Saturday, October 24, 2009

Review: A Climate for Change

I actually have a bit of a backlog on books I'm supposed to be reviewing. But when A Climate for Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith Based Decisions (Katharine HayHoe, Andrew Farley, Faith Words, 2009) arrived, I had to take a gander. In fact I had to read the whole thing. The first 3/4s, or more, of the book is an apologetic for climate change, specifically that climate change is happening and that humans are the source. This part is ok, except that the quotes that start off a chapter usually have much more depth than the chapters themselves. I chalked this up to how volatile this debate has become South of the border (in the United States), and how careful the authors wanted to be. Unfortunately, nowhere in the book does it state that we need the Earth and not the other way around. I suppose such a fact would not sit well with the intended audience of this book. But knowing that is my bias, it is not surprising that the last few chapters made me want to throw the book at the wall. If you spend that much time outlining a real problem then you would think you could at least propose a stewardship approach (even though I am convinced stewardship is not near an adequate response to the ecological crisis we are facing.) Actually, the response section begins with an affirmation of the pessimistic claim that God will yank us out of here anyway, or at least destroy the Earth and create something new. They even quote Revelation, but not the parts about the new coming down to the old or that God will return to destroy those who destroy the earth. So after discounting the possibility that anything we could ever do to respond to the ecological crisis is useless, they propose another reason. It makes a good witness??? Actually, I think if you motivation is to look good to maybe win people - is that not hypocritical? Seriously, if I got excited about Jesus through someone doing something they didn't believe in I think I'd probably not be too excited about that person's religion when I figured it out. This is what I would call a bad witness. Color me frustrated at this point.

They actually end on a good point. It is true that none of us can do it all. And the best place to start is with small steps having the goal of changing our lifestyle (especially our dependence on non-renewable sources of energy). And for all I complained about lack of depth, the chapters do cover off the majority of falsehoods I've heard from folks who deny the ecological crisis. Not sure how convincing their arguments are, I was convinced from the beginning. And the quotes, many of them are really good.

I'm not sure I could recommend this book. I really want to. This is an area that evangelicals really need to think deeply about. But I would want a response that includes faithfulness to God, particularly God's love for this whole world. I want something that challenges anthropocentrism, the arrogance of our species. And if this is part of our witness, and I believe it should be, then I want something that engages the issue on the issues terms, not as a smokescreen for evangelistic motives with no real desire to make a real difference for our planet. Bottom line is, we screwed this planet up, we can't fix it (despite a few hints in this book that there is still time to fix the problems, they waffled on this point though) but we have to do something, if for no other reason, the ones who suffer the most are the ones least able to do anything about climate change. But, I'd add, that as Christian we also need to have hope that through God we can do more than is humanly possible and maybe through God's grace give our kids a planet that will be livable.

1 comment:

byron smith said...

Two good Christian books on CC I've read recently: Hell and High Water: Climate Change, Hope and the Human Condition by Alastair McIntosh (less explicitly Christian, but tackles consumerism head-on) and A Moral Climate: The Ethics of Global Warming by Michael Northcott.