordingly, White pointed to two possibilities to help resolve the environmental crisis, rethinking Christianity in the light of St. Francis (see below), or considering other religions which might be more environmentally friendly (e.g., Suzuki 1953). In his entire essay White devoted only two sentences to Zen Buddhism as one alternative, but six paragraphs to St. Francis as the Christian alternative. This is what White (1967:1206) wrote about Zen: The beatniks, who are the basic revolutionaries of our time, show a sound instinct in their affinity for Zen Buddhism, which conceives of the man-nature relationship as very nearly the mirror of the Christian view. Zen, however, is as deeply conditioned by Asian history as Christianity is by the experience of the West, and I am dubious of its viability among us. That last phrase, plus the relative amount of attention to Zen compared to St. Francis, makes White's choice of an alternative for the West clear. This is not surprising, since besides being an extraordinarily astute and bold historian able to examine the larger picture and pose questions as profound as challenging, White was also a Christian. His father had been a member of the clergy, and White earned an M.A. from the Union Theological Seminary. He also held the M.A. and Ph.D. in history from Harvard University. Nevertheless, in a follow up reflection, White (1973:55) mentions an incident that impressed him about
Background image of page 1

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Image of page 2
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

This note was uploaded on 04/28/2011 for the course ANTH 444 taught by Professor Sponsel during the Spring '11 term at University of Hawaii, Manoa.

Page1 / 4

Controversies 1 - Buddhist Ecology and Environmentalism as...

This preview shows document pages 1 - 2. Sign up to view the full document.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Ask a homework question - tutors are online