Imagine a president of the United States calling for an “ecological civilization” that ensures “harmony between human and nature.” Now imagine he goes on to declare that “we, as human beings, must respect nature, follow its ways and protect it” and that his administration will “encourage simple, moderate, green and low-carbon ways of life, and oppose extravagance and excessive consumption.” Dream on, you might say. Even in the more progressive Western European nations, it’s hard to find a political leader who would make such statements. And yet, the leader of the world’s second largest economy, Xi Jinping of China, made these statements and more in his address to the National Congress of the Communist Party last October. He went on to detail plans to facilitate “green, low-carbon and circular development,” “promote afforestation,” “strengthen wetland conservation and restoration,” and “stop and punish all activities that damage the environment” — in short, “to build an ecological civilization that will benefit generations to come.” It’s easy to dismiss it all as mere political rhetoric. But could it be that Xi’s ecological vision offers a glimpse of a hopeful future? Transformative Vision In fact, this is just the type of fresh thinking that many environmentalists have been calling for. And this hasn’t been lost on some leading thinkers. David Korten, a world-renowned author and activist, has proposed expanding the vision of Ecological Civilization to a global context, including granting legal rights to nature, shifting ownership of productive assets from transnational corporations to nation-states and self-governing communities, and prioritizing life-affirming, rather than wealth-affirming, values. Traditional Chinese culture was founded on a worldview that perceived an intrinsic web of connection between humanity and nature.Within a larger historical context, it’s not too surprising that this vision of “harmony between human and nature” should emerge from China. As I’ve traced in my book, The Patterning Instinct: A Cultural History of Humanity’s Search for Meaning, traditional Chinese culture was founded on a worldview that perceived an intrinsic web of connection between humanity and nature, in contrast to the European worldview that saw humans as essentially separate from nature. Early … Continue reading OPINION: Can China really lead the way to an “Ecological Civilization”?
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