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The Great Work: Our Way into the Future

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  366 ratings  ·  38 reviews
Thomas Berry is one of the most eminent cultural historians of our time. Here he presents the culmination of his ideas and urges us to move from being a disrupting force on the Earth to a benign presence. This transition is the Great Work -- the most necessary and most ennobling work we will ever undertake. Berry's message is not one of doom but of hope. He reminds society ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published November 14th 2000 by Broadway Books (first published 1999)
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Average rating 4.05  · 
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Mar 13, 2009 rated it did not like it
That this is a remarkably influential book is all the more mystifying when one counts its flaws. Internal contradictions, history simplified and spun, unrelenting lamentations and hope preached in a hopeless tone are among its most notable qualities. And yet it is compelling. It is a book to read, be moved by, and then let go of. Don't waste your precious life energy on correcting or arguing with it. Supercilious pedantry may be its keynote, but the author is passionate and serious, and the prob ...more
Sep 04, 2012 rated it it was ok
Thomas Berry has influenced many of today's most articulate and thoughtful thinkers on the human relationship to nature, from David Orr to Derek Jensen. This book calls readers to the "Great Work" of envisioning and enacting a new way of living in harmony with natural systems, a way that would encompass everything from the economic and scientific to the spiritual and cultural. Although Berry has some important points to make, I found this book strangely lifeless and repetitive. Berry doesn't see ...more
Manuel Vega
Sep 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A great fusion of ecology and mysticism. Almost any sentence could be a quote. Inspiring, poetic yet incisive in flagging the dangers of our economic model.
Gwendoline Van
Mar 11, 2014 rated it it was ok
I know this is an important read, particularly for those enmeshed in sustainability and its discourse and movement, but I simply cannot get into this book. It comes highly recommended, and in theory, I should be pouring through the content while furiously taking notes. The premise is right on -- the we as a people need the cornerstones of our society (ethics, politics, economics, eduction) to own their roles in crafting unsustainable and destructive patterns and redress themselves into being ins ...more
Erik Akre
Jul 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: dreamers looking for a noble dream of Earth's salvation
Thomas Berry is noble and profound. This book is dead-serious, yet full of hope and compassionate wisdom. It sets out the 21st century human task with eloquence, and pulling no punches. Humanity needs to directly confront and take on the issues of ecology sustainability, justice, and community we face, but Berry infuses the imperative with spiritual uplift and dignity. This is a challenging book, all the moreso in 2015, and a somewhat chilling read. Yet in Berry's eloquent hope one finds hope in ...more
Sep 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
A simple yet profound passage that sums up this book and much of Berry's message: "This we know: The Earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the Earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of live; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself."
Sep 07, 2007 rated it really liked it
Very thought provoking.
Jul 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A great book that connects ethics, spirituality and environmentalism
Sep 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Awesome and profound book. I highly recommend.
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Michael Blue
May 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fantastic dissection of where we have been and where we are most likely going without a change of course - a major one.

Thomas Berry nails it.

Some of his comprehensively argued topics include:

A new political alignment - it may sound unsettling, but the cost of inaction is more than unsettling, we need to be realists and get away from political solutions, and start looking at actual solutions

"The tendency is to insist that ecologically oriented persons will accept the existing situation with som
Tristan Alaba
Jul 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Profoundly important work, detailing the path forward into a new era, the work required to shift the course of humanity, where to look for this shift, the history leading to our predicament, and numerous details weaving our human and cosmic story together.

