Intersections Between Religion and Environment in China


[SU:] So, I’m Myra. I’m the Outreach Coordinator at the Center
for East Asian Studies. I also manage our massive, massive film library
collection. Abbey mentioned it earlier. The Center for East Asian Studies at the University
of Chicago houses the largest East Asian film library collection in North America. We have about, I would say, 7,000 titles from,
generally speaking, China, Japan, Korea. We do have a few outlier items. We do have a few films from Malaysia and Indonesia,
Mongolia, Tibet, you know, certain regions, but we do focus on those three. It’s a great resource. If you guys have any questions regarding our
films and how we can possibly assist you with those, feel free to talk to me. I’m very pleased to introduce Gary Marcuse. He’s a freelance journalist based in Vancouver,
Canada and a former Programmng Executive for CBC Television. His early work included more than 100 hours
of reports and documentaries for CBC Radio and Radio Canada International. Since 1988 he has been writing and directing
documentary films for CBC ‘The Nature of Things’ and for international broadcast. His work includes a three part series on the
emergence of environmental movements in North America, Russia and China. ‘Waking the Green Tiger,’ a film about the
rise of the green movement in China received the Green China Film prize and the Grantham
Prize special award of merit for environmental journalism. The short documentary he is presenting in
Chicago ‘Searching for Sacred Mountain’ continues his exploration of the work of green activists
in China. He is collaborating with teachers in the development
of the Global Environmental Justice Documentaries collection, which will be released early in
2018. So without further ado, Gary Marcuse. [MARCUSE:] Thanks Myra. It’s wonderful to be introduced. I’m really, really delighted to be working
with you guys. For one thing, for documentary filmmakers,
having your work looked at in classrooms is like a dream. We always think that people are going to be
intensely involved with the subjects that we document, that they’re going to watch our
films and they’re going to talk about it immediately afterwards over the water cooler. Often, of course, that doesn’t happen and
they go on to the next show, life intervenes. But in a classroom, you often create context,
you create pre-discussions, we fit into a curriculum plan that you’re doing, the students
are engaged and they have a chance to discuss their responses and integrate the material
afterwards. That is, what I think as filmmakers, we all
hope will happen because there’s a potential there for sharing stories that we need to
share in order to move forward culturally, societally, locally. It’s rare to find an independent documentary
filmmaker who isn’t passionate in this way because it’s not a paying profession, not always. But it’s one that has extraordinary rewards,
I guess, for those of us who work in it and potentially for people who view it as well. In addition to making documentaries, I’ve
actually often supported myself not by making documentaries but by making classroom resources,
where we can actually share the expense out over a large group of people who make these films available. We did a series on indigenous studies in Canada,
where documentary films for me have this extraordinary capacity to open a window onto the world and
bring the world into the classroom in a very condensed way. I mean, we’ll often spend 3 or 4 years collapsing
our experience into a 20 minute or an hour and a half film, and it just speaks to hearts
and minds in a wonderful way. Documentaries are not very good at putting
across a lot of data but I think they are really good at trying to understand the human
spirit and the experience that people have. So in that way, they are diverse, multicultural,
broadly scoped, all those things that we, I think, want to live through, we try to put into our films. Noting that we don’t have a lot of time today,
I’m going to plunge straight into the presentation. We’ll just – we’re plugged in here. I’ve done 3 films, as was mentioned about
the origins of environmental movements around the world. I’m really interested, in my lifetime, to see
how our attitude towards nature and the environment has evolved over time. That’s what, in a way, I’ve been trying to
capture in my long-form work because I think it’s kind of a legacy. I want to pass it on for the environmentalists
of the next generation and the one after that. So there’s kind of a history, a records, a
collective memory that we have of how differently we see the world than, say, when they did when
I was in grade school. The world was a very large place. Things that happened over there were very far away. And now, of course, the whole world impinges
on all of your students. I know that ‘Searching for Sacred Mountain’
can be used, should be able to be used in secondary and post-secondary classrooms because,
for one thing, Fareed has written a really nice teaching guide, discussion guide, to go with it. Maybe we’ll have a chance to talk about that. I’ve also had the experience of being in a
high school in north Chicago with Catherine Irving, who incorporated this film into a section she was doing on Tibet and has written a lesson plan about that, which Fareed has also
posted on the internet. So there’s resources out there at a couple
of different angles already that you could adapt for your own purposes. This particular film grew out of the work
that I was doing in China. I had been working there off and on for 3-4 years. But only a couple of weeks at a time when I was there. I got to know a whole batch of leading activists,
who were the head of a lot of NGOs, who had been voices for the environmental movement. They were very happy to talk to me. They are very internationally-minded. They certainly see themselves as part of a
global community. Over time, I started to notice that some of
them were becoming religious, which was kind of a surprise because China is self-stated
as a very non-religious country in many ways. Obviously, there’s a lot more interest in
religion now than there used to be. And lo and behold, one of my friends there,
was becoming a Tibetan Buddhist. And I thought, that’s a very challenging kind
of Buddhism to take up the study of because it’s a very complex and
