A Publication of
Catholic Concern for Animals
Climate and Christ: a prophetic alternative, by Edward P Echlin. Blackrock, Co. Dublin: Columba Press, ISBN 9781856076906, 2010, £9.99.
Throughout all the books written by our previous Chairman, there is a strong personal touch: you meet his wife Barbara, his dog Mildred, and importantly, his garden of a third of an acre on which is grown – organically of course – an enormous quantity and variety of fruit and veg. That little cultivated patch is important, not just for the Echlin family, but as an example of what can help to slow down human-generated climate change. People need to get their hands in the soil once more – to understand the vital interconnectedness of all life, to reject the spurious benefits of constant economic growth, and to protect the next generation by adopting sustainable agriculture now.
The first chapter of this easily readable book – which is like having a conversation with the author over a companionable drink – touches on the causes of global warming: deforestation, carbon emissions, in other words ‘radiative forcing’ (the imbalance between the radiation earth receives and what it returns to the atmosphere). It also describes its effects, suffered already by inhabitants of the poorest countries. ‘Climate’ the author argues, ‘has made us a community.’
The second, more theological chapter looks approvingly at the spiritual insights of Teilhard de Chardin, one of the author’s pantheon of good-guys. Echlin is sharply critical of the psychologised spiritualities indulged in by urban Christians alienated from the larger picture of nature – which can in some cases lead them even further from ‘earth literacy’. The one supremely ‘earth literate’ was Jesus, with his ‘radically prophetic alternative life style’, as the third chapter describes. The reconciliation in Christ of ‘all things’ in heaven and on earth will not, however, become reality while we still insist on disrupting the climate and destroying the earth.
The fourth chapter provides a valuable resource of practical ideas which will help us to overcome our present slide towards environmental disaster – among which are water harvesting, adopting the ‘proximity principle’ and taking only ‘in depth’ holidays (buy the book to find out what these are!).
The concluding chapter provides the three basic premises of Echlin’s views: that all nature is ultimately God’s; that caring for nature – the earth, its creatures, its waters and so on – is a service for God; and, that abuse of it is an offence against God.
It is good to find a non-technical book on the subject (no charts or diagrams, just some poems and quotations) that is so well researched, so Christocentric and so gentle and yet radical. Read it in the garden after a good morning’s digging and tilling!
Go on to: Last Words to a Dumb Friend
Return to: The Ark Number 216 - Winter 2010
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Deborah Jones at Catholic Concern for Animals
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