The Common Good and the Global Emergency: God and the Built Environment, by T.J. Gorringe, February 2011, Cambridge University Press, 309 pages, ISBN 978-1107002012, RRP £55.
The author of this wide ranging book is Professor of Theological Studies at the University of Exeter. As the title indicates, Tim Gorringe relates the built environment to God and community. Central to his argument is a theology of Grace. Grace is God’s Self Gift for the common good of God’s creatures. Most of the ingredients of the common good, both where modern people get things wrong and where alternative, liberating movements get things right, will be familiar to readers of Green Christian. The three major emergencies we confront are 1) overpopulation; 2) climate change; 3) resource depletion. The built environment should radiate proportion and grace, justice, beauty, and order, Gorringe favours the bioregional and vernacular, and resists globalization and modernist and post modernist architecture. He notes the ecocide of the car, air travel, high rises, mega-cities. In brief, asphalt is the earth’s last crop, Gorringe, like Schumacher and Wendell Berry, argues for settlements interconnected with each other and their surrounding countryside. He recognizes, as all leaders must do, that, as a Sinologist told this reviewer forty years ago, China alone can save China (by restraint and sustainable example) or kill the earth community. A review cannot even mention the many aspects Gorringe treats – space, place, churches, community, small scale agriculture, hope … the list seems infinite. I recommend this book for readers willing to be stretched and challenged. It tells Christians what to do when we realize how dire is the state to which people have brought the earth and how bleak the future. In hope we keep on trying.