Human animals are despoiling nature and causing a sixth extinction on Earth. Our natural environment is being compromised, and birds and other animals are disappearing at an alarming rate. Flight from Grace does not so much reveal the extent of the damage as ask and answer the perplexing question: why?
This book traces human reverence for birds and nature from the Stone Age and the New Stone Age, through the cultures of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Peru, and Greece and through biblical traditions, up to its vestiges in the present. Richard Pope takes a hard look at Judaeo-Christian and ancient Greek thought to demonstrate how the emergence of anthropocentrism and belittling of nature led to our present-day ecological dilemma. Striking images of cultural artifacts – many little-known – together with extensive discussion of art, music, literature, and religion illustrate the paradox in our contemporary relationship to the natural world. Humanity, in moving from its palaeolithic origins to modern times, has simultaneously distanced itself from and disenchanted nature.
Suggesting that the replacement of an animistic worldview with a mechanistic one has led humans to deny their animality, Flight from Grace calls on readers to appreciate how our past relationship with birds might help transform our current relationship with nature.
Richard Pope, a lifelong birder and naturalist, is a retired professor of Russian literature and culture. He lives with his wife in Cobourg, Ontario.