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New chapter in Daoist ecology

December 10, 2014:

Part of the spectacular opening ceremony

In a visit to China last month ARC Secretary General Martin Palmer was impressed by recent progress made by Daoism in meeting the country's environmental challenges.

He was attending the 3rd International Forum of the Chinese Taoist Association in November, an event which drew together Daoists from China and beyond as well as representatives of the Chinese authorities and environmentalist. The Forum took place on Longhu Shan, the Dragon Tiger Mountain that is one of the religion’s most sacred places.

Despite rain the opening ceremony was a spectacular display of music and dance and the lavishness of the performance was one sign of the increasing official approval of Daoism within the country.

Old Master Ren speaks to the assembly
“When we first met with Daoists in 1994 there was about 30 people in a freezing cold room inside a dilapidated temple,” Martin Palmer recalled. “How great that now it was an amazing presentation in front of a large crowd.”

New level of commitment

Palmer described how Daoism is now looking to a new level of commitment on environmental action when their initial eight-year plan comes to a close in 2017. Provisional thinking is already under way for drawing up a second plan, perhaps to be launched in two years time, that will continue the progress made to date.

“There is a real wish to go much deeper about this issue, and also to consolidate the partnership with the Chinese Government,” Martin Palmer said. “ARC’s role will be to take responsibility for bringing in outside environmental organisations like WWF and TNC (The Nature Conservancy - the world's largest environmental charity) who want to work in China and want to work with religions.”

Wildlife protection

One priority area is the challenge to the illegal trade in animal parts carried out in the name of traditional Chinese medicine. The Daoists have agreed new levels of engagement on this issue, with their own Daoist Health Centres taking a special focus on enforcing the ban on using animal ingredients and increasingly promoting herbal remedies.

Alexander Mercer reads a message to the Forum from the Valley Foundation
Further discussions on this pressing issue involving the CTA, the Chinese Government’s State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA), ARC’s China office and environmental groups including Traffic are due to take place in early 2015.

Valley Foundation

Another cause for celebration has been the emergence of the Dutch NGO the Valley Foundation as the principal funding supporter for ARC’s work in China from September 2015.

Sadly ill-health prevented Valley Foundation CEO and long-time ARC partner Allerd Stikker from attending the Forum in China but he was represented by his grandson Alexander Mercer. Alexander read an address from Allerd to the assembly during the course of the event. In it he welcomed the active participation by Chinese government officials in these events and hoped that 'China could set an example to the international community, demonstrating how ecological, economic, social and cultural values can be harnessed in the quest to restore the harmony between man, nature and the universe."

Alexander also spoke in his own right about his considerable personal interest in the values and ideas of Daoism as a young European - something that greatly impressed those gathered Daoists who heard him speak.

Useful links

Text of Allerd Stikker's address

Daoism and Ecology

Sacred Mountains - Allerd Stikker's book about Daoism and the environment

Daoist Long Term Plan for the Environment

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Daoist ecology
A summary of the environmental teachings of Daoism
September 10, 2014:
Great review for Sacred Mountains in Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post
"Stikker's business-slanted take on ecology and spirituality is intriguing..." says the South China Morning Post.
Wildlife and Forests: China
ARC and the Chinese Daoist Association are embarking on a programme to both challenge the illegal trade in animal body parts and re-establish the true principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine within China.