University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Political Ecology Group meetings > Protecting a Beyul: Harnessing the Power of Mountain Gods and Environmental Law to Protect a Sacred Landscape

Protecting a Beyul: Harnessing the Power of Mountain Gods and Environmental Law to Protect a Sacred Landscape

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Buddhism is often considered as a religion in which there is a positive relationship with the natural world and “environment friendly”. Many of Tibetan Buddhist rituals are focused on communicating with powerful “gods of the place” located in mountains, lakes and other water sources. Hidden lands (Beyuls) are particularly sacred and also biodiversity rich. In popular belief it is important that the gods are not upset and human actions do not disturb their environment, such as carrying out transgressive activities in their “domain”.

China, as a state, is also espousing “green values” and conservation NGOs have developed over the last few years, some of which are community based.

However the situation becomes more charged when conservation interests are set against business interests and this paper explores a local initiative linked to a monastery on the Eastern fringes of the Tibetan Plateau in China where a monk recruited the community to oppose controversial mining interests in the area using ritual structures and practices to call on the mountain dieties for support.

Based on interviews with key players this presentation will describe how the local villagers were mobilised. This combined ritual activities with interventions through local government frameworks and publication of documents about the spiritual and ecological nature of the area. It will also explain how the community used the Chinese Environmental Protection Laws and Chinese Constitution to argue their case successfully.

The presentation will also place this activity in the context of similar contested conservation related activities in other parts of Tibetan areas in China.

This talk is part of the Political Ecology Group meetings series.

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