The Religious and Scholarly Eco Initiative (RSE) and
the Religious Based Solar Power Generators Association
5th Public Symposium on Religion and the Environment (October 25, 2014)
The Religious and Scholarly Eco Initiative (RSE) was created in May 2011 by a collaboration of religious professionals and scholars to confront the environmental crisis. It has as a stated goal “the harmonization of humans and nature and the construction of a new principle of civilization.” It also seeks to promote the adoption of clean energy rather than fossil fuels or atomic energy that put a burden on the environment. In order to appeal for a resolution to the environmental crisis, some religious organizations including Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, and Christian churches in Japan are installing solar energy generating equipment at their facilities. Under the banner of RSE, they are demonstrating their collective capacity on the Religious Based Solar Power Generators homepage. At present, these groups are the Konko-kyo Shinto denomination, the Seicho-no-Ie denomination, the Rissho Koseikai Buddhist denomination, the Juko-in temple of the Jodo Pure Land Buddhist denomination, and the Chozen-ji temple of the Nichiren Buddhist denomination.
Religious organizations can easily install solar power generators and increase awareness of clean energy as well as promote the way to “creative energy” (so-ene). So-ene promotes not just saving energy by each household by using less but developing a solar energy system that can actively produce energy and a home use fuel battery for storing it. The principle is for household units to be able to create their own energy. This is especially important in the wake of the tsunami disaster of March 11, 2011 and the ensuing nuclear incident at the Tokyo Electrical Power Company’s Fukushima #1 Nuclear Complex. The RSE has stated that, “From the experience of 3/11, we realize that if religious groups have solar power generators at their facilities, they can make a social contribution by offering electricity in the time of a disaster. Therefore, we think it’s important to promote the installation of such equipment from now on. In addition, we feel that other sources of clean energy—such as wind, geothermal, and micro hydro—can be included in the electrical capacity generated by the Religious Based Solar Power Generators.”
RSE under the leadership of Makio Takemura, a Buddhist scholar and President of Toyo University in Tokyo, has held three public symposiums in November 2012, 2011, and 2010, before the tsunami disaster and nuclear incidents of 3/11, with the main theme of “Religion and a Lifestyle Based on a New Principle of Civilization”. At the third public symposium sponsored by RSE, Mutsuji Yamaoka, the head of public relations and publishing at Seicho-no-Ie, made a presentation about the launching of the Religious Based Solar Power Generators website.
Each religious organization belonging to the group has installed solar power generations at their facilities, and the site shows the cumulative generating power of all the facilities in real time. A data bar can be found at the top of the site showing “present cumulative generating power”, “annual generating power”, and “annual reduction of carbon dioxide emissions.” As well as showing the generating capacity of the clean energy generators installed at each member religious organization, there are links to the individual blogs of each group. At the end of November 2012, their cumulative generating capacity was 1,824.4 kilowatts, growing to 2,443.3 kilowatts with an annual generating power of 2.44 million kWh and an annual carbon dioxide emission reduction of 1,366 tons by August 2013. The RSE has already brought together much information on clean energy generation in the religious world.
Yamaoka commented that, “While it is quite difficult to mobilize the religious world for concrete collective action, the Religious Based Solar Power Generators can right now assemble individual denominations already involved in such work.” Indeed, the major Japanese Buddhist and religious federations have not yet endorsed the initiative nor supported its promotion among their own denominations. Still, Yamaoka has appealed to denominations regardless of scale to actively register, and it is possible to register without becoming an RSE member.
translated and edited by Jonathan Watts from information on the RSE website and from articles published in the Bukkyo Times on November 15, 2012 and Chugai Nippo on December 1, 2012.