Can you scientifically measure the coverage of religious and sacred land? In this exchange, Aike P. Rots introduces the collaboration between an Oxford University research project on biodiversity and sacred space and the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) to do just that. Taking ARC's work with the Japanese Shinto Shrine Association as a case study, Rots explores the analytical complexity and issues of political legitimacy involved in demarcating certain spaces as sacred.
In a comment to Rots' text, Arne Kalland emphasizes and elaborates on the ways in which religious conservationism in Japan is fuelled by the concept of nihonjinron, or Japanese specialness.
By Aike P. Rots
The academic alliance of religion and environmentalism has contributed to an increasing attention to environmental issues on the part of many religious institutions themselves; if not always grounded in deep conviction, at least environmentalist rhetorics have come to be appropriated by representatives of a wide variety of religious groups for identity politics and PR purposes.
By Arne Kalland
Religious conservationists in Japan appear innocent in creating environmental crises. To the extent they have contributed to the destruction of nature, this is due to western influence and modernity. Their own real culture represented by the religion is not guilty, and the Western World remains the culprit.