Ultimately it’s about the need to develop a mutually beneficial relationship between human beings, Earth, and other-than-human-beings. Thomas Berry’s writing took a few chapters to get used to; on the surface it isn’t that unusual, but his phr
Apr 08, 2018 rated it it was ok
I had never heard of this author before and really never read much on green/sustainable energy, pro-Earth, eco-friendly literature before - but I wanted to get more familiar with it.
This book is called "The Great Work," which is an absolute misnomer - it should be called "The Great Stream of Consciousness." While Berry is certainly well-spoken and well-informed on the ecological, sociological, and cultural history of the Earth - this book was mostly just a philosophical/theoretical musing on wha
Leda Frost
Jun 22, 2020 rated it did not like it
I read a lot of these types of books and I have to say this is among the worst of the lot. Granted, I understand it was published in '99/'00 and so was among those books that sought to bring *awareness* to the issue of humankind's degradation of the Earth, but the solutions it offers are not solutions at all. Berry says we need to listen to indigenous people. Okay. How? He asks us to listen to women. Yes. Again, how? In what way? He says the Earth and Universe and all life is on a path toward in ...more
Sally Piper
Sep 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
To back up Berry's 'The Dream of the Earth' published in 1988, with 'The Great Work', published in 1999, was to set myself up for profound disheartenment. Because it only drove home the lack of any real progress made to address the issues of human impact upon the earth despite writers like Berry (and Carson, Muir, Leopold, having written about it for decades.
Dec 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a foundation text for many of those whose work I am reading. It helps to understand that this motivates much of the environmental and ecological movement. Profound and common sense, really.
Sep 30, 2019 rated it it was ok
I was not in the correct mood to be engaged in this work and likely shouldn't review it. There were many pages that could've been edited for brevity.
Alli Wilson
May 02, 2020 rated it it was ok
While very well intentioned, it comes across as an extended and dense bibliography of other related books throughout time.
Peter O'Brien
Nov 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
"The universe story is our story, individually and as the human community. In this context we can feel secure in our efforts to fulfill the Great Work before us. The guidance, the inspiration and the energy we need is available. The accomplishment of the Great Work is the task not simply of the human community but of the entire planet Earth. Even beyond Earth, it is the Great Work of the universe itself" - page 195.

With The Great Work Thomas Berry makes the case for a major reformulation of huma
Jul 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
"The historical mission of our times is to reinvent the human - at the species level, with critical reflection, within the community of life-systems, in a time-developmental context, by means of story and shared dream experience."

That is what Berry begins to do in this book and I feel for such an audacious goal, he makes a good attempt. There are points that are repetitive and the middle section of the book is by now familiar to readers as a recitation of the woes we currently encounter. But whe
Brian Gilchrist
Jul 31, 2014 rated it it was ok
I always have a tough time reading this book and this re-read wasn't any different. Berry's thesis makes sense, that we need to be in closer union with the earth and the ecosystem around us, but there is nothing new here, nothing that makes me go "yes, now I understand! ". Nothing groundbreaking, nothing controversial enough to make me want more. Honestly I feel like this book could be summarized into a one page pamphlet and there would be no difference between that and the book. I'm not sure if ...more
Frits Haverkamp
Aug 11, 2012 rated it liked it
I really like the concept of the Great Work. To integrate human life with a the larger ecosystem. Berry is a smooth writer and the book flows well. I am always a little suspicious when just about everything about modern life is seen as a negative and that is the impression that I get from the book. After Berry is done tearing holes in human technology, culture, etc, I am not sure what is left. I didn't finish the book thinking I was given a way forward by Berry as much as a prophetic look at whe ...more
Dec 30, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2014
Important takeaways include acknowledging the power of the new tech economy to enhance experiential learning about the natural world. Berry's revelatory experiences and encouragement to his readers to find their own resonate with me.

The concept of ecological geography and tying in the cosmological thinking of Brian Swimme allow me to contextualize real and theoretical action steps to chipping away at the work.
Jun 07, 2009 added it
Shelves: hippie, summer09
After reading the recent obituary of Thomas Berry in the New York Times, I took a few of his books out of the library. This is the first one I finished reading. I suppose I would have considered it insightful had I read it back in 1999 (when it was published), but after years of permaculture/peak-oil/deep-ecology/etc. reading, it doesn't seem to add anything new.
Oct 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is a lovely book. It speaks directly to the heart of anyone interested in preserving the integrity of our environment. As the subtitle suggests, this book is a place to dig in for inspiration and ideas on how to move forward in creating a healthier world.
Andrea McDowell
Jul 24, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: climate, green
I'm sure this would be groundbreaking for someone who hasn't read dozens of environmental books over the last 15 years, but for someone who has, it's quite repetitive and doesn't say anything I haven't heard before from a dozen other places already. I got to page 79.
Jan 04, 2013 rated it it was ok
I was waiting for an "ah ha!" moment while reading this book but it never came. By now, most are familiar with the human caused destruction of Earth's precious ecosystems. I was hoping for more than the author's advice of spending more time in nature.
Jun 09, 2008 rated it liked it
slightly too new age-ish by moments, but makes you want to believe that there is some sort of hope that our dear planet can be save from impending doom
Lori Friedman
Jul 21, 2008 rated it liked it
I need to re-read this book. Well done and felt like the author was really telling me the truth. Still so dry that I need to re-read it to feel it. America is in trouble.
Dec 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
A beautiful little book about the tremendous work we have ahead of us if we are to solve our environmental problems. Amazingly hopeful about our future, which I found tremendously helpful!
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