I wanted to respond to something said in class by Professor Tantillo on Romanticism and the Orient. Professor Tantillo and others argued that some environmentalist wrongly look towards Buddhism and other Oriental religions as models of ecological behavior. Tantillo brings up the point that the Communist government in China had a better track record on the environment than its predecessor.
I believe Tantillo’s argument against Oriental philosophies in class (whether that was his belief or just explaining what others have argued), as well and Lynn White’s arguments against Christianity are flawed because they do not separate two important factors: (1) What religion teaches us to believe/think/do and (2) What is actually believed/thought/done by the practitioners of religion. Christians and Christian societies often do not carry out Christian ideals and teachings. Likewise, not all Buddhists accurately practice Buddhist philosophy in their actions. Are the religions at fault for ecological (or any) harm done by the followers? I would say people are the cause of ecological damage, not religion. There are few (if not no) examples of environmental degradation that is the result from following the teachings of Christ or the Buddha.
That said, I believe Buddhism and Christianity are excellent philosophies for living in harmony with nature. If everyone practiced these religions accurately, the environmental crisis would be much less then it is today. However, I do agree with Tantillo, that religion cannot be depended on to solve environmental problems. But to say that the China’s environmental problems before Communism was a result of a failure in the Buddhist lifestyle is oversimplifying the problem.
And on the side, Communism has probably been the most unsuccessful system in its dealings with the environment, considering countries like Russia, Poland, Ukraine, and the rest of Eastern Europe.