Thomas Berry provides a spiritual guide to the environment. In his most recent book, The Great Work, he describes how, “such deterioration results from the rejection of the inherent limitations of human existence and from an effort to alter the natural functioning of the planet in favour of a humanly constructed wonderworld.” The optimistic subtitle of this book is Our Way into the Future. Berry seeks to change our learned destructive behaviour by supporting “efforts towards living creatively within the organic functioning of the natural world. Earth as a biospiritual planet must become for us the basic referent in identifying our own future.”
In Dream of the Earth, Berry weaves together culture, consciousness and ecology to give the reader a flowing account of how we have allowed our culture of consumption to dominate the natural world. Berry is at his strongest when he describes where this is taking us:
“We have violated the rivers by making them toxic. We have violated the air by poisoning it. We have violated the sea by overfishing and by making it a dumping ground. The list goes on and includes the clear-cutting of trees that in the long run will make the Earth uninhabitable.”
Berry wants us to evolve our conscience and ecology to recognize that God’s creation will be incapable of supporting life unless we develop a higher sense of the sacred. “There must be a mystique of rain...the same is true about soil, the trees, forests and other natural phenomena.” Berry calls for a new religious sensitivity or else we are in danger of plundering the very foundations of life itself.
Thomas Berry is a historian of cultures and a writer with special concern for the foundation of cultures in their relations with the natural world. He comes from the hill country of North Carolina where he was born in 1914. He entered a monastery in 1934 and earned his doctoral degree in western intellectual history. Through his writings, Berry conveys the message that all life exists both individually, and as part of a universal whole in which all things are intrinsically linked. He sees modern man seeking to gain ever-tighter control over his environment, upsetting the natural balance. In creating tightly controlled environments, mankind detracts from its own creative capacity as well, and adds to the workload required to maintain society. Berry also reminds us that there are many lessons to be learned from history, and that they must not be forgotten.