Climate Church, Climate World How People of Faith Must Work For Change, written by Jim Antal. Published by Rowan & Littlefield, 2018 

Reviewed by Larry Deyss:

Why is the church responding to the issue of Climate Change? The answer is given at the beginning of chapter one with a quote from Gus Septh. “I use to think that if we threw enough good science at the environmental problems, we could solve them. I was wrong. The main threats to the environment are not biodiversity loss, pollution, and climate change as I once thought. They are selfishness and greed and pride. And for that, we need a spiritual and cultural transformation.” 

The nine chapters of this book guide the church in the work of spiritual and cultural transformation. At the end of each chapter is a section titled: “Questions for group discussion and further reflection.” These questions make life much easier for anyone functioning as a discussion leader. 

The title of chapter one, “The situation in which we find ourselves” sets the scene so that the chapters flow nicely one into another. Chapter two is “A loving God for a Broken World”. Chapter three addresses the question of “The church’s vocation today” which nicely transitions into Chapter four, “The marks of the church in a climate crisis world.” 

The remaining chapters deal with the topics of Discipleship, Worship, Preaching, and Witnessing. The final chapter “Living Hope-Filled Lives in a Climate Crisis World” equips the reader to move ahead with the important work at hand. 

I do have one critique of the book. The author talks repeatedly about, “the need to repurpose the church,” so it can respond to the issue of climate change. This is very confusing and unfortunate language. He seems to forget that the purpose of the church has been, and always will be, the work of worship, preaching, teaching, and living the Word in the world. The purpose of the church remains the same, however, its focus in the world shifts as the world and its needs change and for today the issue is climate change. 

If a church wishes to become more educated and active in the work of caring for the earth, then I think Climate Church, Climate World, by Jim Antal is a good starting point. It is a stimulating and user-friendly book. 


Clean and White – A History of Environmental Racism in the United States written by Carl A. Zimring. Published by New York University Press 2015 (paperback 2017) *

Reviewed by Larry Deyss :

In order to deal with a problem, or an injustice, we need to understand how the problem developed, as well as the forces that helped build the problem and which sustain the condition today.

The author, a Professor of Sustainability Studies in the Department of Social Science and Cultural Studies at Pratt Institute, is well equipped to help us understand the development of factors that still sustain racism in the United States. 

The opening chapter, “Thomas Jefferson’s Ideal,” sets the stage for the contrast between rural and city life. The rural is seen to be clean while the cities are dirty and chaotic. The “cleaning up of cities” leads to a sustained discussion of sanitation and works of improvement. However, it goes beyond that, moving into a discussion in which dirty and clean are conflated with skin color. White is clean and Black is dirty. Thus we see how the gulf between Whites and Blacks is deepened and how it is maintained. 

Dirty people do dirty work and live in dirty places. This naturally leads to the segregation of communities and the maintenance of segregation through such entities as the Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC) and the Federal Housing Authority (FAH). These entities engaged in the practice of “Red Lining” which made it next to impossible for people of color to get a mortgage and own a home in a desirable location. 

These less desirable areas were also the areas where environmentally and unhealthy businesses have been located, impacting the health of those who lived there. This problem is still very much with us today. 

The book gives us an overview of the systematic development of environmental racism. In doing so it helps us gain insights into the areas to focus on as we work to systematically deconstruct the present system and, hopefully, build one which serves the causes of peace and justice. 


Reviewed by Andrew McPherson:

This is an amazingly detailed documentation of the roots of compromise and conflation used to increase white power and sell non-whites on their “place” in society and extra need for soaps, avoidance of contaminating their part of the city or “black belt”. 

 Other than mentioning the curse of Ham (Genesis 9:25) used in the South as justification for slavery, theology is not discussed. 


Waste: One Woman’s Fight Against America’s Dirty Secret (2020) by Catherine Coleman Flowers*

Reviewed by Susan Hawkes-Teeter:

This is a short, accessible read. Flowers draws much of her strength from her Christian faith, which will resonate with Presbyterians. The first half of the book is devoted to describing in great detail the events in her life that led her and enabled her to be a gifted advocate in fighting environmental racism. It isn’t until the second part of the book that she describes more fully the horrible situation that so many people in Lowndes County faced with inadequate septic issues and not only the lack of governmental response to this, but the legal trouble that folks faced through no fault of their own. Perhaps because I lived through the same period, I found her reactions to major events of the 60s to be interesting. Others may feel that some personal history could have been eliminated. I think this is an important book. It is narrowly focused on just one very specific example of environmental racism. Climate change is mentioned a couple of times, but this book will not further anyone’s knowledge in that area. 

 


Reviewed by Andrew McPherson :

This warm, compassionate autobiographical adventure-seeking justice through activism in the counties of Alabama known as the black belt, As a young schoolteacher she documented racism, and leaders were held accountable. The author’s action moved to include policy at the state and national level focused on wastewater and beginning efforts of economic development in the first 6 of 10 chapters. 

 Chapter 7 began with the organizational activism of 2 TV evangelists. A re-write of the Good Samaritan titled The Good American by James Robinson followed. 

 Chapter 8 noted Catherine’s meeting of the daughter of Al Gore and her eventual work with him. The Center Environmental Enterprise was established to begin countering the effects of rural poverty and the threat of arrest of the poor unable to treat the raw sewage under and around their homes. The power of empathy shown during a Home Visit by a politician to a trailer surrounded by a very greener lawn dotted with toilet paper was miraculous. By then she had contracted Hookworm disease from mosquitoes living on the raw sewage she had walked through. Al Gore and others had warned that third world diseases like this would increase with Climate Change.

 Chapter 9 Gave a History of Faith Activism. Catherine’s article summarizing her work titled A Country where the Sewer is in Your Front Yard was published in the NY Times 5/22/2018. 

 Chapter 10 Rev. Barber observed “people are treated like things and Corporations are treated like people” Finally pg.198 to 201 summarized her growth and work written in Time Magazine 2/2020. 


Being the Change, (2017) by Peter Kalmus*

Reviewed by Susan Hawkes-Teeter:

This the best book I have read about climate change and the issues that need to be addressed. It is about 300 pages but is very readable and well-organized. Scientific information is presented in a very understandable way. I also liked how the author doesn’t approach addressing our lifestyles as sacrificing for the sake of the earth, but gaining much as we seek to simplify our lives. While not Christian-based, it is spiritual in a way that I found compatible with the basic tenets of Christianity. I also liked that he doesn’t shy away from the reality that population increases are a major contributing factor to climate change. Several times he mentions that people of color and the poor will suffer the greatest with the changes to the environment, but environmental justice is a small part of this book. 

 

*  Books available through Southern Adirondack Library System