Weiziran (為自然) and Aloha 'Āina: Place, Identity and Ethics of the Environment

Soh, Andrew
Ames, Roger T.
Perkins, Franklin
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“人法地,地法天,天法道,道法自然。”—Daodejing 25 “Ua mau ke ea o ka ‘āina i ka pono.” —Hawaiʻi State Motto Our home, planet Earth, is under threat from a host of environmental problems: global climate change, loss of biodiversity, and pollution of the air and waterways from industries. The reality of climate change affects all of us—it affects habitats and entire ecosystems, and raises other risks such as health and security risks, as well as food production risks. The Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), unequivocally concludes that “[h]uman influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history. Recent climate changes have had widespread impacts on human and natural systems.” I posit that this global crisis arises from the loss of our sense of place in the world, a loss of our rootedness in our natural world. At the heart of this loss of rootedness is a particular understanding of our place in the world. Our view and experience of the world has evolved from an experience of place to one of the world as space. The dynamic, lived experience of being in the world has been replaced by a quantifying and abstracted distance from the natural world around us. In this dissertation, I argue that we need to recover our sense of place in the world in order to address the root problem of the environmental crisis. In this endeavor, I will reflect on the problem of the loss of our sense of place by first examining the meaning of place, and how by recovering what place means, we can begin to redevelop our sense of place. My reflections on place are aided by the insights of humanistic geographers Yi-Fu Tuan, Tim Cresswell and Edward Relph as well as philosophers Martin Heidegger and Edward S. Casey. By recovering a sense of place, I will inquire into the possibility of finding an enduring ethics of the environment. I believe that the challenge of developing such an enduring ethics of the environment requires a way of thinking that is more capacious and inclusive, and that is built on dialogue. The philosopher J. Baird Callicott made a place for dialogue by bringing together environmental ethicists and philosophers of non-Western traditions in search of common ground for a more representative, global ethics of the environment. My dissertation contributes to this ongoing discourse by bringing together the Daoist and Hawaiian traditions in a dialogue on place, from which I glean a Daoist sense of place and a Hawaiian sense of place. Through a reflection on the Daoist sense of place—which emphasizes wu (無), a disposition of not overdoing by which our interactions with the world are undertaken for the sake of achieving harmony and equilibrium (he 和) and the Hawaiian sense of place—which is centered on pono, the Hawaiian value of appropriateness that ensures that we act in a beneficial manner towards the land (ʻāina), I find common ground for my proposal for a Daoist and Hawaiian Ecological Ethics: weiziran (為自然) and aloha ʻāina.
Philosophy, Environmental philosophy, Ethics, Aloha ʻĀina, Environmental ethics, Identity, Place, Weiziran (為自然)
236 pages
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