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The Great Work: Our Way into the Future Paperback – November 14, 2000

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Editorial Reviews Review

The future can exist only if humans understand how to commune with the natural world rather than exploit it, explains author and renowned ecologist Thomas Berry (The Dream of the Earth, The Universe Story). "Already the planet is so damaged and the future is so challenged by its rising human population that the terms of survival will be severe beyond anything we have known in the past."

This may make him sound like a scolding, doomsday prophet, but Berry is an optimistic soul, hopeful that humans will rise to the challenge of cherishing the natural world in the third millennium. "Our future destiny rests even more decisively on our capacity for intimacy in our human-Earth relations." Berry predicts. From this premise, Berry reveals why we need to adore our blessed planet, while also examining why we are culturally driven toward exploiting nature. Because Berry has a science background as well as a spiritual orientation (he is the founder of the History of Religions Program at Fordham University), he brings a balanced and fresh voice to social ecology. Even though he writes for the masses, Berry is by no means a lightweight--chapters include "Ecological Geography," "The Extractive Economy," "The Corporation Story," and "Reinventing the Human." --Gail Hudson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Berry believes we stand at a defining moment in history, one in which the earth itself calls out to us to embark upon a resacralization of nature, a new ecological beginning. Berry is our conscience, our prophet, our guide. He speaks to what is best within us, in a voice that is inclusive, ecumenical, generous, and wise. His Great Work should -- and must -- be ours."        
-- Chet Raymo, Orion

"A visionary book, full of insight, erudition, and cogency."
-- Ursula Goodenough, professor of biology, Washington University

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 241 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (November 14, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0609804995
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609804995
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #145,761 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 47 people found the following review helpful By "im-p2dd" on January 31, 2001
Format: Paperback
This may be the great summary work of Thomas Berry. It is historically up to date, as befits a great historian of religion, science and the Earth. The assessment of the present is realistic to any who appreciate what we have lost. He projects into the future from the past as far as can be seen and hoped. That is a very long distance indeed on both ends. The next stage is dependent on human choice to a large extent. The assessment of where we are and what we have done/accomplished is rather grim and realistic from a geophysical standpoint but is hopefull in its projections for Earth going forward, according to Thomas. Thank you, Thomas Berry, for this perhaps last published summary work.
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58 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Mike Meyer on January 7, 2003
Format: Paperback
Most people who love the Earth and fear its demise will relate to and devour this book. You may labor at times, but the fruit is abundant. You'll understand more clearly the deep causes in our cultural evolution that have put the Earth at risk. The solution is an immense undertaking, but Berry reminds us there's hope, and that we aren't alone. The human community, and more importantly, the larger life/Earth/Universe community, is available and at work, in us. How can it not be, when it was those communities from which we came? The developing universe, as Berry writes. When you adequately understand the causes of the problems, when you can identify them both outside and within, you move in a better direction. Berry provides an un-numbered, un-listed direction, one that is heard with more than the rational mind. Yet, he articulates better than I could have imagined. He gives an immense hope and guides toward that most important of all energies at this time, the psychic energy necessary for confronting and walking forward, for preparing oneself for real action, real work. That is a big thing. If you have wrung your hands at the seeming impossibility of correcting the wrongs done to the Earth, read this book. Berry doesn't give you concrete things to do, his words work into your creative area, your reflective mind, your spirit.
The folks who reacted negatively in review of this book missed the point or had other expectations. They almost kept me from purchasing The Great Work. I'm glad I bought it. It's one of the two or three most important works I've read.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on October 12, 2004
Format: Paperback
With the wealth of works statistically portraying the growing threats of climate change, it's almost refreshing to encounter someone seeking a "soft" approach. Berry recognises the obstructions in transforming a polluting and morally corrupting economy to a less harmful path. He points to a change in attitude we must all make to prevent catastrophe. Yet, it's not difficult, he argues, to reassert a more direct tie with Nature such as we enjoyed in our ancient past. What was once there, but lost, can be recovered. It merely takes some will.

In Berry's view, the Cenozoic Era, used by geologists to encompass modern times, is coming to a close. Technology and the spread of humanity into nearly every environmental niche have changed conditions too drastically for the older appellation to continue. The burning of fossil fuels, deforestation over vast areas, huge fishing nets scooping up masses of sea life, and blindly occupying or modifying habitats has led to the extinction of countless species. What aspects of life characterised the Cenozoic are no longer there to give it definition. And there's worse to follow if we fail to heed his advice. Learn to do better, he cautions.

Berry restrains his religious background and spiritual leanings to address the larger crisis of the Earth's survival. There are no lofty appeals to a "spiritual" aspect of the planet, but he's sharply critical of the materialist outlook that's destroying it. He insists we consider the Earth as an integrated system, which is a realistic view, given our current piecemeal exploitation practices. He urges a broader outlook from his readers. This requires entertaining some novel ideas and encounters with unexpected people. Indigenous peoples are a good source of wisdom in Berry's view.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Bugs on April 21, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This review is long, and my apologies, but this book is potent and spells-out what is one of the most important subjects of the 21st century- our drifting from physical reality and responsibilities and the need to wake-up and realize this dilemma and how we can accomplish that possible , but daunting task. Thomas Berry does this with eloquence and wisdom here and this is truly, a "Great Work"! Thank you, Mr. Berry!

In his earlier book, "The Dream of the Earth", Thomas Berry so eloquently stated the need for humanity to realize what a beautiful foundational life-support gift we have in planet Earth and the need to treat it with the profound sense of respect and good stewardship it deserves and needs in to order to provide a healthy life-sustaining platform.

An understanding of the dynamics of Earth's resource cycles and regulatory systems can teach us how to live sustainably and regeneratively- most importantly, carrying that understanding into the formation and dissemination of religion, politics and economy.

We see God's handy-work, i.e., the blue prints and operating system for Earth through the dynamics of Nature's regenerative, life providing bounty and we then see what is required to maintain this perfect system. Indeed, we are entering the "Eco-zoic" faze of our existence- the realization and implementation of an ecologically sustainable reality.

So how could Berry top that beautiful piece of work?
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