Earth as Sacred Community

Thomas Berry  

It is important that we be mindful of the earth, the planet out of which we are born and by which we are nourished, guided, healed- the planet, however, we have abused to a considerable degree in the past two centuries of industrial exploitation. This exploitation has reached such extremes that presently it appears that some hundreds of thousands of species will be extinguished before the end of the 20th century.  (DE,chapter 2, page 6)

We can break the mountains apart; we can drain the rivers and floods and valleys. We can turn the most luxuriant forests into throwaway paper products. We can tear apart the great grass cover of the western plains and pour toxic materials into the soil and pesticides onto the fields until the soil is dead and blows away in the wind. We can pollute the air with acids, the rivers with sewage, the seas with oil- all this in a kind of intoxication with our power for devastation at an order of magnitude beyond all reckoning. We can invent computers capable of processing ten million calculations per second. And why? To increase the volume and the speed with which we move natural resources through the consumer economy to the junk pile or waste heap…. We are, supposedly, creating a technological wonder world. (DE, chapter 2,page 7)

We must reflect especially on the extinction of species we are bringing about…. Extinction is a difficult concept to grasp. It is an eternal concept. ….It is rather an absolute and final act for which there is no remedy on heaven and on earth. A species once extinct is gone forever….(DE, chapter 2, page 9)

We should be clear about what happens when we destroy the living forms of the planet. The first consequence is that we destroy modes of divine presence… (DE, chapter 2, page 11)

Because of the distortion in our thinking, we are carrying out what may be one of the most devastating assaults ever on the Earth in more than 4 billion years of life on this planet. …we are presently extinguishing some ten thousand species annually (E. O Wilson, Harvard University) / ET chapter 4, page 47)

…It is a change in the very chemistry of the planet that makes life possible. It is a change in the bio systems of the planet. It is a change in the geological systems of the planet.Not simply the human future is involved. The future of every living being on the planet is at issue. The fate of the planet itself in its most profound physical and psychic structure is being determined. We are witnessing nothing less than the dissolution of the planet Earth and all its living systems in consequence of this strange distortion of our human role in the Earth process that has emerged from within our modern Western world… (ET, chapter 4, page 47)

The change that is taking place on earth and in our minds is one of the greatest changes ever to take place in human affairs, perhaps the greatest, since what we are talking about is not simply another historical change or cultural modification, but a change of geological and biological as well as a psychological order of magnitude. We are changing the earth on a scale comparable only to the changes in the structure of the earth and of life that took place during some hundreds of millions of years of earth development. (DE, chapter2, page 11, 12

Earth As A Sacred Community

The magnitude of the ecological crisis of our time is such that we are presently terminating the Cenozoic era of Earth’s development and entering into the Ecozoic phase of the Earth process. The Cenozoic has been the period of the expansion of life in the full brilliance of its expression, but this expansion of the life systems of Earth is being terminated. This will affect all our human institutions and professions that were appropriate to the Cenozoic era. They must now undergo a transformation if they are to be integral with the new period in the historical evolution of the planet. The transformation required is a transformation from an anthropological norm of reality and value to a bio -centric or geocentric norm. This will affect every aspect of our human thought and action. It will affect language, religion, morality, economics, education, science, technology and medicine. (ET, chapter4, page 43)

…We need to understand that in all our activities the Earth is primary, the human is derivative. The Earth is the primary community.

Indeed, all particular modes of Earthly being exist by virtue of their role within this community. (ET, chapter 4, page 43)


  • DE: Dream of the Earth , Thomas Berry, ISBN 0-87156-622-2
  • ET: Evening Thoughts: Reflecting on Earth as Sacred Community ISBN 978 -1-57805-130- 4


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