to me, a sort of mysterious religion. I was telling – so I was curious about why
he did it. I was talking with John Sawyer, who was, shall
we say, the commissioning editor among others at the Pulitzer Center. At that time, Pulitzer was sponsoring a forum
on, Could Religion Contribute to Solving the Environmental Porblem? Or, more grandly, Could Religion Save the China? Sometimes we establish these grand titles
to go with our films, not that we think we’re really going to answer those questions but
that it’s more like a question that you pose at the dinner table. You don’t expect to resolve it. It’s the discussion that counts. Today’s film is [inaudible] traditional culture,
rescue China from its own problems. John and I agreed that it would be interesting,
in light of our questions of Could Religion Do Anything, to look at both, on a broad scale,
what can religions of different kinds contribute to resolving environmental issues in China
and let’s look at that at the micro-scale at the same time. What is religion doing for this one guy? Maybe if we understand that, we understand
the larger question as well. So, I’m going to see if we can make all this work. And I’ll be dimming the lights in just a second. Or, if you want to help me with that, I’ll
just get this set up. This runs 20 minutes. If my computer will come back to life. We’ll have time afterwards to discuss it. And if there’s a couple of minutes left after
that, I’d like to just describe to you very briefly with a couple of images, for our image-minded
folks, 3 quotes and some images, that have inspired me to try to create a collection
of documentaries for use in classrooms about global environmental justice. It’s a lovely concept and I think, a very
interesting lens that can be used by filmmakers and teachers alike to frame discussions
of questions that otherwise might have been taking place in international development. Ok, let’s see if we can get this to play. [VOICEOVER:] In downtown Beijing on the 20th
floor of a high-rise, one of China’s senior environmental reporters is becoming a Buddhist. [LIU:] Hi. [LAZARO:] Hi. [LIU:] Fred? Hi. [LAZARO:] Nice to meet you. [LIU:] Nice to see you. [VOICEOVER:] Liu Jianqiang is an
investigative journalist. His first story about the environment was
an exposé about illegal dam construction on the upper Yangtze River. It made national headlines. His hard-hitting stories eventually got him fired. So he continued his work as the Beijing editor
of China Dialogue, an online international journal. [MANDARIN] But after 10 years of reporting,
he was feeling burned out. [MANDARIN] [DUB:] I think that our environmental activists
and those who work for public welfare need more powerful, spiritual support. Why? Everyday, what we do may be good deeds, which
give us positive energy, but meanwhile, what we’re facing is the darkest side of the world. Everyday, what we see is polluted air. Polluted rivers. And the slaughter of wild animals. This kind of negative energy attacks us all the time. We’ve been working on environmental protection
for a long time. But the situation in China is getting worse everyday. Where do we draw our strength from? [VOICEOVER:] Liu Jianqiang is one of millions
of Chinese who are returning to Buddhist, Daoist, and Confucian temples that were once
condemned by the government. [LAZARO:] A little more than 4 decades ago during China’s Cultural Revolution, many Buddhist temples, like this one in central Beijing
were destroyed or defaced. Today, these temples are alive with worshipers. By some accounts, 1 out of every 5 Chinese,
240 million people, call themselves Buddhist. [VOICEOVER:] Some scholars say this search for faith is
linked to China’s massive environmental problems. [PALMER:] In a world in which capitalism and
socialism, and consumerism have created a kind of an industrial behemoth that is just
thundering ahead, that is draining life out of the villages, that is polluting the soil
and the air and the water, you have a heartless world. How on earth do you stop this juggernaut? [VOICEOVER:] Palmer has been working in China
for nearly 20 years, urging religious groups to respond to this crisis and to encourage conservation. [PALMER:] Natural order is one of simplicity
and it is also one of generosity, and it is also one of knowing that you are
part of something much bigger. [VOICEOVER:] In 2006, you realize this message
was also being heard by the Communist Party. [PALMER:] I was called in for a meeting with
the Minister for the Environment and the Minister for Religion. And these two Communist Party officials said,
we want the religions to help us bring compassion back. Bring a sense of belonging to something bigger
than just “me,” back into our communities. It is putting a heart into a heartless world. [MANDARIN] [VOICEOVER:] The battle for the hearts and
minds of more than a billion people can only take place one person at a time. But what is it that finally persuades an individual
like Liu Jianqiang to change? To cross the gap from atheism to belief. Or in his case, to Tibetan Buddhism, one of
the smaller branches of Buddhism with about 5 million adherents. Shi Lihong is a journalist and filmmaker. She’s known Jianqiang for more than 10 years
but she was still surprised by his decision. [SHI:] When I learned that Jianqiang was converted,
I was really shocked. You know, our generation, we have been raised
as atheist through childhood. We were taught that old religious belief was superstitious. So it’s very hard for me to believe in any religion. I feel there’s a huge gap. You know, I want to know, what has made him
to cross that gap? So I want to do a story about them. [VOICEOVER:] In order to find out what inspired
her friends to become Tibetan Buddhists, Shi Lihong took a film crew and set out from Chengdu
into the western mountains that were once part of an ancient Tibetan empire. She’s been here before. She and her husband, Shi Zhinong, are famous
in China for their pioneering environmental films and photos. They made their first film about Golden Monkeys
15 years ago. That film helped raise awareness about endangered
species in China. Accordingly to Conservation International,
this whole region is 1 of 35 global hot spots for biodiversity. In the past, this journey was much more difficult. Now, it only takes a single day. Roads and railways are penetrating the Tibetan
