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Earth Day 2023: A spiritual shift is also needed

Friday, 21 April 2023  | Justin Simpson


This Saturday 22nd April is Earth Day. The day is an opportunity to pause and reorient.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its 6th Assessment Report last month. This helpful article summarises ten key findings of the IPCC report. It highlights that the 1.1 degrees Celsius increase in average global temperature is unprecedented in recent human history and how every fraction of a degree increase in global temperature beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius will result in significantly greater biodiversity loss, drought, food insecurity, fires, extreme heat events and floods. There have been five previous IPCC reports since 1990, reporting increasingly severe threats related to unmitigated climate change.

About five years ago, my then-teenage daughter told me she didn’t want to have children, because of the climate crisis and what her children might have to live through in their lifetime. I was profoundly impacted by my daughter’s experience and something shifted within me, although I wasn’t sure what to do about it.

A couple of years on, Australians experienced a consequence of global heating with the Black Summer fires of 2019-2020. In Victoria, we endured months of bushfires. Twenty-four million acres were burnt, towns were threatened and destroyed, and 33 people were killed by fire and 450 by smoke impacts. An estimated three billion native animals were killed. This was an intensely distressing time for many, and again something shifted within me in deep lament.

I led Scripture Union Victoria for eight years, where we sought to share God’s love and Good News with children, young people and families. We were consistently thinking about young people and upcoming generations and what it meant for them to know God and to flourish. I saw environmental care as an expression of this and I personally sought for our household to live more sustainably. But somehow environmental care was still an ‘add on’ and I increasingly sensed a fundamental disconnect between my worldview, theology and faith expression on the one hand and my concern for the environment on the other. My daughter’s experience and those bushfires brought this disconnect into sharper focus.

A paradigm is a mental map of the world, an understanding of ‘the way things are’ that is shared by a large majority of people. This understanding is mostly internalised and unquestioned and hence deeply resistant to change. It is probably reasonable to say that, in Western societies, the dominant paradigm about the natural world has been utilitarian, capitalistic and anthropocentric. We have conceptualised nature primarily in terms of how it serves the human economy, as a natural ‘resource’.

Is it possible that, as Christians, we too have internalised this utilitarian paradigm of nature? Has our theology somehow underpinned this? An eschatology with the imminent return of Christ and God destroying the earth, so we don’t prioritise preserving the Earth? A theology in which humans are the only important species?

During the long months of Covid lockdowns in Victoria in 2021, I spent many hours walking alone outdoors and sitting contemplatively. The disconnect I described gradually melted. I began to see and experience God’s love for all God’s creation, and God’s enlivening presence within creation. I sensed Jesus’ direction to love our neighbour as our self was for all our global neighbours, for future generations and for all species. I understood God’s redemptive purpose, which we participate in, including ecological care and regeneration.

This personal spiritual shift has led me to a new vocational step. I’m now helping lead a social enterprise called Green Collect, where we combine an environmental and social purpose underpinned by deep commitment to God’s regenerative purposes.



Do you sense a need for a wider spiritual shift concerning the environment?

What do you see might be involved in us going through this paradigm shift?

What could this shift be like for you? There are some practical actions suggested on the Earth Day 2023 website.

Please share your reflections in the comments section below.


Justin Simpson is the COO of Green Collect in Melbourne’s West. He has recently published his first book of poetry, titled Journey Companions, in which he explores several of these themes – see

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