Nature and Environmental Book Reviews

Short List of Best Nature and Environmental Books



Nature and Spirituality

It is fitting that the story of the Bible begins with the creation of the natural world. Most cultures have stories that tell how the world began and explain man’s relationship to the animals . . . learn more about Nature and Spirituality»

The books recommended in this section emphasize the mystery, wonder, stewardship and accountability implicit in a spirituality that honors Nature. They uphold the necessity of embracing all of the environment, in a sacramental ecology. Here you will find a variety of perspectives, including most of the world’s major religions, Native American and other indigenous practices, deep ecology and other philosophical traditions concerning nature, depth psychology and New Age thinking.

Recommended Books on Nature and Spirituality

Believing in PlaceBelieving in Place: A Spiritual Geography of the Great Basin
Richard V. Francaviglia
The Great Basin encompasses the vast deserts and mountains of Utah and Nevada and a complex overlay of faiths. Historical geographer Francaviglia has been traversing and contemplating this austere, mysterious, and majestic land for four decades. In Believing in Place he illuminates the interplay between landscape and the imagination. Fluently scientific yet open to other modes of perception, he parses the region's natural history in connection with Native American spirituality, Mormon beliefs and culture, and the apocalyptic presence of nuclear weapons, which dramatize as nothing ever has before the cosmic dance between creation and destruction. 2003, University of Nevada Press

Buddhism and EcologyBuddhism and Ecology: The Interconnection of Dharma and Deeds
David Landis Barnhill,

Given the challenges of the environmental crisis, Buddhism's teaching of the interrelatedness of all life forms may be critical to the recovery of human reciprocity with nature. In this new work, twenty religionists and environmentalists examine Buddhism's understanding of the intricate web of life. In noting the cultural diversity of Buddhism, they highlight aspects of the tradition which may help formulate an effective environmental ethics, citing examples from both Asia and the United States of socially engaged Buddhist projects to protect the environment. The authors explore theoretical and methodological issues and analyze the prospects and problems of using Buddhism as an environmental resource in both theory and practice. 1998, Harvard Center for World Religions

The Creation
Short List of Best Nature and Environmental Books

The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth
Edward O. Wilson

Addressing a hypothetical "Dear Pastor," Pulitzer Prize-winning biologist issues a forthright call for unity between religion and science in order to save the creation - living nature which is in deep trouble. Forget about arguing over life's origins, Wilson suggests, and focus on the fact that while nature achieves sustainability through complexity, human activities are driving myriad species into extinction, thus depleting the biosphere and jeopardizing civilization. Wilson celebrates individual species, each a masterpiece of biology, and acutely analyzes the nexus between nature and the human psyche. He refutes fantasies about humanity's ability to recreate nature's intricate web, and deplores the use of religious belief (God will take care of it) as an impediment to conservation. 2007, W. W. Norton

Daoism and EcologyDaoism and Ecology: Ways within a Cosmic Landscape
Roger T. Ames,

Until now, no single work has been devoted to both a scholarly understanding of the complexities of the Daoist tradition and a critical exploration of its contribution to recent environmental concerns. The authors in this volume consider the intersection of Daoism and ecology, looking at the theoretical and historical implications associated with a Daoist approach to the environment. They also analyze perspectives found in Daoist religious texts and within the larger Chinese cultural context in order to delineate key issues found in the classical texts. Through these analyses, they assess the applicability of modern-day Daoist thought and practice in China and the West, with respect to the contemporary ecological situation. 2001, Harvard Center for the Study of World Religions

Deep Ecology for the Twenty-First CenturyDeep Ecology for the Twenty-First Century
George Sessions, editor

Deep Ecology calls for a paradigm shift - a shift in perception, values, and lifestyles - as a basis for redirecting the ecologically destructive path of modern industrial growth societies. This anthology addresses a broad range of issues by leading deep ecologists: Glendinning argues that psychological distress results from our alienation from nature; Turner profiles Gary Snyder's efforts to practice his vision of "living as part of a larger system of plant and animal communities governed by reciprocity;" McLaughlin clarifies Deep Ecology founder Naess's eight-point platform for change; and Snyder proposes specific action on several levels in the areas of population, pollution, consumption, and transformation of society. Editor Sessions discusses the roots of ecocentrism, the ecocentric philosophers, and modern writers with an ecocentric message. 1995, Shambhala