areas, connecting them more closely to the rest of China. Bringing development and lots of tourists. Visitors from big cities can still find clean
water, fresh air, and green mountains. Prayer flags mark mountains and lakes that
are considered sacred to Tibetan Buddhists. According to tradition, the monks and the
local people have been taking care of these sacred sites for centuries. Much of the plateau is still pristine. This entire region is known as the Water Tower
of Asia because it’s the head waters of the Yangtze, the Mekong, and the Yellow Rivers. So, what happens here also affects millions
of people downstream. Shi Lihong’s destination is a small town clustered
around a monastery at Baiyu. She’s come to visit a monk named Tashi Sange,
who lives near the monastery. He’s the kind of monk that Jianqiang wrote
about when he spent a year with the Tibetans. [MANDARIN] [VOICEOVER:] The sign on the gate says this
is a NGO, an environmental group that protects the land and the wildlife around Baiyu. The membership includes yak herders and monks. [MANDARIN] [VOICEOVER:] Tashi Sange is also an artist. A painter. [MANDARIN] [VOICEOVER:] The local people call him,
The Monk Who Loves Birds. [MANDARIN] [VOICEOVER:] Recently, he used one of the
paintings to protect the Tibetan Bunting, a very rare bird. [MANDARIN] [DUB:] This is the sacred bird of [inaudible]. [MANDARIN] And these are the signatures of living Buddhists. We have blessings from 22 living Buddhists
from all temples around here. Here they are, signing their names. [MANDARIN] We gave out 3,000 copies. People respect the living Buddhists, so they
put this up on the wall as a sign of respect. [MANDARIN] [VOICEOVER:] The Tibetan Bunting is now protected
by the local people’s feelings that it is sacred. And its numbers are growing. [MANDARIN] [VOICEOVER:] Tashi is also making a documentary
to tell the story about the Himalayan Vulture. [MANDARIN] [VOICEOVER:] In recent years, many vultures
have been starving. So, Tashi went up the mountain to find out
how many vultures have survived this year and to see how many are laying eggs, and to
bring a bit of food for the new chicks. The other monks say he must have had wings
in an earlier life. His work combines old traditions and new technology
in a way that presents nature and vultures in a new light. [MANDARIN] [DUB:] They are beautiful indeed. Before, we could only see the animal from far away. We couldn’t see their details. Now, we can enlarge the image and see such
a beauty, and they are precious. We Tibetans already respect living things. Now we can respect them even more. [MANDARIN] Our future belongs to the children. The environment belongs to them. So it is very important to put things into
their heart and mind. [TIBETAN] [MANDARIN] [DUB:] When I was little, our family tent
was over there. My sister and I played here. We took care of small yak over there. We were all yak herders. My grandmother taught me that I shouldn’t
wash my hands in the lake. “Don’t ever pee here.” [MANDARIN] We would ask why. She would say, there was a dragon god in there. We would ask, what does the Dragon God look like? And she said, no no, don’t say it, you will
know when you grow up. Mama and Papa told me in secret that this
is a sacred lake. But they said, don’t ever talk about this openly. [MANDARIN] The Communist Party thinks God does not exist. Anyone who talks about superstitions will be beaten. [MANDARIN] But I always wanted to see the Dragon God. And I wondered whether it’ll come out one day. [TIBETAN SINGING] [VOICEOVER:] Today, this lake is the scene
of annual gatherings of Buddhist monks. It’s also the site of a special meeting between
Buddhists and scientists. Dr. Lu Zhi is a conservation biologist at
Peking University. She’s been working with Tibetans in this area
for many years. [MANDARIN] [DUB:] During the 1990s, when I went to the
Tibetan area for the first time, I saw something that really surprised me. There was a lot of logging going on. But in some areas, the wild animals were not
afraid of people. And there were very old trees. 600 or 700 years old. The ancient forest was preserved. I asked the local people, how was this possible? People said, this is our sacred mountain. This was a big shock to me. Just the concept of “sacred mountain” was
good enough to preserve the resources. It’s more powerful than the law or the
preaching of scientists. [MANDARIN] Today, the system is still functioning. In the core area, nothing should be touched. Then, in the broader area,
killing is not allowed. No living beings should be harmed. We did a survey on birds and we discovered
that wherever the belief in sacred mountains is strong, there’s greater biodiversity. So this shows scientifically the environmental
value of sacred mountains. [VOICEOVER:] Then, for two years, Dr. Lu and
her students used GPS to map the sacred mountains in the Ganzi District in western Sichuan Province. They found an average of 3 sacred mountains
near each monastery in the district. In the United States, the protected area would
be about the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined. Nearly 1/3 of the land is in sacred areas. [DUB:] Who will protect the environment? In the West and in China, it is the government’s
responsibility. But the Tibetan don’t think of it that way. If you think that way, you are not Buddhist. You are the protector. No matter if you are a newborn or
80 years old. You are all protectors. You have responsibilities. All life should be protected. [VOICEOVER:] In some districts, local governments
are recognizing the sacred mountains and some are even hiring Tibetans to take care of the
national nature reserves. [MANDARIN] [DUB:] The cultural values of Buddhist are
very comforting to the scholars of conservation. I felt, at last, we found a way. And I began to regain confidence in humanity. [MANDARIN] These Tibetan people are not wealthy. Yet, they can still think of other creatures. Not just other people. Other creatures. This is altruistic behavior. If they can do it, there’s hope that other
people can do it as well. [VOICEOVER:] Liu Jianqiang is one of millions
of Chinese who are taking a fresh look at traditional culture. Here, under the guidance of Qiamei Rinpoche,
Tibetan Buddhism has changed the way he sees the world. [MANDARIN] [DUB:] Before, I only wrote from a legal point of view. “It’s wrong.” Or, “this is a national park and how can you destroy it?” Now, when I write a story about fish that
