The Planet You Inherit

Letters to My Grandchildren When Uncertainty's a Sure Thing

The Planet You Inherit

Letters to My Grandchildren When Uncertainty's a Sure Thing

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For the first time ever, love letters consciously written by elders of one geologic epoch to the young of another.

Our children's and grandchildren's generation will face a different world, one affected by climate instability, mass uncertainty, and breathtaking extinction. In fact, the next generation will face the reality that human activity is changing the planet from one geological epoch to another.

From this vantage point--two generations across two geological epochs facing a fundamentally changing planet--Larry Rasmussen writes to his grandchildren. As a grandfather invested in a green earth and climate justice as well as a scholar of faith-based earth ethics, Rasmussen bridges this gap between generations to write to the future about climate change, global citizenship, democracy, and legacy. In topics ranging from "A Viable Way of Life" and "Democracy" to "Where We've Come From" and "Who We Are Now," Rasmussen explores the large questions of justice, meaning, and faith, encouraging us to speak to and look to the future generation and their future world.

Dive deeper with the The Planet You Inherit reflection guide--perfect for group or individual study and reflection.


"There's real wisdom in this book, not just for the next generation but for those of us making the decisions right now. Those of us of a certain age have a very real responsibility to do everything we can to pass on a working planet to those who come after!"

Bill McKibben, Schumann Distinguished Scholar, Middlebury College, and author of The Flag, the Cross, and the Station Wagon: A Graying American Looks Back at His Suburban Boyhood and Wonders What the Hell Happened

"The Planet You Inherit is a profound offering of wisdom and love, imparted by one of the preeminent ethicists of our time to his own grandchildren. What a blessing that we are invited to listen in, absorbing colorful pieces of history, mind-expanding glimpses of metaphysics, and a bedrock case for cultivating those 'bonds of love and belonging' that are essential to life. Beautifully written, unflinchingly honest, and deeply personal, this book is a guide for all who seek to live a full and moral life in this unprecedented time in which 'we are not only the ark but the flood.'"

Karenna Gore, author, activist, and executive director of the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary

"Larry Rasmussen has written a wise and compassionate book, precisely the sort of book our Anthropocene world needs. Don't let the title fool you. This is a book for young people, but it is also for all adults who now (and quickly) need to learn the art of becoming good ancestors."

Norman Wirzba, Gilbert T. Rowe Distinguished Professor of Theology, Duke University, and author of This Sacred Life

"Larry Rasmussen is one of the few great Christian ethicists of the last half-century. This profound and powerful text to the younger generation is a gem!"

Cornel West, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Professor of Philosophy and Christian Practice, Union Theological Seminary

"Larry Rasmussen has created a unique collection of letters that will resonate not only with his grandchildren but with all those seeking a way forward through the climate emergency. To have anxiety about the future of the Earth community is to be awake in a broken world. Larry shows us how we might navigate this with empathy, compassion, and courage."

Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim, Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology

"Earth-honoring ethicist Larry Rasmussen pours out a lifetime of environmental knowledge, prophetic witness, and personal experience. His letters will inspire the rising generation--and the older folks reading over their shoulders--to ever-bolder love for this precious biosphere, its unjustly divided inhabitants, and the Living Presence that sustains all things and summons us to responsibility."

Mark R. Schwehn and Dorothy C. Bass, grandparents of six and coeditors of Leading Lives That Matter

"The relationship between generations, especially between grandparent and grandchild, is essential to the path ahead. The open-eyed wonder of childhood, in tandem with age's studied wisdom, is exactly what we need. The Planet You Inherit models the way forward for us all. It is a book of extraordinary hope in a time of urgent need."

John Philip Newell, author of Sacred Earth, Sacred Soul

"Many of us thirst to hear about the climate emergency in a manner that sparks imagination; places us wide-awake in a future defined by displacement and vulnerability; breaks, opens, and activates our hearts to care and do more. These letters from Grandpa, whom many of us cherish as Prof. Larry Rasmussen, do this humanizing work justly and with fearful grace."

Rev. Fletcher Harper, executive director of GreenFaith

"With the patient 'speed of love,' Dr. Rasmussen recounts the hope, humility, and inspiration that can be found in evolutionary history, philosophy, theology, politics, and ethics, all conveyed with tender compassion and inspired conviction."

William P. Brown, William Marcellus McPheeters Professor of Old Testament, Columbia Theological Seminary, and author of The Seven Pillars of Creation and Deep Calls to Deep

"This is a must-read for grandparents and grandchildren and those who are still to be." 

Isobel and John de Gruchy, grandparents, artists, and authors of books on Julian of Norwich and Dietrich Bonhoeffer

"These are love letters in the truest sense--full of wisdom, wonder, radical honesty, and lament, written to Rasmussen's grandsons with poignant tenderness. These letters are also an opportunity to sit at the knee of some of the wisest and most influential people of our time--James Baldwin and Maya Angelou, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Reinhold Niebuhr, Albert Einstein and Robin Wall Kimmerer. Perhaps most importantly, these letters are about cultivating and living out faith, hope, and love in our beautiful yet imperiled world." 

