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Book review: A Liberation for the Earth: Climate, race and cross by A. M. Ranawana

21 July 2023

Katie Roberts reviews an ecological manifesto

THIS book firmly sets the redemptive and restorative work of the cross as good news for humanity and creation as a whole. Citing the Brazilian theologian Leonardo Boff, A. M. Ranawana draws attention to “two bleeding wounds”. The first is poverty, which breaks the social fabric for millions, and the second is the systematic assault on the earth, which breaks the balance of the planet.

Throughout the book, she persistently and convincingly connects the ideologies and structures that have benefited from these wounds to the generation of wealth for the few. Through case studies and the wisdom of faith activists in the global South, we are reminded how histories and presents are intertwined. Whiteness, capitalism, colonisation, and other dominating structures continue to leave scars on our humanity and on our planet. Our actions, past and present, are betraying a deep-seated belief that some humans, as well as our natural ecology, are disposable.

For those of us who have largely lived in the white Western rhetoric of environmentalism, this book provides much-needed connective tissue between liberation theology, justice, and our exploitation of the earth. The text is abundant with references to the theology and prophetic voices of those who see at first hand the impact of ecological sin.

One of the many gifts of this book is the calling out of an environmentalism rooted in fear. Ranawana outlines why calls to climate justice, for example, that are focused on security and scarcity continue to feed nationalist agendas that prioritise self-interest at the expense of others. She rightly challenges those of us in the West whose climate anxiety is mostly associated with the potential loss of the comfortable privilege that we still experience. Ranawana states that “without a justice narrative at the heart of our ecological work, we may simply become another vehicle for the privileged.”

In the final chapter of the book, we zoom in on why rage is so fundamental to justice. While grief and lament are necessary for the realisation and conviction of ecological sin, we must not stay there. Rage propels us out of grief and into action. Rage at injustice fuels struggles, builds resistance, and challenges and organises; it is world-changing and world-making. Ranawana proposes that rage does not only move us forward: it moves us together. Liberation will come as we create the rainbow coalitions needed to refuse and reject those systems that hold people and the earth to ransom.

Katie Roberts is an environmental scientist and a Greenbelt Festival trustee

A Liberation for the Earth: Climate, race and cross
A. M. Ranawana
SCM Press £25
Church Times Bookshop £20

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