The article about sacred forests in the March 21st issue of Jinja Shinpō was, once again, not particularly about sacred forests. It was, nevertheless, interesting.
The author, a professor at Kyoto University, starts by noting the increased importance that has been placed on social diversity recently in Japan (where it means something completely different from what it currently means in the USA), and on biodiversity worldwide. He notes the importance of preserving biodiversity and habitats, including their influence on the origins of pandemics.
He then connects the idea of “yaoyorozu no kami”, or “eight million kami”, with biodiversity. If the kami are seen as nature deities, then having a wide range of diverse kami is conceptually close to biodiversity. This is quite an attractive idea, but I hasten to add that it is not mainstream Shinto — I haven’t seen it anywhere else.
The topic of the second part of the article is small-scale renewable energy generation at jinja. The author is involved in a project to install small scale (tens of kilowatts) generation capacity at jinja in rural areas. To be strictly correct, it seems that so far it has been one jinja, but that the project has, finally, been successful, and neighbouring communities have expressed an interest in expanding the idea.
As he says, this is a good idea for a number of reasons. It will help to mitigate global heating, and it provides income and employment in the community. In Japan, distributed power generation is a very good thing to have, because natural disasters are not uncommon. A few tens of kilowatts could easily be enough to power a small community, which would greatly reduce the impact of many disasters, as power lines are quite vulnerable.
The connection to sacred forests, however, does not seem to go much beyond the name of the project. It is a good example of environmentally aware and community centred activities at a jinja, and as such I was glad to hear about it.
Wonder what form of renewable energy they would be utilizing? Solar for instance would need a larger footprint(depending on output) which could potentially lead to deforestation. Would that be an acceptable one time price to pay for continued progress that benefits all?
The existing example is small-scale hydropower, something that rural Japan is often well suited to. Given that the scheme is locally led, I imagine that they will choose whatever works best for a particular location.