A Fluid Ecology: The Environmental Implications of Modern Japanese Religion

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Mary Evelyn Tucker
Essay Abstract: 
While using scientific methods to alleviate the symptoms of environmental degradation is a necessary step toward achieving an environmentally sustainable future, this approach does not sufficiently address the root of environmental issues. The relationship between humans and nature must be reevaluated in order to understand why people so often conceptualize nature as exclusively instrumental. The burgeoning field of religion and ecology works to address environmental issues through a better understanding of how religion can be in dialogue with environmental ethics. In my project, I specifically focus on the country of Japan and ask how its three main religions— Shinto, Buddhism, and Confucianism—are capable of informing a Japanese environmental ethic. I display how each religion brings a unique concept of nature to the Japanese people and discuss how the combination of these three religions produces a unique Japanese environmental consciousness. With a fluid ecological model that addresses environmental issues from a natural, contemplative, and social standpoint, I argue that Japan has the potential to revitalize its environmental policy and education in order to construct an ecological culture that works to prevent future environmental issues through an ecological mindset, rather than simply address them as they develop.