The Dream of the Earth
Short List of Best Nature and Environmental Books

The Dream of the Earth
Thomas Berry

Berry explores human - Earth relations and seeks a new, non-anthropocentric approach to the natural world. He says that our immediate danger is not nuclear war but industrial plundering. He urges movement and education toward a "biocracy" that will heal the earth. "This volume quite possibly is one of the ten most important books of the 20th century." Dr. Donald B. Conroy 2006, Sierra Club Books


The Earth Has a SoulThe Earth Has a Soul: The Nature Writings of C. G. Jung
Meredith Sabini, editor

In these writings from his Collected Works, pioneering psychoanalyist C.G. Jung speaks for the natural mind, the source of the evolutionary experience and accumulated wisdom of our species. Through examples from his own life, he shows how healing one's living connection with Nature contributes to a sense of wholeness. In this book Jung shows us what we have lost and how we might find it again. 2002, North Atlantic Books

EcospiritEcospirit: Religions and Philosophies for the Earth
Laurel Kearns and Catherine Keller, editors

With a fresh, transdisciplinary approach, Ecospirit probes the possibility of a green shift radical enough to permeate the ancient roots of our sensibility and the social sources of our practice. From new language for imagining the Earth as a living ground to current constructions of nature in theology, science, and philosophy; from environmentalism's questioning of postmodern thought to a garden of green doctrines, rituals, and liturgies for contemporary religion, these original essays explore and expand our sense of how to proceed in the face of an ecological crisis that demands new thinking and acting. In the midst of planetary crisis, they activate imagination, humor, ritual, and hope. 2007, Fordham University Press

Evening ThoughtsEvening Thoughts: Reflecting on Earth as Sacred Community
Thomas Berry

Noted cultural historian Thomas Berry opens our eyes to the full dimensions of the ecological crisis facing us, framing it as a crisis of spiritual vision. Applying his formidable erudition in cultural history, science, and comparative religions, he forges a compelling narrative of creation and communion that reconciles modern evolutionary thinking and traditional religious insights concerning our integral role in Earth's society. While sounding an urgent alarm at our current dilemma, Berry inspires us to reclaim our role as the consciousness of the universe and thereby begin to create a true partnership with the Earth community. 2006, Sierra Club Books

Gaia ErosGaia Eros: Reconnecting to the Magic and Spirit of Nature
Jesse Wolf Hardin

As Wolf invites us to develop our sense of belonging to Gaia, to honor and care for the earth, he explains in inspired and picturesque language the how and why of New Nature Spirituality. Calling upon his two decades of experience care taking and "rewilding" a stretch of river canyon in New Mexico, Wolf gives us lessons from Nature through the eyes of the bobcats and the roots of the red willows. New Age nature spirituality. 2004, New Page Books

The Good in Nature and HumanityThe Good in Nature and Humanity: Connecting Science, Religion, and Spirituality with the Natural World
Stephen R. Kellert and Timothy Farnham, editors

This eco-spirituality reader explores the idea that "the root causes of modern society's environmental and spiritual crises cannot be understood nor effectively resolved until the split between religion and science has been effectively reconciled." The book's substantive core, "Linking Spiritual and Scientific Perspectives with an Environmental Ethic," marries ideals to real-life situations via the voices of environmental and resource managers, plus the venerable Wendell Berry. Most of these practitioners have fashioned their own faiths by literally tramping in the woods, and their resulting down-to-earth revelations will reward readers. 2010, Island Press

The Great WorkThe Great Work: Our Way into the Future
Thomas Berry

The future can exist only if humans understand how to commune with the natural world rather than exploit it. Berry says, "Already the planet is so damaged and the future is so challenged by its rising human population that the terms of survival will be severe beyond anything we have known in the past." Berry reveals why we need to adore our blessed planet, while also examining why we are culturally driven toward exploiting nature. 2000, Harmony/Bell Tower

