Keeping the Earth – Review

Keeping the Earth – Review

Keeping the Earth, Union of Concerned Scientists, $17.95; (617) 547-4552

Science and religion have traditionally pursued parallel paths in struggling to decipher the mysteries of the universe. But growing concern about imminent environmental disaster has precipitated a convergence, brought to life in this engaging, thought-provoking documentary narrated by James Earl Jones and produced by the Union of Concerned Scientists with the National Religious Partnership for the Environment.

The perspectives of luminaries from both worlds are skillfully interwoven–each segment opens with Scripture then segues into scientific and religious explications of the topic–exhorting us to mend our wanton ways or risk an apocalyptic fate of biblical proportions.

“Nature is God’s textbook, God’s gift to existence,” says Jewish theologian Ismar Schorsch. Destroying a species of Creation is like tearing a page out of Scripture. Instead of protecting what we’ve been given, Jones chides with the imperious voice of the deity, we’re squandering it, at an ever-accelerating pace. Images of human activity–miles-long traffic jams, plants spewing industrial emissions, logging, sprawling housing developments–show the extent of our handiwork.

“We could lose as much as twenty percent of the world’s species in the next thirty years or so if we don’t take stronger measures,” says biologist E. O. Wilson flatly. His words linger as we see a tiny bird nesting in a stately cactus stranded in a giant parking lot, then cut to bulldozers in the blazing desert sun clearing towering saguaro cacti and everything else in their path, to make way for what? More parking lots? Strip malls?

“We have to scale back in our frenzied activity to reflect on who we are, why we’re here, and where we’re going,” says Christian Environmental Council Chair Calvin DeWitt. “We as good stewards of the Creation are obligated not to destroy [it].”

While some technocrats claim that science will save us from our excesses, scientists here argue that such a view is not only naive but misses the point. “It’s a question of values, a moral and ethical challenge as to how we treat the environment we so critically depend on,” says physicist and Nobel laureate Henry Kendall. “We cannot be rescued by science and technology, because these problems … are human problems and have to be dealt with as such.”

Because we know how much we’re damaging the planet, the situation is not just an environmental crisis but a moral one. This is where scientists and religious leaders hope their alliance can spark a new environmental activism, calling upon Earth’s religious and secular citizens alike to become its missionaries.

COPYRIGHT 1998 Sierra Magazine

COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group