Christianity is often accused of asserting humanity’s dominion over nature – an attitude that has led to so much environmental destruction – and of viewing it as somehow ‘fallen’, instead of teaching that we are merely a part of creation and that ‘what we do to the earth, we do to ourselves’.
In fact, the Bible is teeming with information about plants and biodiversity and different animals and their behaviour, revealing that its writers, like King Solomon and the oracle Agur, had intimate everyday knowledge of the natural world around them and learned from it. Likewise, Jesus was a close observer of nature and was earthed in the here and now, as his parables show.
In this book of biblical reflections botanist Ghillean Prance draws richly from his experiences exploring the Amazon and many other regions – from the White Mountains of Turkey to the Hawaiian Archipelago. It is his hope that this book will move Christians to wonder at some of the marvels of nature, and so to treat God’s creation with reverence and more respect. God’s Word is to be read not only in the Bible, but in God’s ‘big book’.
Ghillean Prance is Scientific Director and a Trustee of the Eden Project in Cornwall and Visiting Professor at Reading University. He was Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew from 1988 to 1999, and was McBryde Professor at the National Tropical Botanical Garden in Hawaii from 2001 to 2002 and is currently McBryde Senior Fellow there.
Ghillean Prance’s exploration of Amazonia included 15 expeditions in which he collected over 350 new species of plants. He is the author of twenty-one books and has published over 550 scientific and general papers. He holds fifteen honorary doctorates and in 1993 received the International COSMOS Prize and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. He was knighted in 1995 and received the Victoria Medal of Honour from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1999. In 2000 he was made a Commander of the Order of the Southern Cross by the President of Brazil, and in 2012 he received the Order of the Rising Sun from the Emperor of Japan. He continues to be active in research and the conservation of the tropical rainforest. He chairs the Mass Extinction Memorial Observatory (MEMO), A Rocha International, and the Development Committee of the Eden Project and is a board member of the Amazon Charitable Trust, the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest Trust and the Exbury Gardens Trust. He is President of the Wildflower Society, Nature in Art and the International Tree Foundation.
Ghillean provides an unusual combination: deep expertise in details of the natural world, and familiarity with the biblical text. These fifty short reflections lead us on a journey through references in the Bible to plants and animals which we otherwise all too easily skip over. Under the eye of this world-leading scientist, we are drawn into a deeper appreciation of the wonders of nature and the God who brought them into being. But more than that: we are challenged to apply in our own lives the insights that these explorations reveal. An enriching book, to read once, read again, and share with others.
David Nussbaum, Chief Executive, WWF-UK
Sir Ghillean Prance’s epic and enduring global career as a botanist, environmental advocate and Christian leader has been an inspiration to a whole generation of conservationists, secular and believing. Any of his writing is worth serious consideration as few bring such a wealth of experience and thought to these vital issues of how life is to continue on God’s good earth at a time of such severe crisis.
Peter Harris, Co-founder of A Rocha