Lily Kong with Irene Teh-Cheong Poh Ai, Panji I. Gusti Tisna, Purisima Remorin, Rapeepun Suwannatachote and Wiwat Lee
The phrase 'Bhinneka tunggal ika' (unity in diversity) is printed on Indonesia's coat of arms. The theme is reflected in Indonesia's national symbol, the banyan tree: there are many roots and branches, but only one tree. This same perspective has sometimes been applied to South East Asia: while diverse, it is also united or, at least, similar in many ways. This chapter explores how this may be so in terms of the relationship between environment, society and education. In particular, the chapter examines whether there is a common cultural perspective on society and the environment, centring primarily on religious beliefs about the environment. The chapter also discusses the role of government in environmental management, including its part in environmental education and how, in direct and indirect ways, common values have been inculcated in South East Asians to the extent that a common perspective on the environment may be evolving.
South East Asia is a diverse region, socially and culturally, economically and politically. Its natural environments are also diverse, despite the many similarities accorded by a tropical-equatorial setting. This diversity makes it difficult to do justice to the topic in one chapter. It will not be possible, for example, to include a comprehensive coverage of all the countries, or examine all the cultural and religious traditions in each country. This is unsatisfactory, given that religious traditions must always be understood in situ. As Ling has argued, for example, the term 'Buddhist' 'has no constant heuristic value' in Asia, for:
it is necessary to be contextually specific, or possibly 'country-specific'. A Thai Buddhist will have a somewhat different religious perspective from a Ceylon Buddhist, and each of these will have a different perspective from a Burmese Buddhist or a Chinese Buddhist or a Tibetan Buddhist.
Thus, a full treatment of this topic really requires a book-length treatment of each country, with all the richness and complexities of its