HOLISM AND SUSTAINABILITY: LESSONS FROM JAPAN

in Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology
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Abstract

It is often claimed that environmental problems facing the world today can be attributed to dualism and anthropocentrism rooted in Christianity. Hence, it is argued that a solution to these problems can be sought in holism and ecocentrism inherent in non-western thought. Native American and Asian religions have in particular been heralded as potential sources of inspiration. Using Japan as a case, this paper challenges this view, arguing that religions are not coherent constructions and that their claimed benevolence to nature are based on selective reading of these non-western religions. As to Japan, both Buddhism (not least Zen) and Shinto have been regarded as ecocentric religions with a holistic approach to the world. This has not prevented serious degradation of the environment taking place, however. On the contrary, it will be argued that there are features in these holistic religions that might facilitate such degradation. It is therefore far too simplistic to attribute environmental problems to modernization and westernization.

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