Daoism and climate change
Daoism is the largest native spirituality in China with a history of nearly 2,000 years and an estimated following of 170 million. A key concept in Daoism is the balance of Yin and Yang. Representing two opposing but complementary forces in the cosmos, the two forces compete with each other. But without one there would not be the other, in the same way as there cannot be death without life or shadow without light. Only when they are in balance can the world prosper. This belief shapes how Daoists view development and climate change.
According to this view, the earth is Yin and the heaven is Yang. When we burn fossil fuels taken from the earth and emit greenhouse gases, we are transforming Yin to Yang, thereby disrupting the balance of the cosmos. Global warming is a consequence of this imbalance and only when it is corrected can the world prosper.
In China, the Daoist community has started many campaigns to reduce carbon emissions. For instance, ten years ago people who visited Daoist temples would usually burn a massive amount of incense sticks. The Daoist community started a “three incense campaign”, urging followers to instead burn only three simple incense sticks, which are environmentally friendly and follow the Daoist principle of simplicity. Today, this has become the practice of almost all Daoist and Buddhist temples.
The Chinese Daoist community has also set up a Daoist Ecological Temples Network, consisting of more than 200 online members. It is hoped that through the ecological temples more can be done to contribute to the harmony of earth and our human society.
Written with inspiration from Dr. Claudia He Yun, professor at Hunan University, China. Over the past decade she has worked with the Chinese Daoist community on environmental conservation.