Colin Russell has produced an interesting and accessible book on a Christian response to the environmental crisis. The great strength of the book is that it places the present environmental crisis within a historical context. Pollution is not a new problem. One problem with books that deal with environmental problems is that they can date very quickly. Science changes, populations increase and decrease (occasionally) and the data can become dated. Russell in looking at historical contexts has managed to get round this problem, history rarely gets out of date!
In nine short chapters he provides an overview of the problems and some of the possible responses we can make as Christians. He starts with looking at our stumbling blocks to Christian involvement; these are: the subject is depressing, difficult, demeaning and even dangerous. By dangerous he means that some maintain that it's a dangerous distraction, though Russell maintains that it might not be the heart of the gospel though it is part of the gospel.
He then looks at how special a place the earth is, a place designed for human life and yet a place spoiled by sin. The polluted planet is examined in more detail in the next chapter. Modern concern goes back to the 1960s, but Russell places this all in historical perspective looking at land, water and air pollution. from biblical times onward. 'A ravaged planet' is the topic of chapter 4. Waste, destruction of habitats and hence species, deforestation and overpopulation are all briefly dealt with. 'The big one', climate change, gets a chapter to itself. It is interesting to see how this topic has come to the fore in recent Christian discussions on the environment.
From chapter 6 onwards we are offered some hope. It is God's earth and he cares for it, he sustains the whole of creation. In chapter 7 our role as stewards is examined. This has been called the 'default position' for Christians, I would have liked to have seen some discussion on the weaknesses of this position. If we are stewards what then? How does stewardship prescribe how we might respond? What does it mean, for example, for population control?
The earth belonging to God and we being its stewards are two good reasons for Christians to care for the planet, but Russell adds a third. And one that is often neglected in other similar discussions: the call to mission. This missional aspect is seen in care for the poor. The needs of the poor can be helped by environmental care. Christian mission without environmental care is inadequate.
Overall this is an excellent introductory primer. A great book for those beginning to get interested in a more greener Christianity.