Examples of the relationality of life on Earth from Asia and the Arab World
Now, here are two examples of stories from the Global South that offer perspectives on our relationship to the natural world. What is their perspective on climate justice?
Thich That Nhan
The Vietnamese Buddhist philosopher, Thich That Nhan, recommends that we become “mindful” of the relational dimension of our lives by attending to the multiple dimensions that support our existence. He exemplifies this by pointing out that a cup of tea contains within itself the sunlight and the earth that nourished the tea leaves. We must also remember the workers that picked, packed, and transported the boxes of tea bags for our consumption (168).
Islamic philosopher of 12th Century Spain Ibn Tufayl is famous for his story about a child who was stranded in an island but was adopted by a doe who thought that he was her fawn that recently died. The child’s life in the island led to Tufayl’s meditations on the purpose of the different species on earth, how they can attain the perfection intended by their Creator, and ultimately how he should comport himself towards the world of creation. His conclusion was that the world is meant to support his physical body but we must consume the fruits of the earth in accordance with “the least opposition to the work of the Creator” (118-121).
Although there are differences in the religious world views towards nature, both Nhan and Tufayl paid due respect to the human being’s complex and intricate relationship with the natural world.
Questions for discussion
- Thich That Nhan said that the tea leaves in our tea cup contains the sunlight and the earth that allowed the tea plants to grow. The same can be said about many other things around us such us the paper and ink we use for writing. Can you imagine how this the earth and the sunlight are contained in the other objects around us?
The same minerals that were used to manufacture the objects in our pockets could be the same minerals needed by other organisms to survive, grow, and flourish.
What objects in your pocket or handbag can be traced back to the soil? Please tell us about these objects by identifying them and tracing their origins to the environment.
What objects do you think could be “in opposition to the work of the Creator”?
© UNESCO, Philosophy Manual: A South-South Perspective (Paris, UNESCO, 2014)