Consciousness in Action, by Andrew Beath
Consciousness In Action is an important book, to be sure. Anyone
who has ever felt despair at the self-denying way with which our
society plunders the planet will receive reassurance in its pages.
Author Andrew Beath has filled them not only with his ideas, but
with the stories of 15 equally inspiring leaders and activists,
including Julia Butterfly Hill, Joanna Macy and Ralph Metzner.
Beath’s thesis is that we are letting ourselves in for a
global environmental catastrophe. There is disruption of the geosphere,
atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere. This is no surprise. What
comes next, however, is not the gnashing of teeth and rending of
garments you might expect. He doesn’t quite say it outright,
but you get the sense Beath thinks the ecological crisis is a good
thing. Like alcoholics hitting bottom or teenage delinquents receiving
their comeuppance, Beath believes we humans have to be confronted
with disaster before we will wake up. “One optimistic perspective
is that the destruction caused by human activity is evidence of
birth pains associated with the delivery of the next generation
of consciousness,” he writes. “We are on the cusp of
a new era, born of our excesses, because we spoil the nest of our
After a few billion deaths from war and privation, perhaps necessity
will force us to see the error of our ways and to change our relationship
to the rest of nature. Beath writes, “The only way to end
destructive human tendencies like ecological degradation and economic
imbalance is for individuals to undergo spiritual self-examination
and recognize their responsibility to nature”
In a sort of list that reminds me of Buddhism, he goes on to describe
the seven attributes needed to arrive at this change of consciousness:
nonviolence, not knowing, introspection, eros, no enemy, vision,
and being joyful.
With Consciousness In Action, Andrew Beath consolidates a huge
range of societal shortcomings into a relatively small volume. He
also provides a kindhearted primer for activists on how to be both
righteous and conscientious. But, too often Beath glosses over supporting
evidence and arguments to arrive breathlessly at his conclusions.
He’s like a preacher directing his sermon to the choir. Still,
it is hard not to get a sensuous thrill from the poetic, rolling
language he uses to rightfully condemn the consumerism, violence,
short-sightedness and greed of our civilization.
--Reviewed by Dave Platter
Copyright ©2005 Dave Platter. All rights reserved.