Birlinn, 2008, 304 pp
Reviewed by Howard Jones
This would be a good book for study in schools because it offers scientific and technical information about ecology, sociology and psychology at a level that is very accessible. The author, a Scottish environmentalist, relates this to the inner life and thence the outward actions of all of us. Essentially, it’s a book about climate change and the human mind-set that has brought it about but continues to deny any responsibility. It also gives us constructive suggestions for a way forward.
The first part of the book on Climate Change focuses on the science and politics responsible for our current situation. It is balanced in approach but speaks honestly about the potential dangers of ignoring the facts that are now available to us about the effects the human species has had on the Earth, especially since the Industrial Revolution. It is informative and thought-provoking.
Part 2 of the book on The Human Condition looks at how we are living currently, our perceptions of life and the absence of thought for much of the population about their inner lives. If our only purpose is to pursue a hedonistic existence, any sensitivity or concern for the planet that supports and nurtures us seems irrelevant – at least for now! As this is the way of life of the majority of us, it is not surprising that we now find ourselves in a situation where that life support system on which our very existence depends is being systematically destroyed. This part of the book is illustrated with poetry and psychology.
Although at first impact this book seems rather pessimistic and despairing, in fact, its message is inspiring, for it shows us that allowing ourselves to appreciate and love the wonder and diversity of the natural world around us will lead inexorably to our taking greater care of it. Seeking to experience the creativity and spirituality of the arts in a world whose delicate intricacies have been illuminated by scientific rationalism is another way of appreciating our surroundings and engendering love for all that is.
The author offers us a sensitive approach to climate change that should also lead to our seeking peace rather than war. Perhaps we could even change our school history syllabus so that it emphasises the benefits and joys of peace and the wonders of human achievements rather than the strategies and destruction of war.
This should be essential reading for everyone – for those who ignore the possibility of an inner life as well as those who already nurture their inner selves. The book ends with a list of References and a detailed Index.