Soil and Soul – Review

Soil and Soul: People versus Corporate Power, by Alastair McIntosh, Aurum Press, 2001. ISBN 978 1 85410 942 2, 384 pages. RRP £10.99 (paperback)

In this powerful and provocative book, Scottish writer and campaigner Alastair McIntosh shows how it is still possible for individuals and communities to take on the might of corporate power and emerge victorious. It is a precursor to the more recent challenge by Naomi Klein in her book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism versus the Climate.  Both these books give spiritual strength and hope to campaign against climate change and the forces which are destroying the world.

As a founder of the Isle of Eigg Trust, McIntosh, a Quaker and Deep Ecologist, helped the residents of Eigg to become the first Scottish community ever to clear their laird from his own estate. Plans to turn a majestic Hebridean mountain into a giant quarry were overturned after McIntosh persuaded a Native American warrior chief to visit the Isle of Harris and testify at the government inquiry. 

This extraordinary book weaves together theology, mythology, economics, ecology, history, poetics and politics as the author journeys towards a radical new philosophy of community, spirit and place. His daring and imaginative responses to the destruction of the natural world make Soil and Soul an uplifting, inspirational and humorous read.

In this book, McIntosh explores our participation in both natural and social environments and the relationships between the two. His approach also integrates a psychological and spiritual approach to being a conscious human being in a living world. Much of his work is informed by a combination of practical action, study and reflection. In this, he is especially influenced by liberation theology which seeks justice and peace for the whole of Creation, for people and the planet.

We can sum up the heart of his message in this seminal passage from the book:

“We cannot separate the soil from the soul – the earth from human spirit. What we do to the soil we do to ourselves. Having our souls rooted in the soil, Creation, helps us to grow, enjoy the spirit of life and protect its source. My experience points to a Celtic Truth about Identity, which is actually a deep human truth: a person belongs in as much as they are willing to cherish and be cherished by a place and its peoples. In such a spirit we can all assume responsibility for our lives and for this planet. The unity of soil and soul can be restored. Even amid all its despair and destruction, I do believe that the world can be reconstituted.”

This book reinforces my view that we should see the sacred in everything. When we harm the world, we are damaging Creation, God’s sacred gift to humanity and abusing the Creator. So we have a sacred duty to defend and protect the life on earth that God has given us.

David Penney


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