A Greener FaithA Greener Faith: Religious Environmentalism and Our Planet's Future
Roger S. Gottlieb

The argument of Gottlieb's hopeful, surprising book is that today, religious people and organizations are among the most committed, and most persuasive, environmental activists. Gottlieb's view is global, principally examining religious green activism in the U.S., but also looking at Zimbabwe, Taiwan and the Vatican. His approach is ecumenical, encompassing Jewish and Christian theologians who have found a powerful biblical call to stewardship of God's creation, and Buddhist teachers who are prompted by their belief in compassion to extend care to the natural world. 2006, Oxford University Press

Hinduism and EcologyHinduism and Ecology: The Intersection of Earth, Sky, and Water
Anil Agarwal,

Hinduism and Ecology opens with the startling statement that India boasts the world's largest environmental movement, involving over 950 nongovernmental organizations. The central issue is whether the mores and tenets of Hinduism are compatible with the protection of the environment. The writers examine epics and sacred texts, arts and rituals, and the thoughts of Gandhi for what they show about the human use of nature in India. These lucid explanations of Indian thought and customs will help the Westerner to better understand India. 2000, Harvard Center for the Study of World Religions

Holy the FirmHoly the Firm
Annie Dillard

Pulitzer Prize-winner Annie Dillard spent two years in a cabin on an island in Puget Sound, asking herself questions about time, reality, sacrifice, death, and the will of God. In Holy the Firm she writes about a moth consumed in a candle flame, a seven-year-old girl burned in an airplane accident, a baptism on a cold beach. But behind the moving curtain of what she calls "the hard things - rock mountain and salt sea," she sees, sometimes far off and sometimes as close by as a veil or air, the power play of holy fire. 1998, Harper Perennial

At Home in NatureAt Home in Nature: Modern Homesteading and Spiritual Practice in America
Rebecca Gould

Motivated variously by the desire to reject consumerism, to live closer to the Earth, to embrace voluntary simplicity, or to discover a more spiritual path, homesteaders have made the radical decision to go "back to the land," rejecting modern culture and amenities to live self-sufficiently and in harmony with nature. Drawing from vivid firsthand accounts as well as from rich historical material, this gracefully written study of homesteading in America from the late 19th century to the present examines the lives and beliefs of those who have ascribed to the homesteading philosophy, placing their experiences within the broader context of the changing meanings of nature and religion in modern American culture. 2005, University of California Press

Landscapes of the SacredLandscapes of the Sacred: Geography and Narrative in American Spirituality
Belden C. Lane

Landscapes of the Sacred is primarily a work in Christian spirituality, but it also ranges over religious traditions, literary landscapes, and personal experiences, illuminating a path to deeper understanding of the sacred meanings attached to places. This is no shallow synthesis. By constantly attending to concrete descriptions of places, and the tensions and contraductions that arise in the interpretation of sacred space, Lane provides direction for anyone seeking to understand this issue. 2001, Johns Hopkins University Press

Making Nature SacredMaking Nature Sacred: Literature, Religion, and Environment in America from the Puritans to the Present
John Gatta

Since colonial times, the sense of encountering an unseen, transcendental Presence within the natural world has been a characteristic motif in American literature and culture. American writers have repeatedly perceived in nature something beyond itself - and beyond themselves. They have perennially construed the nonhuman world to be a source, in Rachel Carson's words, of "something that takes us out of ourselves." Making Nature Sacred explores how the quest for "natural revelation" has been pursued through successive phases of American literary and intellectual history. 2004, Oxford University Press

Nature Religion in americaNature Religion in America: From the Algonkian Indians to the New Age
Catherine L. Albanese

This ground-breaking study reveals an unorganized and previously unacknowledged religion at the heart of American culture. Nature, Albanese argues, has provided a compelling religious center throughout American history. She traces its development from Native cultures, through early European perceptions of a bounteous New World, to political meanings expressed via nature-related ideas (Manifest Destiny), emphasizing the importance of nature in Transcendentalism, and seeing new expression of religious ideas about nature in New Age thinking. 1991, University of Chicago Press

