Confucianism and Ecology
Conclusion. It is this worldview that has enormous potential for renewed appreciation of nature as intrinsically valuable but also as the source of personal vitality and moral integrity for sustaining the community of life. Moreover, this perspective values nature as the origin of all that sustains life itself from the basics of food, clothing, and shelter to innumerable sources of employment. This is not to deny the negative dimensions of the Confucian tradition nor to claim that historically China was a model of ecological fitness. It is, however, to suggest ways in which a rethinking of Confucianism may be helpful in our contemporary context.
Such a reinterpretation from within the Confucian tradition is already taking place through the efforts of Tu Weiming and other New Confucians, whose insights are reflected in this article. The extent of this revival has still to be fully expressed in East Asia and beyond. Yet its potential for affecting the formation of a global environmental ethic remains significant.
Mary Evelyn Tucker is a Senior Lecturer and Senior Scholar at Yale University where she has appointments in the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies as well as the Divinity School and the Department of Religious Studies. She is a co-founder and co-director with John Grim of the Forum on Religion and Ecology. She is the author of Worldly Wonder: Religions Enter Their Ecological Phase (Open Court Press, 2003), Moral and Spiritual Cultivation in Japanese Neo-Confucianism (SUNY, 1989), and The Philosophy of Qi (Columbia University Press, 2007). She is a member of the Interfaith Partnership for the Environment at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). She served on the International Earth Charter Drafting Committee from 1997-2000 and is a member of the Earth Charter International Council.
This article was originally published in the Forum on Religion and Ecology and in Earth Ethics 10, no.1 (Fall 1998). Copyright © 1998 Center for Respect of Life and Environment. Reprinted with permission.