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The Significance of OECMs

The editorial in the May 1st issue of Jinja Shinpō was about OECMs, the regions that are not nature reserves but that are recognised under the international biodiversity treaty as serving to preserve biodiversity. It talked a bit about the background, and then noted that, over the last couple of years, there have been a lot of articles on this topic in Jinja Shinpō, including the series on sacred forests. The editorial said that part of the reason was that sacred forests had been given as possible candidates for OECMs early on, and went on to talk more about it.

The editorial says that sacred forests have often been preserved with limited human interference for long periods of time, making them valuable semi-natural woodlands, but notes that they have been under pressure. In particular, after the war jinja were often asked, or required, to give up part of their land for public works. In such cases, the jinja received financial compensation, but the forest was still gone — or at least reduced.

A further problem that the editorial notes is that, because the sacred forests consist of the trees that are native to that local area, some people see them as “just another woodland”. From a religious perspective, that is not right, and the editorial expresses the hope that getting the forests recognised as OECMs will help people to appreciate their importance. It is true that there is nothing religious about being an OECM, but it does show that the woodland is of international significance, and therefore not just the same as all the other woodlands in the area.

The editorial concludes by noting that jinja might be reluctant to apply. There is likely to be a lot of paperwork to prove that the area is preserving biodiversity, and priests, particularly those with a lot of jinja, or day jobs, or both, do not have the free time to become experts on how to fill in biodiversity forms. The editorial expresses the hope that model forms will be made available, and that other steps will be taken to both reduce the burden of applying, and create some positive benefits for doing so. If the government is going to reach the target of 30% of the land recognised by 2030, it will almost certainly have to do something.

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