The Oxford Handbook of Religion and EcologyThe Oxford Handbook of Religion and Ecology
Roger S. Gottlieb, editor

Theologians from every religious tradition have confronted world religions' past attitudes towards nature and acknowledged their own faith's complicity in the environmental crisis. Out of this confrontation have been born vital new theologies based in the recovery of marginalized elements of tradition, profound criticisms of the past, and ecologically-oriented visions of God, the Sacred, the Earth, and human beings. This handbook is the definitive overview of these exciting new developments. 2006, Oxford University Press

The Paradise of GodThe Paradise of God: Renewing Religion in an Ecological Age
Norman Wirzba

In this provocative book, Norman Wirzba argues that the doctrine of creation - as presented in the Bible and as developed through the centuries - actually holds the key to a true understanding of our place in the environment and our responsibility toward it. Wirzba contends that an adequate response to environmental destruction depends on a new formulation of ourselves as part of a larger whole, rather than as radically free individuals. This compelling and comprehensive worldview grows out of the idea that the world is God's creation. 2007, Oxford University Press

The Power of TreesThe Power of Trees: The Reforesting of the Soul
Michael Perlman

This founding text in ecopsychology goes beyond the psychological interpretation of trees in myths and legends. It is a beautiful, lyrical inquiry into the place of trees in the everyday soul, a heart-rending lament for the lost forests, and a brilliant reportage of the after-effects of hurricanes and other disasters, both natural and man-made. Published shortly after Michael Perlman's death, The Power of Trees is an extraordinary testimony to his passion for the planet. 1994, Spring Publications

The Practice of the wildThe Practice of the Wild: Essays
Gary Snyder

The essays in Practice of the Wild display the deep understanding and wide erudition of Gary Snyder in the ways of wildness and the world. These essays, first published in 1990, stand as the mature centerpiece of Snyder's work and thought. He offers a prescription for recovering our humanness by giving it away--by giving back to the earth more than we take. Future readers will come to see this book as one of the central texts on wilderness and the interaction of nature and culture. 2003, Shoemaker & Hoard

Profiles in WisdomProfiles in Wisdom: Native Elders Speak About the Earth
Steven McFadden

McFadden presents the stories and thinking of 17 Native American spiritual teachers. The Iroquois shieldmaker, the Inca Gnostic, the Apache Theosophist, the Wampanoag storyteller, the Huichol shaman, the Maya prophet, the Penobscot Ph.D., the Cherokee Buddhist - this is a fascinating and eclectic group of men and women, each with a passionate vision of spirituality based on the concepts of respect, balance, and harmony found in Native American traditions. The thread that runs through each interview is that humanity is on the edge of a new world, and the need to have a new political outlook, ecology, sociology and spirituality is imperative. 2000, Authors Choice Press

Redeeming CreationRedeeming Creation: The Biblical Basis for Environmental Stewardship
Fred Van Dyke, David C. Mahan, Raymond Brand and Joseph K. Sheldon

Redeeming Creation brings an evangelical awareness to address the ecological crisis we face today: population growth, deforestation, habitat destruction, species extinctions, ozone layer depletion and global warming. The authors, four biologists and teachers, believe that we can face these dilemmas with hope. Moving beyond a mere survey of the planet's ills, they bring Scripture into fruitful dialogue with current scientific findings and commitments. They both inspire and inform our individual and corporate response to God's creation. 1996, InterVarsity Press

Religion and the New EcologyReligion and the New Ecology: Environmental Responsibility in a World in Flux
David M. Lodge and Christopher Hamlin, editors

The contributors to this volume address how the new paradigm of "flux of nature" fits into the broader history of ecological science and the cultural history of the West and, in particular, how environmental ethics and ecotheology should respond to it. They ask us to reconsider the intellectual foundations on which theories of human responsibility to nature are built. The provisional answer that develops throughout the book is to reintegrate scientific understanding of nature and human values, two realms of thought severed by intellectual and cultural forces during the last two centuries. 2006, University of Notre Dame Press

The Sacred Balance: Rediscovering Our Place in NatureThe Sacred Balance: Rediscovering Our Place in Nature
David Suzuki and Amanda McConnell

