Rise Up with Wings like Eagles, by Chris Sunderland, December 2016. Earth Books, 220 pages, ISBN 978 1 78535 464 9. RRP £14.99 (paperback)
Recent political changes across the world are leading us into searches for pragmatic solutions to the many environmental problems which they present. How can we manage change? Are we becoming obsessed with legislating our way into a more secure future? Sunderland’s book offers us a very different way forward, based not on words but on being more in tune with the natural world. As he says; “Suddenly I realized that our relationship with the earth would be the big narrative of the 21st century and that solving this was probably the greatest challenge that human beings have ever faced.” Sunderland is well-qualified to offer a balanced perspective having had a strong science focus in his first career as a post-graduate researcher in biochemistry. He later changed course to become an urban vicar.
There are 12 very meaty chapters in this tour de force, separated into three sections. In Part I Sunderland takes the reader into how we perceive the world around us, stressing the need to engage with life beyond words and to permit emotion and empathy into our armoury. We thus unearth a world that remains hidden within us.
He then, in Part II, explores the conventional approaches to planning our way forward and where these have failed us, lining up the “subversion of science” and “short-sighted economics” for comment. Our current political systems also fail to engage with the big questions that face society. Sunderland notes that Christian organisations such as A Rocha exist, but he refers to “human-centred” religions as on the whole failing to rise to the challenge of living in harmony with the Earth.
Part III explores the challenges we face if humankind is to avoid a future which would take us into “the most terrible misery and destruction that the planet has ever seen”. Sunderland’s way forward involves humankind engaging with “the sacred space within us” and the need to teach ourselves to live and work together. The author’s final exhortation is to “walk on and let’s make the world a better place for all that lives”. I found this book an inspiring re-think of how we address the natural world in which we live.
Rev. Dr. John Harrison