were killed by a dam, what I have in mind is, there are millions of lives here. I strongly believe I should write about it this way. I’m sure I should speak on their behalf. I shouldn’t just think of what is good for us. What’s good for humans. I can clearly see my change. [PRAYERS] [VOICEOVER:] Observing this new interest in
religion and conservation, China’s Communist Party is now cautiously supporting it. [MANDARIN] [DUB:] Former State Councillor, Mr. Dai Bingguo
spoke at the annual forum on ecological civilization and Buddhist culture. [MANDARIN] [DUB:] Traditional culture promotes harmony
between man and nature, and encourages limited consumption and a simple way of life. We support this. We don’t oppose taking from nature. We do oppose over-exploitation. We want gold mountain, but we also want clear
water and green mountain. [PALMER:] I think one of the things that I’ve
seen over the last few years, and increasingly so, is a sense that if there is going to be
some kind of Chinese solution to these issues, it is going to come out of Chinese traditional culture. So my sense is that this partnership between
religion and the government around environment is only going to get stronger and stronger. [VOICEOVER:] There’s hope these handshakes
signal real support for ancient traditions of respect for nature in a society that has
paid a heavy environmental price for progress in recent decades. [MARCUSE:] There we go. So, we have about 20 minutes
to work through a bit of this. Could I just ask, out of curiosity, just with
the amount of time you’ve had with this, how many of you might see a way to incorporate
this into your own classes? So, some. Other people…how many would like to find a way to? In addition… So…ok. Why don’t I just open up the floor to questions
and discussion? We’ll tackle this however you’d like. I guess, one context for it is just anything
that arises out of the film, the other is, how do we make use of something like this,
in particular? I would point out that this project happened
very quickly in a period of 4 months from conception to conclusion. This was by virtue of the Pulitzer Center,
which is very responsive. Other projects can take 2-5 years to complete. It was nice to have this thing happen so quickly. It has been shown, Pulitzer Center has us
arrange for a major outlet, as a condition for funding, so this played on PBS NewsHour. I think, on their religion and ethics program as well. So we had a television audience for it. It’s been in classrooms and online. You can see this film anytime you’d like. You can stream it through the Pulitzer Center website. Or you can just type in “searching for sacred
mountain, pulitzer” and it’ll take you right to that part of the site. I know sometimes that site can be a little
complicated to find things. At least for me. So that will take you right to it. You’ll find on that site, there’s other background
materials about the environmental movement. A kind of tracing of the history of the
environmental movement. Things you might also find interesting if
you’d like to delve a little deeper and give yourself more context so you can answer questions
when they come up in your classroom. And so…yes? [AUDIENCE:] I was wondering after seeing the
movie, certainly there are other religions in China? So I was wondering if this is only something
specific to Buddhism or are there connections to be made between other religions and [inaudible]? [MARCUSE:] Did you hear that ok over there? Do you want me to repeat the question? The question was, are there other religions in China? Of course, in addition to Tibetan Buddhism,
which we identified as only being 5 million in a very large country. And are other religions making a connection
to Buddhism? It was question, in a way, that Pulitzer Center
was trying to explore by inviting representatives from other religions to come in and in that,
they were partially successful, I would say. The Christian religions, particularly the
Evangelical ones, which are not in good standing with the government, tend to be more socially focused. Some of them have done very good work on AIDS,
for example, but haven’t really tried to tackle the environmental issues. Traditional Tibetan Buddhism…there’s one
monastery where they train their monks to be more responsive hasn’t been — they’re
not leaders, shall we say. And they don’t have as deep a history and
they’re sort of more broadly based. So you can see the government has been, in
that section you saw, where they’re having this gathering of Buddhists. There’s a general interest in Buddhism, but
it’s probably like society as a whole, a hit and miss, off and on. But growing over time. We didn’t actually try to explore in any depth
— we could go to other monasteries and document those things. We thought we’d focus on how this kind of
religious inspiration fueled this one guy to…yes? [AUDIENCE:] In the rest of the documentary,
is that, one gentleman explained, what it was for him to convert? Does he go into detail into what led him to
convert to Tibetan Buddhism? [MARCUSE:] In our other documentary? No. This is all we have here. So the question was, is there more to say
about, particularly about Liu Jianqiang and his kind of adventure in his movement into
Buddhism? I can add to what’s here. We kind of kept that down in scale. Generally…we mentioned that he had been traveling in
Tibet for a year and met certain kinds of monks up there. He wrote a book called, ‘Heavenly Beads,’
which was really kind of an admiration of Tibetan Buddhists’ attitude towards nature. I think, apart from being just burned out
and needing spiritual resources to help him move forward, he also discovered that, particularly,
I think things are gradually changing in China, but very often, particularly 10 years ago,
if he said, “we should really not build this dam because it’s going to kill these fish,”
people would say, as they’ve said to me when I showed my film, “which is more important? The environment or the people?” Putting these things in contrast. With development being obviously supported
because the Chinese are very proud of the fact that they’ve brought hundreds of millions
of people out of poverty. But of course, now what they’re finding is,
you come out of poverty, but you now have to live in the city, where you are breathing in smog. So the Chinese government is trying to, I