Author Suzuki reflects on the increasingly radical changes in nature and science - from global warming to the science behind mother/baby interactions - and examines what they mean for humankind's place in the world. He presents the concept of people as creatures of the Earth who depend on its gifts of air, water, soil, and sun energy - and explains how people are genetically programmed to crave the company of other species, and how people suffer enormously when they fail to live in harmony with them. The Sacred Balance analyzes those deep spiritual needs, rooted in nature, that are a crucial component of a loving world. 2006, Greystone Books

The Sacred Balance: A Visual Celebration of Our Place in natureThe Sacred Balance: A Visual Celebration of Our Place in Nature
David Suzuki

This visual feast celebrates the forces that unite all living things, in spectacular photographs, beautiful reproductions of artwork, and amazing electron micrographs and satellite photographs. These images - by Galen Rowell, Art Wolfe, and others - lovingly explore dewdrops on a spider web, a field full of wildflowers, vast herds of zebra, rock paintings, Inuit artwork, and much more. The text presents Suzuki's inspiring view of the human place on Earth, describing the seven elements - earth, air, fire, water, biodiversity, love, and spirituality - that all human beings need to lead full, rich lives. The exquisite balance of these elements creates and maintains the web of life on Earth. 2004, Greystone Books

The Sacred Depths of NatureThe Sacred Depths of Nature
Ursula Goodenough

In The Sacred Depths of Nature, Goodenough proposes what she calls a "planetary ethic." It draws upon the lessons of both science and metaphysics, celebrating some of the mysteries that are central to both: "the mystery of why there is anything at all, rather than nothing," for one, and "the mystery of why the universe seems so strange," for another. Exploring scientifically based narratives about the creation of the universe and the origins of life, Goodenough forges a kind of religious naturalism that will not be unfamiliar to readers of New Age literature--save that her naturalism has the hard-nosed rigor of a laboratory-trained scholar behind it. 2000, Oxford University Press

This Sacred EarthThis Sacred Earth: Religion, Nature, and Environment
Roger S. Gottlieb

This Sacred Earth begins with spiritual reflections by naturalists. Surveying traditional religious myths, creation stories, and conceptions of nature -- with extensive selections from Jewish, Christian, Native American, Indian, African, Chinese, and indigenous texts and commentators, the contributors focus on religion in the age of environmental crisis. We see how individuals and institutions are reinterpreting and transforming old traditions, and eco-feminists are challenging patriarchal perspectives. 1995, Routledge

Seeing God EverywhereSeeing God Everywhere: Essays on Nature and the Sacred
Barry McDonald, editor

This anthology, combining articles by Buddhist, Christian, Islamic, Jewish, and Native American scholars, looks at the environmental crisis through a spiritual lens. 2004, World Wisdom

Sex, Ecology, SpiritualitySex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution
Ken Wilber

Wilber, a transpersonal psychologist, offers an overview of spiritual practices that can lead to an evolved "omega point" of consciousness. He critiques the materialist flattening of evolutionary and developmental theories in Western tradition. Wilber follows earlier devotees of Plotinus in insisting on a world composed not of parts and wholes but of wholes that are also parts and parts that are also wholes - wholes within wholes. He offers an enticing alternative for those who hunger for an intelligent, engaged spirituality. 2001, Shambhala

The Solace of Fierce LandscapesThe Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert and Mountain Spirituality
Belden C. Lane

The great religions of the world were nourished in mountains, nearly all of them born in the deserts but raised in the cool highland air. Belden Lane, a professor of theological studies, explores the role of these "fierce landscapes" in the development of the human spirit, and he travels firsthand to many of them, notably Mount Sinai and the deserts of the American Southwest, where seekers holy and profane have traveled before. "Desert and mountain places," he writes, "located on the margins of society, are locations of choice in luring God's people to a deeper understanding of who they are." 2007, Oxford University Press

SoulcraftSoulcraft: Crossing into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche
Bill Plotkin

