Reviewed by Sky McCain
From GreenSpirit member Chris Philpott comes a book, many years in the making, that is a compendium of attitudes and sources of wisdom about the spiritual basis of what it is to be green. In an inspiring Foreword, the author, scientist and activist Vandana Shiva suggests that this book could help us to rediscover what she calls a ‘spiritual sheet anchor.’
In his Introduction, the author asserts that all of the major spiritual traditions warn us about the perils of not losing sight of the sacredness of our home planet. He states that we must recognise and rid ourselves of our ‘illusion.’ It wasn’t clear to me exactly what the illusion is but I suggest that it is the illusion that we and Gaia are separate; or perhaps that the whole sacred/mundane dichotomy is an illusion.
The purpose of Part 1 appears to be to identify and document the wisdom and respect for Nature found within twelve spiritual traditions, suggesting that each has wisdom that can help us “…raise our standards of care for our planet.” Each of the twelve chapters contains an introduction to one of the traditions and outlines its history, doctrine and customs, festivals and practice, ending with a description of its green aspects and a list of websites for further study.
Within the Christianity chapter is an assertion that social justice is a green principle. My search for the definition of social justice revealed that the common thread woven into all the various definitions is justice for people. To my mind, green spirituality is also about ecological justice or justice for all life forms, human and otherwise, and for our living planet itself. But presumably this is implicit in Philpott’s definition.
Part 2 is headed ‘Global Environmental Problems and World Poverty.’ Its seven chapters take us on a journey of spiritual insights around water, food, air, climate, species extermination, waste and the poverty we create. The author has gathered and revealed the spiritual direction offered by the twelve spiritual movements concerning our ecological crisis.
The last chapter has a most interesting title: ‘You Are the Emergency Services.’ Here, we are introduced to various sustainable communities who are paving the pathway towards truly sustainable, practical living. Certainly a hopeful note on which to end this solid, well-researched and informative book.