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Ian Hore-Lacy: Responsible Dominion: A Christian Approach to Sustainable Development. (Updated)

Book Review

Responsible Dominion: A Christian Approach to Sustainable Development.

By Ian Hore-Lacy. Regent College Publishing. Vancouver. ISBN: 1-57383-342-8

A book by the Director of Public Communications  for the Word Nuclear Association may be suspected of being a public relations exercise for the nuclear industry. Certainly nuclear energy is part of the discussion and receives strong support in the book.

But it would be a mistake to write the book off (or buy it) just for that reason. Ian Hore-Lacy is a Christian who has spent most of his working life involved with mining (CRA – Rio Tinto) and environmental issues. His main arguments have to do with Christians pursuing a truthful analysis of the problems we face and seeking solutions that have a biblical foundation – especially solutions that will enable the world to feed its billions of poor and starving inhabitants.

Hore-Lacy takes issue with many of the assumptions and aims of modern environmentalism. He sees the green movement as basically a religious movement which opposes human activity as generally harmful to the environment which is given a kind of semi-sacred status.

He sees much of the debates as a clash of value systems. One of these he defines as a physical construct by which the environment is understood scientifically and rationally, and the other as a moral construct in which ‘nature’ is understood metaphysically, having intrinsic spiritual values.  Many people will hold to both these systems in different proportions or in different circumstances.

However one of the great strengths of this book is that it seeks to describe a Christian stewardship of creation. It departs form the Romantic view of the environment and seeks to understand God’s purpose in creation and the ways humans should look after and use the creation they have been given.

The book has an excellent section on creation, the role of science and the nature of human stewardship of the creation. This is a refreshing study that focuses on practical matters and leaves behind the ideological debates about creation and science. Hore-Lacy discusses land use, national parks and mining, food production, GM, water resources and some of the impacts of globalisation.

Because the book aims to discuss sustainable development he has a fair bit to say about minerals, energy and renewable energy sources. He also discusses recycling, waste management and the likely long term availability of fuels. He compares alternatives sources of renewable energy and, yes, he makes a case for nuclear energy as part of the solution to sustaining human life on the planet.

One of the helpful aspects of the book is that it takes issue with the impact of ideology on science. Many assertions are made in the name of science, which are not scientific but rather ideological or religious (in this case green religion).

Overall for those interested in the environment and sustainable development or who want another perspective on the emerging debate about nuclear energy, this is a good book, written from a biblical perspective and challenging many assumptions of the green movement.

UPDATE  2015

A new edition of Ian Hore-lacy’s 2006 Responsible Dominion – a Christian approach to Sustainable Development has just been published in Kindle:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00YGJTUNE   It has a completely rewritten and expanded chapter 1 setting out a Christian perspective on resources and environment.

The thrust of this chapter is to establish the theological basis of a balance between respect for biodiversity and 'the environment' on the one hand and respect for God's purposes vis a vis people on the other, while steering clear of the kind of anthropocentrism just defined and critiquing ecocentrism.”

The Introduction is recast to include mention of the Ecomodernist Manifesto.

Hore-Lacy brings the debate up to date with respect to both theological and scientific developments. “... a significant counter to the widely-accepted views of contemporary environmentalism was published over the names of 18 individuals known for their environmental stance and writings. 'We call ourselves ecopragmatists and ecomodernists.' ”

But we do have an evolving consensus regarding God's priorities in the world, expressed for instance in the Lausanne Statement and subsequent Cape Town Commitment from the same source, and stressing the importance of considering the physical needs of people alongside their spiritual needs.”

Updated theological discussion includes Creation and Fall, and the redemption of creation, and interaction with recent discussions by McGrath and Wright for example.

One of the helpful aspects of the book is that it takes issue with the impact of ideology on science. Many assertions are made in the name of science, which are not scientific but rather ideological or religious (in this case green religion).

Overall for those interested in the environment and sustainable development or who want another perspective on the emerging debate about nuclear energy, this is a good book, written from a biblical perspective and challenging many assumptions of the green movement.

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