For millenia, ceremonies and initiation rites have helped societies survive and thrive by marking life transitions. Soulcraft restores Nature ritual to its rightful place as a crucial part of personal growth and self-empowerment. Drawing on ancient traditions immersed in the natural world, the vision quest ritual serves as a modern rite of initiation that helps people find their life purpose. 2003, New World Library

The Spell of the SensuousThe Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World
David Abram

David Abram's writing casts a spell of its own as he weaves the reader through a meticulously researched work, gently addressing such daunting topics as where the past and future exists, the relationship between space and time, and how the written word serves to sever humans from their primordial source of sustenance: the Earth. "Only as the written text began to speak would the voices of the forest, and of the river, begin to fade." 1997, Vintage

Way of the EarthWay of the Earth
T. C. McLuhan

McLuhan offers a stimulating survey of how the world's cultures have struggled to make sense of their place in the Universe. She identifies underlying common themes in six disparate traditions: Greece, where Gaia, the Earth Mother, dominated pre-Hellenic myths; Japan, whose ancient ethos emphasized an emotional conjunction with nature and ecological awareness; aboriginal Australia, where "The Dreaming" - an otherworld peopled with mythic spirit-beings - gives meaning to life; Africa, where many inhabitants recognize a spiritual force-field linking humans, nature, gods, ancestors; the Kogi tribe of Colombia, who believe they are guardians of life on Earth; and Native North Americans, who "enter sacredness" via rituals and holy sites. Through these many voices, McLuhan shows how empathy with the Earth can take precedence over the impulse to exploit. 1995, Touchstone

Wisdom of the EldersWisdom of the Elders: Sacred Native Stories of Nature
David Suzuki, Peter Knudtson

Wisdom of the Elders compares primitive, aboriginal modes of perceiving the natural world with "Western culture's ecologically destructive worldview." Chapters focused on humans' relationships with, for instance, animals, vegetation and the universe begin with brief summaries of scientific explanation and continue with relevant myths and accounts of daily rituals of such societies as the Chewong in Malaysia, Alaska's Inuit and the Kayapo of the Amazon. Overpopulation, deforestation, solar energy and cyclic and linear approaches to time are considered. Suzuki and Knudtson present an eloquent plea for modern society to more considerately interact with nature. 1993, Bantam

World as LoverWorld as Lover, World as Self: A Guide to Living Fully in Turbulent Times
Joanna Macy

A new beginning for the environment must start with a new spiritual outlook. In this book, author Joanna Macy offers concrete suggestions for just that, showing how each of us can change the attitudes that continue to threaten our environment. She focuses on the Buddha's teachings on Paticca Samuppada, which stresses the interconnectedness of all things in the world and suggests that any one action affects all things. Macy describes how decades of ignoring this principle has resulted in a self-centeredness that has devastated the environment. Humans, Macy implores, must acknowledge and understand their connectedness to their world and begin to move toward a more focused effort to save it. 2007, Parallax Press

Worldviews and EcologyWorldviews and Ecology: Religion, Philosophy, and the Environment
Mary Evelyn Tucker

This book of essays addresses the philosophical and theological underpinnings of current worldviews as they relate to the environment. In the first section on traditional world religions, Tucker casts a wide net, with chapters on Native American worldviews and ecology; Judaism and the ecological crisis;followed by Christian, Islamic, Baha'i, Hindu, Buddhist, Jainist, Taoist and Confucian perspectives on ecology. The final section of the book offers essays on contemporary philosophical concerns, including cosmology and ethics; eco-feminism; deep ecology; ecological geography; and cosmogenesis. 1994, Orbis Books

Worldly WonderWorldly Wonder: Religions Enter Their Ecological Phase
Mary Evelyn Tucker

What is humankind in relation to 13 billion years of universe history? What is our place in the framework of 4.6 billion years of Earth history? How can we foster the stability and integrity of life processes? Just as humankind is beginning to comprehend the vastness and complexity of the evolutionary story of the universe, we are also becoming conscious of the growing environmental crisis and of the rapid destruction of species and habitat taking place around the globe. The challenge for the world's religions, argues Mary Evelyn Tucker, is both to re-envision our role as citizens of the universe and to reinvent our niche as members of the Earth community. 2003, Open Court

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