Saturday, February 6, 2010

Review of Christianity, Climate Change, and Sustainable Living

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Christianity, Climate Change, and Sustainable Living is a relatively small book that tackles a broad range of issues. As the title states, the authors cover everything from the science of climate change to the appropriate Christian response to climate change. They also offer some practical advice to help both individuals and communities live more sustainably.

Though the flow of the book suffers a little due to the wide range of topics that are covered, I think the book is successful on all fronts. The summary of climate change is concise and accurate, giving a good overview of past, current, and projected future climate change and its many effects on our planet. I especially like how the authors frame anthropogenic climate change as a "reckless experiment." This is an appropriate way to think about climate change because, though the authors do not mention this, this century might be the first time that CO2 emissions have risen far ahead of temperatures (ice core records indicate that, in the past, the temperature changed first, followed by changes in CO2 levels). While we have sophisticated computer models that can project future changes based on current levels of knowledge, by emitting large amounts of greenhouse gases we are essentially taking part in a global experiment with a complex, poorly understood climate system. This fact alone should be enough to warrant caution when it comes to our fossil fuel use.

After laying out the evidence for the reality and potential severity of climate change and its effects, the authors turn to the question of how Christians should respond. Their answers are both wide-ranging and compelling. Through a much-needed evaluation of our unsustainable (and unhealthy) consumer culture, a Biblically-based call to take care of God's creation, and a reminder of God's charge for us to care for the poor (who will be most affected by climate change), the authors articulate a vision of a total Christian response to climate change. They cast this response as an important part of bringing God's kingdom to Earth. As Christians we are familiar with the spiritual aspects of the transformation of old to new, but Spencer, White, and Vrobleskly challenge us to think about how this applies to the whole of God's creation.

Also integrated into the book are plenty of practical principles to help guide our response, updates on national and global policies, quick analyses of alternative energy sources, and a helpful list of Christian organizations devoted to realizing the vision of responsible, sustainable living.

Christianity, Climate Change, and Sustainable Living is being published in the U.S. by Hendrickson and can be found here. Christians looking for a substantive, thoughtful response to the often heated (and politicized) issues regarding climate change and what to do about it need to read this book.

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