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Transcendence and Sustainability: Asian Visions with Global Promise

Are spiritually and religiously inspired environmental movements in Asia largely overlooked as an essential contribution to the global goal of environmental sustainability?

A buddha statue overgrown with roots from a tree. Photo.
Photo: Amita Baviskar

About the project

The project Transcendence and Sustainability: Asian Visions with Global Potential (Transsustain) explores the mobilisation and recalibration of traditional Asian religio-philosophical ideas in response to the global environmental crisis.

The project emerges from the observation that scholars, activists, and even politicians in India and China and Taiwan have found inspiration in traditional knowledge and in premodern texts and practices of, for instance, Daoist, Buddhist, Hindu, and Confucian traditions to envision more ecologically sustainable futures.

We then ask how these transcendent ideas about the value of human-nature relations are put into practice among contemporary policymakers, religious institutions, and spiritual-environmental movements. We will carry out in-depth case studies in Asia that will help us analyze and assess the societal impact of such movements and, ultimately, their universal potential.

Research objectives

Transsustain will create a firm empirical base of new in-depth case studies of spiritual-environmental movements in China/Taiwan and India. Based on these case studies, we explore questions of more theoretical and practical value:

  • Are transcendent environmentalist ideals based on cultural traditions really able to garner broad popular support in ways that politics and science cannot?
  • Could transcendency and acknowledgement of the value of enchantment constitute the tipping point that is needed for a successful global political project of environmental sustainability? Is transcendent environmentalism simply a digression?

Sub-projects (Work packages)

  • WP1: Religio-Philosophically Inspired Civil Environmental Movements

Studies civil initiatives and movements “from below” that seek to integrate spiritual/philosophical transcending ideas with environmental agency.

  • WP2: Spiritually Grounded Political Visions of Global Futures

Studies how broader national and global environmental political initiatives sometimes draw on spiritual/philosophical traditions – how they do it, why, and with which consequences.

  • WP3: The Greening of Asian Religious Institutions

Studies how already established religious institutions start to promote new environmental activities and what effects this has in local societies, nationally and globally.

Project duration

01.10.2020 - 30.06.2026



The Research Council of Norway

Published Aug. 21, 2020 2:25 PM - Last modified Apr. 16, 2021 11:32 AM