think, in fact do something about these issues that’s being pushed by people. But in his case, I think it was the attitude
that we saw expressed in that monk that drew him into that self-sustaining way of being. [AUDIENCE:] I will show this next year in
my global studies class. Particularly, [inaudible] religion. I find students are really fascinated by ideologies. A lot of the time, they come from a religious
tradition but they don’t really know it. So they want to learn that. But they’re also just curious why anybody
would act on that. Why someone might be moved
to do something like this. I think this would be really interesting for
them to see, that there’s also the longer argument about what are the benefits about
thinking more than yourself and how people might make that move. [MARCUSE:] Well, we tried to, in very short
form, give you tools to help support that. She was talking about using this in world
studies. On the website, you’ll find that…we brought
in…sometimes when you discover, when you set off these projects, it’s not what you
asked originally. There can be surprises. The surprise for me was discovering Dr. Lu
Zhi, who is a conservation biologist, saying, they’re speaking the same language we are
— we’re from a scientific background, they’re from a more religious background —
how can that be? It’s kind of like…a little…it gives you
goosebumps when you think that the Tibetan Buddhists have been doing this for 800 years,
or more because it may go back deeper beyond that. And that it actually has a measurable effect. So we took her longer interview and wrote
an article called, ‘The Science of Sacred Mountain.’ So if you would like to have a rational background
to justify comparisons…it’s not just like my saying, “oh, you know, that mountain near
Vancouver, that’s really sacred,” and then not doing anything about logging or anything like that. For them, it has implications and not just
for the elite, but for ordinary people. That’s kind of the populist edge that I get
working in China that I find has something to offer for all of us. Yeah? [AUDIENCE:] I see richness to use this with students. I mean, there is a fascination for some of
my students, who are so much more green and environmentally aware than my generation. They are forever reminding teachers not to
make too many photocopies, etc. So this whole notion of environmentalism,
but then the connection to religion and Buddhism. My students, believe it or not, they love
Leonard Cohen, and they like the notion of somebody dropping out of the consumerism and
going to the mountaintop. And so I think this notion of the connection
of creatures — I love that there was a line in there to say, “not just human beings.” The sacred nature of creatures as well as people. I see there’s a real opportunity for kids
— in my school, they’re really of the dominant religious traditions, you know Christian,
maybe some Buddhists. But for the most part, they don’t know a whole
lot about Buddhism and this connection of Buddhism [inaudible] ancient tradition of
respect for nature. So much would be so attractive to my students
to learn about. I’m seeing a very rich opportunity to have
them make those connections between the teachings and the ritual, and the ancient, historical
basis of Buddhism in nature and respect, and that current environmental activism. There’s a lot there for students to learn
so much about what they know very little about. [MARCUSE:] Nice. Similar, to your third comment about altruism. When I was in Catherine’s class in north Chicago,
that was one of the — we broke into small groups to discuss what they’d seen, and altruism
kept popping up. This idea that you could care about more than yourself. Any questions? Yes? [AUDIENCE:] I found really interesting that
the journalist talked about limits of the law. [inaudible] the legal aspects of the situation [inaudible]. It’s just interesting to me because that’s [inaudible]. What are our legal protections? Has this effort begun to influence areas of the law? [inaudible] Well, the emphasis on religious
values and protection, has that led to any changes in environmental law? [MARCUSE:] I think a lot of the legal — the
question was, has the religious interest in conservation perhaps influenced legislation
or promulgation of laws, as it might be more properly called by the State Council. I think the movement towards — there is
a broad change in the legal environment around environmental protection. But I don’t think it’s driven by the religious influence. It’s more driven by a kind of rational apprehension
within the State Council that they really have to do something or there’s going to be
serious social unrest. There’s 70,000 demonstrations about environmental
issues every year in China. This is really threatening. And there’s a rational recognition that things
have gotten much worse than they should be. I think they’re starting to tilt in the last
5 years, where they’re really planning 10-20 year campaigns to clean up the environment. Much the way Chicago and Pittsburgh did in
their time, going from just dreadful hellholes of you know, smog at noon, to being quite livable cities. I think that’s possible for China, and they’re
in many ways becoming leaders. There’s a whole area of environmental law
that you might enjoy looking into that is evolving quite rapidly. If you’re interested in those subjects and
want background, ChinaDialogue is a lovely British-based international magazine online. All one word, ChinaDialogue. Type that in, you get a wide range of discussions
on many of these issues. I know there’s some good articles in there
on the law, but it’ll probably take a little too long now. But we can talk about this more if you’d like. Yes? [AUDIENCE:] Well, I just — I find this doubly uncomfortable. I just got back from Nepal and one of the
wonderful things I’ve seen in the film was the familiarity of the images, many of
the people, many Tibetans living in Nepal. In Nepal, you walk down the street — the
school children I was working with, they would pop a piece of candy in their mouth and just
drop the wrappers. And I’d bend down and say, “wait wait, you won’t
get another one.” And they go, “oh, you must be a Buddhist.” “Oh, you must be a Buddhist.” I guess, what the problem I’m having is just
— it’s really interesting that the Chinese government is kind of embracing Tibetan Buddhism
in lieu of the political climate of “Tibet-China relations.” Because of course, Tibet…
