Geography Reference
In-Depth Information
in about $3 billion in annual revenues and spends approximately one-third of this sum,
about $1 billion, on fish conservation. At the conference in the Columbia Gorge, the ma-
jority of presentations by American scholars focused on the deleterious effects of dams on
river ecosystems. Several presentations even covered the topic of dam removal as an eco-
logical restoration strategy, using case studies from the Pacific Northwest where the res-
toration of anadromous fish stocks such as salmon and steelhead has become a regional
priority. 16 Our Chinese colleagues at the conference, even those from academic institutions
and NGOs, were nonplussed: How could government agencies charged with economic de-
velopment tear out dams to save fish?
Water-management decisions are grounded in people's worldviews and the role that hu-
mans are perceived to play in the natural environment. Traditional Chinese views about
nature—from Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, and even folk religion—tend to treat hu-
mans as integral parts of the natural realm. The history of environmental thought in China
canbereadlargelyastherecordofcontact, contrast, andamalgamation between thesevari-
ous streams of thought. Taoism, for example, emphasizes harmony and continuity between
humans and the natural world they inhabit. The concept of wuwei (literally “inaction” or
“not doing”) describes the ideal relationship between humans and nature as one in which
humans refrain from taking a dominating role and choose instead simply to exist in homeo-
static balance with their surroundings (LaFargue 2001).
Confucianism, for its part, focuses on social order and a worldview that has been de-
scribed as “anthropocosmic,” which means that humans should maintain a delicate balance
with the forces of nature. This relationship can be thought of as a triad consisting of heaven
( tian ), earth ( di ), and humans ( ren ) (Tu 1998). In contrast to Taoism, however, Confucian
writings emphasize the pivotal role played by humans in the built environment: ordering
the landscape, transforming it, and using it for economic purposes, especially cultivation.
Where Confucian texts refer to resource management at all, they almost always promin-
ently feature written characters with the radical denoting “agricultural fields” ( tian ) (Som-
mer 2012).
In the Buddhist tradition, the paramount value is the idea that humans should not harm
other sentient beings. Grounded in the concept of karma, the “no harm” idea provides
a basis for treating the environment with respect (Tucker and Ryuken Williams 1998).
There is ample precedent within the main Chinese philosophical traditions for support of
something akin to the “soft-path” approach to water-resource management. Chapter 25 of
the enigmatic Tao Te Ching , for example, reminds the reader that “man follows the earth.
Earth follows heaven. Heaven follows the Tao. The Tao follows what is natural” (Lao Tzu
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