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Virgin and the dynamo: use and abuse of religion in environmental debate.

The Virgin and the Dynamo

Use and Abuse of Religion in Environmental Debate by Robert Royal Eerdmans 271 pages, paper $39.99 ISBN 0 8028 4468 5

AT FIRST GLANCE this book seemed yet another in the spate of anti-environmentalist backlash books I've reviewed. This is a readable account, more positive than many.

Royal states his thesis that the West has a better religious basis for a sound ecological ethic than radical environmentalists think. This part is lively and gives hope.

Then Royal argues that most environmentalists' claims have been exaggerated, but his own documentation is often out of context, outdated, misused, or missing. His mention of the 1998 El Nino shows he can be up to date when it suits, but gaps in his knowledge yawn when it is inconvenient for his case.

One example: he says "a now famous poll of the members of the American Geophysical Union and the American Meteorological Society found that 49 per cent of these professionals believe that no anthropogenic warming has taken place ..." That survey is out of date. In 1993, climate science had many global warming skeptics, including even Environment Canada's head meteorologist who remained skeptical until 1997. Since then, almost all meteorologists have become convinced that human-caused warming is a real danger.

Furthermore, meteorologists say the question of whether human activity has warmed the planet is less important than whether our polluting activity will cause global warming. To that question, they say "Yes."

The last chapters are an expose of the radical environmentalist ideologies of Matthew Fox, Starhawk, Charlene Spretnak, et al. Here, Royal is on firmer ground: his critique follows many leading anthropologists and historians. Yet, why does he concentrate on lightweights like Starhawk, while omitting moderate Christian environmentalists like Loren Wilkinson and Calvin de Witt? This omission undermines the book's claim to build "an expectation that an answer to some environmental questions may still be found in the classic religious view of the West (the Virgin.)"
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Publication:Anglican Journal
Article Type:Book Review
Date:May 1, 2000
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