there is no Tibet technically. Technically, it’s part of China. Tibet is China. So it’s “Chinese Buddhism.” And so, I’m just kind of trying to figure
out…can you comment a little bit about…? [MARCUSE:] There is obviously an enormous
and complex context for this film, which we leave out the entire notion. We’re trying to focus on something people
haven’t seen — there’s been a lot of reporting of course, on the situation in Tibet since
the Chinese invaded their…and drove out the Dalai Lama, now in exile, and the whole
Tibetan community outside of China has become an enormous, I think, positive influence on
the world. Clearly, the government is endorsing the conservation
aspect because that suits them and suits the country, so to a certain extent, it reflects reality. But of course, they don’t also endorse the
Tibetan aspirations for self-independence. [AUDIENCE:] And they are actually labeling
it, “Tibetan Buddhism.” And for those of you who aren’t familiar,
Buddhism is not all the same in all different areas. Tibetan Buddhism is unique. I don’t know enough about it to understand
exactly how it is unique. So, to hear the Chinese government using “Tibetan
Buddhism”…I was just wondering if you had encountered the politics and if you could
explain a little bit about… [MARCUSE:] To give you an example, when we
filmed this piece, we figured, how do we go find out what the influences were that affected
Liu Jianqiang. In Beijing, where I’ve been many times, I
can go there as a journalist. But if I try to go up to the Tibetan plateau,
I would need special permission to get into Tibet. This was actually in Sichuan Province, but
still, the village where our team — my co-director, Shi Lihong took the crew up there. She could kind of disappear, because she’s
like a news crew from a Chinese television station, if anyone pays attention. If I were there, white hair, non-Asian, I would
definitely attract attention and probably the police would want to know why she’s there,
people we would want to talk to wouldn’t feel comfortable. So we just avoided that problem by me staying
in Vancouver and editing it, while she shot it. It was kind of a collaboration. She likes to go shoot. I like to shoot and edit. So it was an international [inaudible]. But it’s very contested and very difficult
and hard for journalists to get into Tibet. There are environmental issues like mining
and building of dams that are going on in Tibet right now and it’s going to be very
hard to get coverage of those things in any kind of broad way. If you get a chance to see the other film
I did, ‘Waking the Green Tiger,’ you see in southern China, in Yunan Province, ordinary
people were able to successfully organize and stop a dam. But things are much more difficult in Tibet. That political future which hangs in the balance is
destructive to the environment in that way as well. [AUDIENCE:] Just interesting. It just made me really… [MARCUSE:] We kind of infused this with 20
different angles that you could take to try and start a discussion. Yes? [AUDIENCE:] This is quite impressive. I’m going to bring this back a little bit back home,
which is the United States of America. We’re talking about children,
understanding issues that relate to the environment and religion. These examples are out there in China. Or, “China.” In the United States of America, what we discuss,
what we see [inaudible] merging of religion and politics. [inaudible] What you just showed us now, is not politics. Although there’s [inaudible] of politics. But it is not politics. It is the empowerment. Religion. Now, if we are showing this film, for example,
to students in class, they are fascinated with what’s happened. There’s a big question that needs to be asked. What about here, in the US? How does this unfold? How do we combat — I come from a society
where pollution is a problem because of a [inaudible] gap. So I do understand a bit about what
situations affect my people. Can we look at that a little bit? And kind of think outside the box? How do we look at these situations in the
United States of America? Local situations. For example, if we go to the west
side of Chicago, it is totally different from the north side of Chicago. Now, how do we bring the minds of our children
to look at that, to look at the west side of Chicago and look at the north side of Chicago,
and ask the question, are we in the same Chicago? And what can we do? So, be part of this society, to affect change,
to change things, to be involved and engaged. I just want to throw that open to us and let’s
see what’s there. [MARCUSE:] That’s, I think, where making this
film has taken me in the direction you’re describing here. That is really a question of environmental
justice, where you have human rights and the environment together almost in every issue. Just a short observation about what’s happened
in China that’s quite striking to me, is that, unlike Canada and the United States, they
have in a way, de-politicized the environment. There’s a lot of latitude. So, if somebody proposes something in China about
the environment, they don’t say, “oh, he’s a left-winger.” You know, it’s not associated with a political party. The environmental activists in China have
been very sophisticated about this. They have a lot of friends inside government
who support quite radical regulation of the environment. They’ve been very good at making great progress,
partly because they haven’t identified themselves as being in opposition to the government. If they tried to be the democratic movement
with environment as an issue, it would fail because the central party is so closely controlling
of political challenges to the party. But environment has escaped that association. I know in Canada, a lot of the environmental
initiatives are shut down because the government feels like it’s a challenge to the government,
where they all say, “oh, this is being funded by American conservation groups and this is
intervening with our right to control our own environment.” So they’re both all very political contests
going on there. I’d like to, just in response to that — because
we have only a couple of minutes — you want me to take another question? I’d take about 3-4 minutes to show a couple of slides. I’d like to, if we could, then we could come
back to it. Doing this work and visiting these classrooms,
