cover image Sacred Nature: Restoring Our Ancient Bond with the Natural World

Sacred Nature: Restoring Our Ancient Bond with the Natural World

Karen Armstrong. Knopf, $28 (224p) ISBN 978-0-593-31943-7

Religion historian Armstrong (The Lost Art of Scripture) delivers a searching, spiritual take on climate change. Lamenting humanity’s alienation from nature, she contends that if humans are to survive a warming planet, “we have to change not only our lifestyle but our whole belief system.” To that end, she explores how a variety of faith traditions conceptualize humankind’s relationship with nature, observing that some pre-Christian cultures saw nature as “animate” and viewed humans as an integral part of it. Armstrong delves into Chinese religious traditions, noting that they have no creation stories and refrain from giving humans a privileged place in the world, unlike the Old Testament’s depiction of Adam as the master of creation. The ancient Indian religion of Jainism, she writes, holds that animals, plants, rocks, air, fire, and water all have souls and are entitled to the same courtesy and respect as people, and she encourages readers to embrace the faith’s “profound empathy” for one’s surroundings. The illuminating examinations of a broad array of religious traditions are thought-provoking and have the power to change the way readers see the world and humanity’s place within it. Eye-opening and wide-ranging, this original take on climate change edifies. (Sept.)