Aug 21 2023

Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic

Reviewed by Daniel Morris and Kelly Dunning, Auburn University

What should we have known about runaway pathogens before the COVID-19 pandemic started?

Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic

Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic, by David Quammen, W. W. Norton & Company, 2013, 592 pp.

Terms like zoonosis and spillover seem to be common in our lexicon these days due to the COVID-19 pandemic. David Quammen published Spillover in 2012, long before the pandemic, painting a detailed picture of how the diseases make the leap, or spill over into human hosts. Reading more like a scientific thriller than a textbook, Spillover points out all of the conditions and warning signs that were missed in the lead up to the 2020 pandemic. Traveling around the globe to sites of historically significant zoonotic events, Quammen shines a light into the interaction of humans, wildlife and their environments (that are being changed on a daily basis) to provide the starting point for the spread of new diseases. Quammen shows how easily ordinary lives can be turned upside down by a handful of runaway pathogens taking deep dives into cases like Ebola and the Hendra viruses. Excellent insights are provided into the way that human disturbances of the environment play a role in the process of spillover, often with fatal results. After reading, you will find yourself ever more conscious of the connection between humans, wildlife and health. Even more salient today, Spillover is a masterpiece at allowing even casual readers a glimpse into the world of disease ecology and its importance moving into the 21st century.

Jul 23 2019

Loving Water across Religions: Contributions to an Integral Water Ethic

Reviewed by Sudhirendar Sharma

Can religious views about water lead to a shared water ethic?

Loving Water across Religions


Loving Water across Religions: Contributions to an Integral Water Ethic,  by Elizabeth McAnally, Orbis Books, 2019, 192 pp

Exploiting the very source of life for economic gains has reduced our individual and collective relationship with water. With the intrinsic value of water being ignored in its sheer assessment as a resource worthy of appropriation, an uncertain and scary water future threatens humanity like never before. Drawing insights from her passion for understanding water and reflections from her study of religious worldviews, Elizabeth McAnally advocates the need for reinventing our relationship with water by developing an integral water ethic. There is much to learn from religious practices in developing an integral approach to understating and preserving this mysterious liquid.

Nothing less than cultivating an “I-Thou” relationship with water can help circumvent global water crises, stresses McAnally. Integrating her personal experiences with practices in Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism, the author constructs an integral ethic that brings the study of religion into dialogue with natural and social sciences with the aim of transforming the current objective assessment of water to include a more subjective perspective on this finite living entity. “Seeing the physical world as a manifestation of the divine has the potential to lead religions to a more respectful relationship with the world.” While there is an inherent value in what is being said, how should religions that have already lost out to science reconcile? Were it not so, water reality would be aligned with our religious penchant. Need it be said that despite each religious practice including compassion, respect and reverence for nature, the material world in contrast is a manifestation of indifference, scorn and contempt toward it?

Seized of the contrasting realities, McAnally argues for the need to integrate knowledge from as many different perspectives as possible to address the complexity and urgency of the impending water crises. The world may have gone as far as it can in managing water as objectively as possible, but there is still time to make a fresh start by imagining it through an integral lens. Loving Water across Religions is a clarion call for developing a deep love for water by acknowledging that it has interiority, an intrinsic value over and above its instrumental value.

While invoking love and service as crucial components of an integral water ethic, McAnally observes that the revered Yamuna, among India’s most sacred rivers, remains one of its worst polluted rivers. This should not minimize the importance, though, of listening to water as a source of inspiration, provided individual love and compassion for water gets converted into collective efforts to preserve our rivers. Although it is a work in progress, McAnally is hopeful that by combining our individual efforts and beliefs we can resolve the water crises that we face.