Armstrong locates our very capacity to willingly inflict so much violence on the natural world in the severed link between nature and the divine ... It is insufficient to view the collapse of the environment as a purely physical phenomenon— we must look at the spirituality, or lack thereof, that produced human beings capable of such pillaging. If we fail to do so, we remain vulnerable to the same destructive tendencies that created our circumstances in the first place. Through Armstrong’s exploration, it becomes clear that a cohesive theology of oneness, harmony, and reverence for the natural world is central to humanity’s collective religious expression. And from this theological wellspring emerged rituals and ethics for how to engage with and be in the world ... Armstrong’s book makes a vital contribution to discussions on climate change because what is required from us as a species is not only a technological transformation, but also a spiritual one ... Additionally, it is important to recognize that this is a non-specialist, non-academic book. Armstrong makes strong claims regarding epistemology, the development of Christianity, and major world religions, all of which are likely contested within academia. But her efforts and intentions here are simple: this book is not a rejection of Christianity or Western spirituality, but a rejection of the spiritual outlook that keeps us from seeing the natural world as a part of ourselves.
Armstrong has written a rich and subtle exploration of the sacredness of nature, filled with a timeless wisdom and deep humanity that comes from a lifetime spent studying religious thought. Each chapter explores ideas and practices that were fundamental to the way people experienced nature in the past, and shows how they can help us forge a new bond with the world around us ... Much has been written on the scientific and technological aspects of climate change, explaining the impacts on our world and the measures we need to take to avert catastrophe. But Armstrong’s book is both more personal and more profound. Its urgent message is that hearts and minds need to change if we are to once more learn to revere our beautiful and fragile planet, and to stop polluting it. For this to happen we need to reconnect with the myths and even the rituals of ancient spiritual traditions that have the power to awaken our primal emotional bonds to nature and reveal our 'utter dependence' on it.
This is Romantic talk. Like the Romantics, Ms. Armstrong hears a secret harmony in the dream of eternal Asia. Nature remains sacred in Islam, Hinduism, Daoism, Buddhism and Confucianism ... Ms. Armstrong misunderstands her scientific villains ... There are many more historically dubious leaps of faith ... Ms. Armstrong’s hope to excavate a single idea of the sacred at the root of human society is a Romantic notion, a product of the modern split between Man and Nature and an attempt to fill the gap left by the decline of Christianity in Europe ... The author retraces the Romantic agony of the spirit into a familiar, ahistoric and unsavory dead-end: eternal Aryan virtues versus the eternal Jewish problem. The Romantic effort to fill a spiritual vacuum by the cults of myth helped produce the catastrophic politics of the 20th century ... The makers of religion can stretch the bounds of credulity in the name of a higher purpose. Historians have no excuses.