Daoist cosmology, to the extent it can be said to have one, is altogether different than the Creator/creation myth. “Dao does nothing, yet nothing is left undone.” (Laozi 37) Things just happen—or so it seems. There is no known manipulation involved in their arising. No mediating purposiveness is implied. Things arise for themselves alone. They are self-so. This is their equality, and a condition of our cosmo-centrism.

Dao does nothing because it is neither a something nor a nothing; it is present as an absence.

Daoists are encouraged to live similarly. Wu-wei, not-doing, is the emulation of this fundamental (“obvious”) attribute of apparent world-arising. If things just happen, and we affirm that happening, then we do best to let them happen.

Our letting them happen, however, paradoxically helps them to happen in a certain way. We are present in our absence. We influence from a distance and by way of distance. Wu-wei is not indifference, but a strategy for change. It is not being the change (manipulatively), but non-being the change. It is yin-ing in the world of yang.

The planetary bio-sphere is in danger as a consequence of human activity. Science wants to fix it. Radical geo-engineering projects have been suggested. Release aerosols into the atmosphere. Dump iron into the oceans. What could possibly go wrong? Isn’t this just more of the same, with potentially even greater negative consequences?

Science can and does also sometimes practice wu-wei. Illuminating the problem is itself a non-coercive contribution to remedying the problem. It creates the motivational space for change to happen. Understanding how the environment can heal itself and allowing it to do so is possible. Not-doing what we have been doing is also the practice of wu-wei.

Environmental justice is ultimately about allowing all things to self-flourish—something they do quite naturally without the help of our “stewardship”. Cosmo-centrism is the organic sense that we are all in this together and thus that the moderation of our own wants actually contributes to our own self-flourishing.

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