Societies of Sustainability and Sufficiency:
Learning from Fukushima & Building Green Temple Communities
Short Term: The short term outcomes are of a more intellectual and emotional nature: 1) emotional support and encouragement of the people of Fukushima who often feel that the nation and the world is forgetting their struggles; this also applies to anti-nuclear activists in Fukui and other regions who will be visited; 2) intellectual understanding and awareness raising of international participants of the problems of nuclear energy and its associated development paradigm as well as alternative development activities, mostly around renewable energy, by civic and religious groups.
Long Term: The long term outcomes consist of two aspects:
- Practical activities for religious groups to build communities based around sustainable consumption patterns and lifestyles. There are already emerging models of such sustainable communities based on local production and consumption (chi-san, chi-sho). These include activities being done by Buddhist temples in Japan to which the participants will be exposed in addition to well known models in Thailand and Sri Lanka. As such, this project fits into INEB’s larger inter-religious environmental work, which includes developing a network of “green temple communities”. The long term goal of this work is to provide practical models and institutional support for building such green temple communities throughout Asia, INEB’s main region of work.
- Education and awareness building on the culture shift to a sustainable post-industrial society. The long term goal of this project is to mainstream core Buddhist values, such as “sufficiency” (Pali. santuthi, Jp. shoyoku-chishoku 少欲知足), and similar values found in other religions around right livelihood, by working in the public sphere with civil society groups, forward thinking business leaders, and progressive government leaders. Religious leaders and their communities have a critical role to play in the culture shift that is desperately needed at this time to save the environmental integrity of the planet and the psycho-spiritual integrity of the human species.
Social Effect: The teachings, practices, and culture of traditional religion (in this context, Buddhism in Asia) have been slowly eroded with the advent of the modern industrial age. Traditional religion’s response in many countries to modernity has for the most part been reactionary and accommodating, taking part in both militaristic and consumerist culture by advocating racist nationalism and salvation through spiritual consumerism and materialism. At this time of global environmental and economic crisis, these traditional teachings, practices, and culture have a critical role to play in ushering in a post-industrial paradigm. Indeed, many of the responses to this crisis that secular civic groups are arriving at are harmonious with the fundamental values of traditional religion. One effect of this project is to deepen the synergy between the new emerging values of civil society (localized economics, environmental integrity, human interconnection, psycho-spiritual wholeness) and the revival of traditional religious culture. In Japan, especially, there is still a significant gap between this civic alternative culture movement and the activities of the traditional Buddhist world. The traditional Buddhist world has, however, begun to respond and to change. However, these progressive new “engaged” elements of the Japanese Buddhist world need greater support and methods for connecting with the larger civic movement not only within Japan but also within Asia and the West–where religion and Buddhism in particular is seen as a more integral aspect to this new cultural movement. INEB is in the center of this synergetic movement bringing progressive spirituality and civic activism together. This project is part of a wider web of activities and linkages between religious groups and civic groups. In the wake of Fukushima, awareness of new cultural and social paradigms is increasing in Japan, and Japanese Buddhism has taken some initial steps to become part of this movement. This project is part of this movement and its effect will be to further promote and hasten the movement’s growth.