China Environmental News Digest

Daily updated Environmental news related to China

Sunday, June 28, 2009

How Confucianism could curb global warming

China openly debates the role of Eastern thought in sustainability.

from the June 26, 2009 Via CSMonitor.com

Now here's a curveball to secular Western policy experts: China's intellectuals are openly debating the role of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism in promoting the Communist Party's vision of a harmonious society and ecologically sustainable economic development.

Nowhere is the question of what to do about the environment more vital than in China, the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases – especially because scientists agree that climate change disproportionately affects the poor and the disenfranchised and that climate change will affect future generations far more than the present.

Yet the general impression of China's role in issues relating to environment is one of foot-dragging because it hasn't bought into a Western model to address it.

But Pan Yue, China's vice minister for environmental protection, is calling for China to capitalize on traditional Chinese religions in promoting ecological sustainability.

He says, "One of the core principles of traditional Chinese culture is that of harmony between humans and nature. Different philosophies all emphasize the political wisdom of a balanced environment. Whether it is the Confucian idea of humans and nature becoming one, the Taoist view of the Tao reflecting nature, or the Buddhist belief that all living things are equal, Chinese philosophy has helped our culture to survive for thousands of years. It can be a powerful weapon in preventing an environmental crisis and building a harmonious society."

And this just might work.

As The New York Times recently reported, China is in the midst of a transformation to cleaner forms of energy.

Although much of China's energy needs are still met by inefficient, coal-fired power stations with poor track records in terms of emissions, China has begun to invest heavily in cleaner coal technology in an effort to improve efficiency and reduce emissions.

Because of this, the International Energy Agency reduced its estimate of the increase in Chinese emissions of global warming gases from 3.2 percent to 3 percent even as the same agency raised its estimate of China's economic growth. China is managing to increase its economic output at a greater rate than its emissions.

This is good news for everyone.

But buried innocuously in the middle of this report was the startlingly frank statement of Cao Peixi, president of the China Huaneng group, China's largest state-owned electric company.

When asked about his company's decision to invest in more expensive but cleaner technology he replied: "We shouldn't look at this project from a purely financial perspective. It represents the future."

The $64,000 question facing economists and politicians across the world is how to make decisions that take into account the big picture beyond the "purely financial perspective."

This is a hard question for Western economic and political theorists to answer, because their theories are based on the Enlightenment view of the self as an autonomous, rational individual.

But how are we to make decisions that take into account the interests of those who have not yet been born?

Being respectful to the interests of past and future generations is key to the Confucian view of the self and groups. To the question, "Who am I?" the Confucian answers, "I am the child of my parents and the parent of my children."

Confucianism begins from the proposition that human beings are defined by kinship networks that span the centuries. From this perspective the interests of the individual are bound up with the interests of the kinship group as it extends forward and backward across the generations.

This will be a key factor in the way China handles present and future environmental issues.

Consider the views of Jiang Qing, a leading Confucian intellectual. According to a recent report by Daniel Bell, a political theorist at China's Tsinghua Univeristy, Mr. Jiang proposes a political system that can take into account the interests of those who are typically ignored in modern democracies, such as foreigners, future generations, and ancestors.

"Is democracy really the best way to protect future victims of global warming?" he asks.

As China assumes a greater leadership role on the world stage, we can expect the emergence of a variety of models of sustainable development rooted in a plurality of cultural traditions, including Confucianism.

The time when Westernization was the only credible model of development is over.

6 Comments:

At 6:31 PM, Blogger oprina tiberiu said...

Waste recycling is an important way to take care of our natural resources and even to save money. If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, recycling could be a great way to earn a living! Find out more about recycling by visiting http://recycling.biz .

 
At 10:18 PM, Anonymous recycling said...

Wow I think this article's topic is very entertaining. Keep up the good work!

 
At 3:47 PM, Anonymous Stuart Hoggard said...

This is an extension of the Japanese Government's concept of Mottanai & the 'Sound Material Cycle Law'(SMC) - basically the Japanese have been n discussion with their Confucian neighbours in China and ASEAN and have converted to taking the concept on-board and modify according to their own circumstances.
Naturally, given Japan's past,it doesn't get much media coverage; but "Exporting the Sound Material Cycle" is the final article of the SMC Law

 
At 12:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"When fishing, use a hook, not a net". This was Confucius giving advice to his disciples in 500BC. Take only what you need, was his message.
Why must current affairs be answered and tackled by Western models? It is time the West opened up their eyes and mind to Eastern methods.

 
At 2:28 AM, Anonymous driven said...

Dirt track racing is extremely popular and widespread in the United States as well as some other English-speaking countries like Canada and Australia.

 
At 12:08 AM, Anonymous Wrenches said...

China is one of the biggest producer of torque wrenches .

 

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