and talking to teachers like yourself, has really, about how do we get these questions
discussed? We need a broad range of films to do that. And so…currently, I’ve just, you’re the
first to know this, this week, been able to obtain a grant from the Luce Foundation, to
develop a global environmental justice documentaries collection, to put more materials, more classroom
resources into your hand, along with teaching guides. I wanted to, if I could, just to provoke a
little thinking about this, show you 3 quotes and a couple of associated images just to
show what I’m working on at the moment. And so that will just take us a moment here. This is a lovely image of the kind of global
nature of the environment. I’ve been thinking — you guys have been
working on global issues and to me, environmental justice, which has deep roots in the United
States, going all the way back to the 1980s, of observing exactly what you’re describing there. Inequality, shall we say, there’s an unfair sharing. The rich is not getting as much of the environmental
pollution as they…or, shall we say, it’s being hoisted on other people. So, a first quote from the Pope. I think it’s sort of, as he does, he strikes
at something that we can all understand and see all around us, that we really feel that we want to take action on. Some of you may know Amity Doolittle. I think there’s a whole theoretical construct
around this and it also speaks to deep roots we have in the human rights movement, and
tries to merge them more with the environmental movement, which sometimes seems to stand apart
from social issues in the name of conservation. I do think this is an issue that everywhere
I go, I find that students are wanting to contribute to the solution, not trying to
avoid finding out about the problem. They really would like to take action. As a filmmaker, it’s the — how do these
issues interact with humans? With us? With people? It’s always, what we call, the human side
of it, or the story arc, or the attempt we make to make this relevant. It’s not just data. There are real lives involved. There are stories and people wanting other
people to understand their stories. These women are fighting the Narmada dam. There’s a long history of conservation in
indigenous philosophies here, as in Canada. So the idea would be that we create a collection
of documentaries that you can use in the classroom. If you’re interested, we’re going to set up
a mailing list and ask teachers to help us select the documentaries that we’re using
and get your reviews on which ones are useful. We’re going to start off the focus on Asia
and North America. Just send me your name by email. Just remind me that you were here
and I’ll put you on our mailing list. We really want to tell you when this starts
to emerge. Our plan is to try and make it so affordable
that even a high school would be able to purchase the…subscribe to this. For universities, we’re trying to make it
in the, depending on how big the university, $400-800 range per year for access to all these. And each year we’ll have 4-5 more documentaries. From my point of view, we want to bring the
documentary filmmakers closer to the teachers. There’s a gap in between. There’s a lot of great documentaries going
on out there that are very hard to find and very [inaudible] and time consuming, and you
waste a whole half day trying to get one film and then not be able to afford it. We want to deliver you a big package of them
that you can just have meat to work with. I hadn’t been thinking that much when I designed
this, about high schools. But now you’re making me think a lot more
about it. Yes? [AUDIENCE:] To connect the comment over here,
I think, being a high school teacher, I see a huge shift from service — like, community
service to activism. To feel that, it’s not just taking kids from
one community and going to another community. Kind of a soup kitchen mentality. Like, I did something to offer a service to
you because I have a better situation that I can bring to you. There’s a real activism, like being in Little
Village, the incineration project and taking kids from different neighborhoods and going in there. I love your idea from local to global, showing
the kids your film, it really is a new hope starting early. I teach in a JK-12 school. I mean, it’s kindergartners that are going
to the photocopy machines and shaking their fingers to teachers. So, taking that into neighborhoods, you know,
this model of neighborhoods and then globally. I have more students signing up for Homes
for Hope and those kinds of…and going to activism. I teach at a fairly affluent school but yet
this notion that their parents are wanting them to be global citizens and become activists. I just wanted to make a point from service to activism. It’s a really exciting time, I think, in our
country’s history. I haven’t seen as much activism as I’ve been
seeing currently from a young population. So, I’m excited about that. [MARCUSE:] I feel the same way. I was tempted to stop doing environmental
films precisely because the response from the mainstream media is, “oh, we’re tired of
all that, we’d prefer not.” But I see at the grassroots level, tending
to the opposite. We want to be able to do something in our
own area of study. Yes? [AUDIENCE:] Do you give workshops to students? You know, teaching them to make documentaries
themselves. Our problem in the Philippines is that if
we bring global issues to them, [inaudible] or, they would want to see [inaudible] something
the gentleman raised earlier. [inaudible] What we do there is that we pull
the materials together. We have the workshop and then materials coming
in from different areas, and sometimes together, they would do something. Would you be open to…? [MARCUSE:] There are some good filmmakers
in the Philippines as well. And so, maybe the thing to do is to try to
figure out how to pair you off with them. [AUDIENCE:] Yeah. We have been doing that. But basically, [inaudible] to film. We’re running into practicing journalists
doing classroom duties, doing…what do you call that? [inaudible] workshop with the central office. This is something new to us. I can see we can learn a lot. [MARCUSE:] I’m happy by the way, I’ll be here
for lunch and I’d be happy to talk more about these kinds of things. I know you’re doing workshops here. There might be a model that of engaging students
