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Building ecological justice in organisations

  • 16 February 2018


Over dinner Banjo, my 12 year old, asked the family whether technology was the cause of or the solution to our current ecological crisis. We chatted about how technology is used and where the power to decide its application emerges from.

He pondered whether we could return to a world where we weren't so reliant on technology. That wasn't possible — unless we switch off the energy for the whole planet. But surely technology will emerge that's not reliant on any energy source? Banjo corrected us: there is always energy. It just depends where it comes from, how it is used and by whom. Someone mentioned Einstein.

In conclusion we agreed the real question is how human cultures organise themselves, relate to the world around them, how they use technology and for what purpose. Basically the ecological crisis is both caused and solved by human cultures.

This dinner chat is replicated in more sophisticated spaces everywhere: parliaments, community groups, the UN, workplaces. Ecological issues invite both a complexity of interconnection but also a simplicity of possible responses. Because we remain only human, and our greatest tool is culture.

I work as an Ecological Justice Project Officer for Jesuit Social Services in Melbourne. The organisation has been on a journey of introducing ecology into its organisational structure, culture and programs. The CEO Julie Edwards was inspired to introduce ecology into a traditionally social justice focused organisation seven years before Pope Francis' environmental encyclical Laudato Si' was released.

Like all healthy gardens, it has been a slow and insightful journey. When I was employed in early 2017 the process was well underway. It was also highly prescient, as it's increasingly evident we are entering a new paradigm of justice, which includes both social and environmental justice. This emerging lens of ecological justice reflects integral ecology, where everything is connected.

A holistic, culture-sensitive ecological justice has its roots in the feelings, actions and awareness of each person and their relationships: human and otherwise. Organisations, a manifestation of our collective culture, must engage with the ecological challenges and not leave it to the individual, privatised space. 


"In many ways ecology is the vibe: it's the gentle hum of the universe, energy consumption, our family relationships, fruit orchards and deep sea coral."


For us, the journey has been an open-ended, compassionate process. There was space for contemplation and collectively questioning of what ecology means. There was mutual patience with differences and obstacles. Importantly, there emerged a collective solidarity