Joshtrom KUREETHADAM, Creation in Crisis: Science, Ethics, Theology. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2014. pp. 188. $50.00. ISBN: 978-1-62698-100-3 (pbk.). Reviewed by Dolores L. CHRISTIE, University Heights HEIGHTS, OH 44118
As a biologist and a moral theologian it was difficult for me to put this book down. The author has done an excellent job of documenting the crisis in climate change and the impact of human choice on the ecology of the earth, our “common home.” Beginning with a scenic trip through the earth’s history, he moves to a rich discussion of the problems created by human tampering with earth’s balance−“fouling our own nest.” Since the Industrial Revolution, there has been resolute and incremental increase in climate change, species extinction, and biodiversity loss, as well as in pollution, waste, and depletion of limited resources. The speed with which this reality is advancing cannot result totally from natural patterns of oscillation.
As he lays out his argument initially, the author addresses the moral implications of human actions gently with the comment: “They cannot see.” This appears to let humankind off the moral hook. Nonetheless he refuses to leave the reader in comfort. He indicts human beings−particularly those who gain wealth both from disproportionate consumption and feckless waste of the earth’s gifts−for their serious sin of hubris against God, each other, and the earth that is God’s gift to us. Human actions evidence that humankind sees itself not as God’s creatures, essentially interconnected with each other and with the earth, but as masters of a planet placed here for human utility. Referring to John’s gospel a second time, Kureethadam notes that God not only created the planet but chose to pitch God’s tent here in the incarnate Logos. Creation is a symbol, in the richest sense of that word, of God’s presence and gift: a fertile gift, verdant and nourishing. We are called to be stewards of this earth, not exploiters. We bear responsibility as caretakers of its reality and of its future. Ultimately it is those who are using up the earth who bear the burden to remedy their behavior.
The author contrasts the use and overuse of planetary resources by the powerful who may become wealthy through exploitation, with the poor who are disproportionately affected in a serious way by the actions of others. Without significant clout to protest or to change the trajectory, the poor face loss of habitat, loss of sufficient food, and potential obliteration. The affected populations are often situated in underdeveloped regions which can be exploited easily for gain by outsiders. With land raped, food sources destroyed, and cultural bonds ripped apart by forced migration, the total fabric of life and sometimes life itself is obliterated.
While the first portion of the book may appear too detailed and a challenging read for those unfamiliar with science, it is accessible. Overall the treatment on climate change, rapidly increasing species extinction, and pollution is readable. It is well written, its clarity enhanced by the sections which introduce the specifics that the author will address. To humanize the abstract science, the author includes concrete instances of modern “extinction” stories, which illustrate the results of destructive personal and corporate action.He calls the reader to awe and to action, pointing a path to change. The book could be used profitably in a moral problems class. It should be discussed in academic settings, with an eye to promote personal and collection action. It might be a great gift to oneself or to a friend.