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Reviews

Cherishing the Earth

Martin J. Hodson and Margot R. Hodson
Monarch, 254pp

Cherishing the EarthI can almost hear some readers saying 'Surely we don't need another Christian book about the environment?' Well, actually I believe we do - this one. The consensus that increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration is causing global warming has spawned an industry of its own - writing about climate change and what to do about it, sometimes from a specifically Christian perspective. However, this emphasis diverts attention from the fact that long before climate change came into focus, all was not well in the relationship between humankind and the earth. It would be catastrophic if a right focus on climate change led us to ignore this.

Hence Cherishing the Earth. It is not just another Christian book about the environment. The authors acknowledge that our failure to cherish the earth is multi-faceted. And this is a positive book, not dominated by doom and gloom - although the seriousness of our current situation is not underplayed.

The authors are a husband and wife team: Martin is an environmental biologist and Margot is ordained in the Church of England, an ideal combination making for excellent balance. The theological angle of the book is as important as the science, informing our environmental concerns with a biblical understanding which is much deeper than many of us, including myself, possess. As well as passages dealing with specific biblical themes such as creation or fall, the discussion is embedded in biblical wisdom. Throughout the book, the writing is relaxed, accessible and quite personal, often drawing on firsthand knowledge.

The book flows from the creation to the promise of a new heaven and a new earth, taking in such themes as the fall, humankind's uneasy relationship with the creation, stewardship, caring for all God's children and the possibility of effective action at all levels, from individual to global. Areas of debate, such as the possible contribution of GM crops in a world of climate change, are dealt with even-handedly. There are topics where individual readers may differ from the authors' position. I, for example, would love a discussion with Margot on the specific environmental effects of the fall, while others might question the linkage between eschatological promise and motivation for action on the environment.

Finally, Cherishing the Earth is not a strident book. It lacks the polemic of certain other texts and is refreshingly free from the 'greener-than-thou' self-righteousness exhibited by some who write on environmental issues (although we are left in no doubt that the authors are indeed environmental activists). Unlike some Christian authors, the Hodsons give credit where credit is due and do not underplay the effectiveness or motivation of those of other faiths or of no faith at all. Overall, the content shows us that the earth is indeed the Lord's, while the inclusive and encouraging style moves us to action, action for which help is provided in the form of useful suggestions for groups and individuals.

John Bryant