Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Extra Bits: Thomas Berry and the Great Work

Thomas Berry, a Roman Catholic priest, environmentalist, and eco-theologian, who described himself as a “geologian”, died June 1. One of Fr. Berry’s books is The Great Work: Our Way Into the Future. In this book, Fr. Berry argued that the future of humankind depends on our learning to live in communion with the Earth rather than in a relationship of exploitation and dominance. Changing the pattern of our relationship with the Earth, said Fr. Berry, is the “Great Work” of this era. There is more information about Thomas Berry’s life and work at .

Given Fr. Berry’s death, it was interesting timing that ABC News on June 2 aired “Earth 2100”, a look at a possible future where population growth, resource depletion, and climate change converge with catastrophic results. The program ended on a note of hope, looking at all the places along the way of the catastrophic scenario where different choices might have been made that could not only have averted the catastrophe, but also have resulted in a better life for everyone on the planet. By setting the observations and predictions of scientists within a piece of fiction, ABC perhaps managed to make some of the science accessible and interesting to a large number of people. The message was similar to Fr. Berry’s message in this: there is important work to do, and there are important choices to make, that can make a huge difference in what life on Earth looks like in the next 100 years.

The religious environmental movement owes a great deal to Fr. Berry and what he taught us. We give thanks for his life, work, and wisdom. May the Great Work continue and grow!