Russell A. BUTKUS and Steven A. KOLMES, Environmental Science and Theology in Dialogue. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2011. pp. 244. $26.00. pb. ISBN: 978-1-57075-912-3.
Reviewed by Christine FLETCHER, Benedictine University, Lisle, IL 60532

As a teacher of introductory theology courses for the general education requirement, I am always searching for a way to make the theology understandable and of interest to the students. One cannot only teach sexual ethics. This textbook makes a significant contribution to solving that problem and would be a great basic text for an interdisciplinary course on environmental ethics and theology, or a course on faith and science.

Written by a professor of theology (Butkus) and a professor of environmental science (Kolmes) from the University of Portland, this text has solid science and theology in a true dialogue. It begins with a chapter on the need for interdisciplinarity, what it is, and how theology works in dialogue with a very useful historical summary of theologyís conversation with its cultural surroundings.

The second chapter focuses on the relationship between science and theology, covers major figures such as Lynn White, Jr., and provides a model for strategic interdisciplinarity. The case study of the salmon crisis makes the chapterís materials concrete for the students.

The third chapter on the ecological foundations for environmental science was, for me, the most interesting. It covers the historical background of ecology as a study, the scientific principles of sustainability, and the major topics in environmental science, for example ecosystems and toxins, habitats and human development, the carrying capacity of ecosystems. From this basis, the book examines the impact of people on ecological processes in Chapter 4 and a particular problem, toxins and children, in Chapter 5.

Chapters 6 and 7 provide the theological reflections, providing an ecotheology of revelation and human existence in Chapter 6 and theological reflections on Wisdom, God and Jesus Christ in Chapter 7. The book closes with a chapter of theological and scientific reflections on sustainability.

Each chapter has discussion questions, active learning exercises, and a short recommended reading list. These are very well done, and would be a great help in planning a course and using this text.

The only two criticisms I would have are first, that the chapter on God, while very interesting because it covers current theologiansí ecological models of God, including Sally McFague, Alfred North Whitehead, Jay McDaniel and Denis Edwards; is of a much higher level that the rest of the text. The constraints of space mean each theologianís position must be summarized, and there is not a real dialogue between them, or text which brings out the basic theological questions raised. Secondly, I was disappointed to see so little about Catholic Social Teaching, particularly in the final chapter on sustainability.

These minor quibbles aside, I would recommend this as a good text for a college theology, or better still, interdisciplinary course on the environment.

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