Jim Martin-Schramm, professor emeritus of religion, Luther College, and Karen Martin-Schramm, retired executive assistant to the president, Luther College

"These letters are for all of us, so sit down and let the stories unfold. Many times the stories are not easy and carry the anxiety of our time. But they also prepare us to face our fears, offering ways through our climate disasters with hope and imagination. Thank you, Larry, for these stories."

Claudio Carvalhaes, associate professor of worship, Union Theological Seminary, and author of Ritual at World's End

"These letters speak beauty--the beauty of searing truth spoken, the beauty of a heart burst open in delight and lament, the beauty of words crafted with exquisite grace. Here we breathe wonder, piercing honesty, and profound hope. This is poetry in prose form, science in the garb of wonder, and prayer as life's gratitude. The Planet You Inherit is culminating testimony of a profoundly wise theologian, mystic, artist, and lover of life."

Cynthia Moe-Lobeda, professor of theological and social ethics, and director of the Center for Climate Justice and Faith, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, and author of Resisting Structural Evil: Love as Ecological-Economic Vocation

"The Planet You Inherit is a profound work of love, courage, and wisdom. Courage to speak a hard truth with full honesty and to grieve momentous responsibility and loss. A grandfather's love that cares beyond measure for this living planet as he cares for his own grandchildren."

Rabbi Nahum Ward-Lev, author of The Liberating Path of the Hebrew Prophets: Then and Now

"All books by Larry Rasmussen feature his wonderful blend of encyclopedic knowledge, judicious analysis, and poetic beauty, but this one is a distinct gift: an updated Earth-Honoring Faith in the form of love letters to Larry's grandchildren. This luminous gift will be gratefully received for many years to come, if there are many years to come."

Gary Dorrien, Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Social Ethics, Union Theological Seminary, New York City, and author of In a Post-Hegelian Spirit: Philosophical Theology as Idealistic Discontent

"Writing to his grandchildren, Rasmussen represents all of us grappling with the regret and trauma of our times. In the new age of instability, Rasmussen, like Bonhoeffer, finds sure hope (rather than glib optimism) in community, honesty, and love for others. It is a profound and beautiful companion as we learn to live in the Anthropocene."

Dr. Dianne Rayson, University of Newcastle, School of Humanities, Creative Industries and Social Sciences, and author of Bonhoeffer and Climate Change: Theology and Ethics for the Anthropocene

"In The Planet You Inherit Larry Rasmussen offers wise counsel for living in perilous times, distilled from a lifetime of teaching ethics. These love letters from Holocene grandparents to their Anthropocene grandchildren are vintage Rasmussen, deeply insightful and graced with gentle humor--a compass for living into the future with faith and hope. In years to come we will bequeath this road map for living well in uncertain times to our grandchildren, while heeding its message today."

Dan Spencer and Pat Burke, University of Montana, and grandparents to Colin, Meghan, and Maverick

"For decades Larry Rasmussen has been warning tens of thousands through his insightful lectures and gifted writing about the epoch-changing perils posed by climate change. But his most persuasive and poignant message of all is delivered to two people--his grandchildren--through this book."

Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, author of Without Oars: Casting Off into a Life of Pilgrimage, and general secretary emeritus of the Reformed Church in America

"Our kids and his grandkids will inherit a drastically changed Earth, but we hope they also inherit Rasmussen's resilient faith in the creative restlessness of the human spirit, his passion for justice for the poor and the Earth, and his 'giddy love of unexpected life' that exudes sheer gratitude for the beauty and joy of this astounding cosmos."

Dan and Anna Scheid, theological ethicists, authors, associate professors at Duquesne University, and parents of three children

"What a gift to sit with love letters informed by science, life stories, and spiritual grounding in wonder, mystery, and hope. We need this spiritually informed foundation to live into the future. I believe Larry Rasmussen has just adopted thousands more grandchildren through this book of reality, hope, and love."

Joan Brown, Catholic Franciscan sister and executive director, New Mexico & El Paso Region Interfaith Power and Light; honored in 2015 as a White House Champion of Change for climate justice work

"How fortunate we are to be invited into this intimate conversation between a wise elder and his young grandchildren, sharing with radical honesty the tragic dimension of life while teaching us all how to say 'yes to life in spite of everything.' Larry Rasmussen issues a clarion call to courageous, responsible action on behalf of a suffering, sacred world. Written for those who will inherit an altered Earth and uncharted human future, these are 'love letters from first to last,' where wonder has the final word."

Rev. Robyn Hartwig, pastor and organizer of EcoFaith Recovery, and Rev. Dr. Janet Parker, engagement coordinator with EcoFaith Recovery

"This collection of letters is at once a summation of the major themes of Larry's work, an accessible body of moral teaching to offer all who are willing to learn, and a beautiful offering of love to his beloved grandchildren. And his beloved country. And his beloved cosmos. This book is a benediction. I respond by saying: Amen."

David Gushee, professor of Christian ethics, Mercer University and Free University Amsterdam, and grateful grandfather of Jonah and Melody


"These ruminative letters resound with pathos and hope."

—Publishers Weekly

Product Info

  • Publisher Broadleaf Books
  • Format Hardcover
  • ISBN 9781506473536
  • eBook ISBN 9781506473543
  • Dimensions 5.75 x 8.75
  • Pages 213
  • Publication Date November 29, 2022