Religious Relationships with the Environment in a Tibetan Rural Community: Interactions and Contrasts with Popular Notions of Indigenous Environmentalism

Emily Woodhouse*, Martin A. Mills, Philip J K McGowan, E. J. Milner-Gulland

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
8 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Representations of Green Tibetans connected to Buddhism and indigenous wisdom have been deployed by a variety of actors and persist in popular consciousness. Through interviews, participatory mapping and observation, we explored how these ideas relate to people’s notions about the natural environment in a rural community on the Eastern Tibetan plateau, in Sichuan Province, China. We found people to be orienting themselves towards the environment by means of three interlinked religious notions: (1) local gods and spirits in the landscape, which have become the focus of conservation efforts in the form of ‘sacred natural sites;’ (2) sin and karma related to killing animals and plants; (3) Buddhist moral precepts especially non-violence. We highlight the gaps between externally generated representations and local understandings, but also the dynamic, contested and plural nature of local relationships with the environment, which have been influenced and reshaped by capitalist development and commodification of natural resources, state environmental policies, and Buddhist modernist ideas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)295-307
Number of pages13
JournalHuman Ecology
Volume43
Issue number2
Early online date12 Apr 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2015

Keywords

  • Buddhism
  • China
  • Conservation
  • Religion
  • Sacred sites
  • Tibetan Plateau

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