in making documentaries. It’s a tremendous challenge. Not only to get them organized, to give them
gear and get out, but also… [AUDIENCE:] They know about that already. They’ve been doing that, with tools. They have…young students in the Philippines,
they can do their own thing. [MARCUSE:] Well maybe talk to Fareed as well. Really good idea. Yes? [AUDIENCE:] I was just going to say, I can’t
help you about the Philippines, but here in Chicago we have Facets. Facets has classes for instructors, educators,
but also for students, to learn the art of film making. [MARCUSE:] And does anybody teach teachers
how to teach it? [AUDIENCE:] That’s what I’m saying. They got classes for educators to both learn
how but also to teach students. But they also have classes for students. And students are approached to make… [MARCUSE:] I think that’s probably a really
good direction to go. [AUDIENCE:] Facets is on Fullterton. [MARCUSE:] As a filmmaker, I love making film,
but I don’t have that much experience in designing courses and making sure that it’s effective. You guys have that knowledge of the classroom. I don’t. I know we’re running low on time. We have time for one or two more questions? [MOSTOUFI:] Let’s take…yeah. Let’s take two. [MARCUSE:] Either on this. Or on comments. Or going back to the film. Whichever you’d like if you have a thought
in mind you’d like to ask or share. Yes? [AUDIENCE:] One of the things I teach — I
teach environmental science class at the 100 level in college, and at the end, we talk
about motivations for why to conserve things. I sort of do two extremes, maybe it’s artificial
but the [inaudible] spiritual side of conservation and then the ecosystem services, where there’s
an economic value with everything you teach. I was struck by the video where the two kind
of work together at the end of the video. The government extreme and the other extreme of [inaudible]. They may have really different motivations but
they’re working together really well and toward a common goal. [MARCUSE:] It may be what the Chinese may
call, environmentalism with a Chinese characteristic. It’s a special place. Things don’t happen the way you’d expect them to. We delve into that more on the website. On there there’s resources that achieve that thought. You might want to look at ‘Vision of a Green
Democracy,’ is an essay I wrote on the Pulitzer site, which is really tracing, from Chairman
Mao till now, how the environment’s been seen and who’s trying to change it and the successes
that they’ve had. [AUDIENCE:] Could you say that again? [MARCUSE:] Pardon me? [AUDIENCE:] Can you name the — “Visions
of a Green Democracy”? [MARCUSE:] ‘Vision of a Green Democracy.’ It’s in the general section that includes
this film and other resources. [NEWMAN:] Can I just add? I think one of the things that this film captures
very beautifully, and you’ve kind of brought up in your question, about the complexity
of the space. That even within a complex environment, where
yes, there are environmental protection laws, yes, the Chinese government is the main central
government that oversees this “one China.” You are seeing, just in this video, there
is no “one China.” You’re looking at a specific province, a specific
region that is known for its diversity of different — Tibetans, Hui, all these different
54 plus national minorities. But beyond that, there’s spaces, in which
people can maneuver. And you have witnessed, I think the film beautifully
shows, through religion — of course, the government has a mouthpiece that they’re going
to say, “we liberated Tibet, we liberated them.” And they have brought tremendous change. But that’s very controversial. It’s very complex. So at the same time that the Chinese government
will open and release, and be mindful and open to things, they will easily slap back. So one of the things, one of the general questions
— I don’t mean to end on a sour note here at all. But even environmental journalists, even lawyers,
there are crackdowns. There are waves of opening. Censorship is here. But these people have found a way, through
science, through academics, through religion, through the local community to find ways. Just as there are these laws on top that are
impossible in a complex network that is China, to actually get the implementation bubbling
up, we’re seeing people are saying, our future, our kids, our traditional cultures, my background,
whether I’m Han, whether I’m Tibetan, we are going to take care locally. There were these small, amazing spaces, where
you find amazing people doing things but very carefully and very mindful behind this that
at any moment, just like Gary said beautifully, that you work with the right people but just
having a foreign presence could cause problems. And the fact that they were able to get the
information and create this amazing film to show you those spaces. So it’s inspirational. But behind that is the complexities. I just want to point out the follow-up question
about additional resources. Some of you may potentially came to a previous
event, the International Educator Workshop. We specifically focused on the Out of Eden curriculum. This talks about slow journalism and the techniques
and the way we can bring it into classrooms. Just walking in your neighborhood, bringing
the global to local. I encourage you, if you have any questions
about that, we’ve got a speaker…was it Don Belt, who was a former…some of you are shaking
your heads. Those resources are available on the UChicago
Educator Outreach website. We’d be happy to forward those materials. These are things you can take back to the
Philippines and that you can use. These are amazing resources that show specifically
how to implement in the classroom. But the best thing is, you’re going to be
finding out more today…a little bit more hands-on and see as you’re thinking and developing
ideas with Pulitzer. It’s a Pulitzer funded project. Thank you, Meredith. Yes. [AUDIENCE:] “Eden” or “even”? [NEWMAN:] Out of Eden. So basically tracing a journalist, who started
walking the main route of human migration and documenting every 100 miles, I think. [MOSTOUFI:] We’ll talk about it later. We are now…I’m going to
go ahead and pause. Looking at the clock, we don’t want to take
your break away. Take 10 minutes. And then we’ll be back on track. But Gary is here so please reach out to him. Please give him a round of applause.

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