December 2023: Book reviews

Book Review


Awakening to Our Children’s Future
by Lorna Gold

Beehive Books, 2023
9781 80097 073 1 • pp 186

We do not think ourselves into new ways of living; we live ourselves into new ways of thinking. Richard Rohr

Lorna Gold, environmentalist, climate activist and mother, presents a highly accessible, thought-provoking and incontrovertible data-based analysis of the catastrophic threat posed by climate change in her updated edition of Climate Generation – Awakening to Our Children’s Future. We are daily witnesses to the stark reality of a world poised on the brink of destruction through global warming because of the amount of damaging CO2 gases that we continue to pump into the atmosphere. 2023 has already experienced weeks of temperatures soaring over 40 degrees in Spain, Greece and Italy, wildfires driven by abnormally strong winds have ravaged parts of Canada, the US and Hawaii and, here at home, despite our renowned temperate climate extreme weather patterns have become more frequent and more damaging.

     ‘For how long more can we continue to bury our heads in the sand?’ the timely and provocative sub-heading to Éanna Ní Lamhna, Ireland’s best-known environmentalist’s article, ‘Climate Change Ireland – No Worries’ (Intercom, October 2023) is unambiguously a clarion call to action. Unsurprisingly, given the abundance of incontestable empirical and experiential data now available, the experts – scientific, religious and, increasingly so, the business community – are in accord. It can no longer be deemed alarmist to empathise with Gold’s frustration with climate denial and the ‘deep sense of sadness we shoulder in bringing children into such a broken world’ (p.15). While the Climate Generation refers to people born between the 1990s and the early 2000s, i.e. the first generation whose members have spent their entire lives with climate change’s effects, the author contends that we all have a responsibility to address the challenge and work towards building transformative solutions. Radical action is urgently needed and it behoves each and every one of us to play our part in transforming the world around us.

     Lorna Gold’s environmental and activist qualifications – PhD in economic geography, specialist in international development who has worked with academic, faith and NGOs (including Trócaire) over two decades, chair of the board of directors of the Laudato Si’ Movement and currently CEO at FaithInvest, a UK-based charity supporting faiths to invest ethically in a just and sustainable future – are impressive. Arguing that a multi-faceted approach is needed in order to accelerate and implement action on climate change, Gold dons full battledress and urges us to confront the utterly frightening problems that beset our planet. Her battle cry is for action on all fronts but it is also a hope-suffused manifesto for change. Do whatever you can to push for the systemic change necessary. Fight for those who do not have the ability to fight for themselves. Fight for the political change that will deliver a sustainable future for all of humanity. She believes in resilient communities where individuals are connected to each other, to resources, and to decision-makers. By sharing personal narratives and highlighting locally relevant solutions, we can effect real and meaningful change.

    More Than the Statistics (pp.83-92) is a sobering must-read chapter where Gold demonstrates how the poorer Global South continues to pay a heavier price through natural disasters, crop failures and unemployment than the much richer west, which generates the bulk of today’s pollution. Interestingly, eight years after his landmark encyclical letter, Laudato Si’, where he called on us to undergo an ‘ecological conversion’, Pope Francis underscores Gold’s testimony in his latest environmental SOS, Laudate Deum. Warning that ‘the world in which we live is collapsing and may be nearing the breaking point’, he denounced the scale of emissions from high-consumption cultures and argues that the world’s poor are suffering the consequences.

     A significant shift in tone and perspective occurs in another seminal chapter entitled Embracing the Earth (pp.121-135). Moving away from simply presenting the stark and unsettling climate change facts, Lorna Gold adopts a more philosophical stance in her crusade admitting that ‘It has become a deeply personal, spiritual journey’ (p.121). The author recognises that in our haste to jump into problem-solving mode and mobilising our energies to solve the problem of climate change, we perhaps need to step back, take a breath and reflect. She is ad idem with Pope Francis who writes ‘Rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise’. We seem to have forgotten our utter dependence on the earth. For all our technological and scientific advances, it is an inescapable fact that we remain totally dependent on one small planet. Crucially, the health of that planet and its finite ecosystem ultimately dictates our own fate (p.124).

                Lorna Gold is a committed activist who believes in sourcing creative solutions, not rhetorical soundbites. Her style is warm and dialogic; she persuades, informs and helps the reader navigate through the miasma of conflicting views and perspectives on climate change. Climate Generation – Awakening to Our Children’s Future, with its dynamic blend of principle and pragmatism, is destined to become today’s essential reading, an indispensable resource as we strive to live ourselves into new styles of thinking.

– Reviewer: Mary Adamson
   Bryanstown, Drogheda
  Intercom, December 2023/ January 2024

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