Follow Jessica on Twitter @CrossAndLeaves or follow the Five Leaf Eco-Awards @fiveleafeco

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Quote of the Day

"A person will worship something, have no doubt about that.... That which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts will determine our lives, and our character. Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshipping we are becoming."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Source: Almost Christian: What the faith of our teenagers is telling the American church, by Kenda Creasy Dean, 2010, Oxford University Press.

Monday, July 2, 2012


"Biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann, who is widely influential among mainline Protestants, describes shalom as "the central vision" of the Bible in which "all of creation is one, every creature in community with every other, living in harmony and security toward the joy and well-being of every other creature.""
Source: Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the neighborhood church is transforming the faith, Diana Bulter Bass (2006) Harper One, p. 110

Friday, June 29, 2012

Perth Event for kids and carers: The Earth is God's

TEAR Australia is holding The Earth is God’s: A time for kids to explore God’s call to care for creation. The workshop will link the global with the local and looks at how we can make a difference, including games and other fun stuff for kids and parents. It will be held on Wednesday 11 July, 9.30am–12.30pm, at Earthwise, Subiaco. Cost is $5. For more info and to RSVP contact Steve McKinnon on 0416 118 185 or email stevemckinnon1 (at)

Encouraging quote for today

"How would you know if your mission on earth is accomplished? If you're alive - it's not." Richard Bach

Friday, June 15, 2012

Free environmental events for kids at the Grove Library (Cottesloe, Perth)

Snakes Alive!

During the July school holidays, kids can join Garry Davies who will explore the world of reptiles.
Gary is the Senior Reptile handler for the West Australian Reptile Park.
Gary will offer a close up and personal experience with some of Australia’s most feared animals during a free one hour session.
Children will be able to experience reptiles up close in a safe and controlled environment.
Date: 19th July
Time: 1.30pm – 2.30PM
Place: The Grove Library
“Suitable for children aged 6 – 12 years”.
Bookings essential as places are limited

School Holiday Challenge with Earth Carers – @ The Grove Library

Hey Kids
Are you ready for the Waste & Wheelie Bins Board Game Challenge?
Earth Carers staff from the Western Metropolitan Regional Council will visit The Grove Library on:
Date: Friday 20 July 2012
Time 11.30am – 2.30pm
Place: The Grove Library
Children of all ages can participate in the interactive waste education games, each with a different sustainability message.
Games include the giant ‘waste and wheelie bins’ board game, waste sorting game, Olympic compost throwing and battery relay.
A colouring-in station will also be here on the day.
No bookings are required.

Saving our churches easier than we think?

"Mainline renewal is, as one Lutheran pastor told me, "not rocket science." As he said, "You preach the gospel, offer hospitality, and pay attention to worship and people's spiritual lives. Frankly, you take Christianity seriously a a way of life."
... congregations have found new vitality through an intentional and transformative engagement  with Christian tradition as embodied in faith practices. Typically, they have rediscovered the riches of the Christian past and practice simple, but profound, things like discernment, hospitality, testimony, contemplation, and justice. They reach back to ancient wisdom and reach out through a life sustained by Christian devotional and moral practices. They know the biblical story and their own story. They focus more on God's grace in the world than on the eternal state of their own souls." Diana Butler Bass, Christianity for the Rest of Us, Haper One, 2006, pp. 7-8

New research on traits linked to sustainable behaviour

An interesting article in the Huff Post on why people 'go green'

The new research has found that "countries in which the populace was concerned with having high social cohesion or having tolerance and respect also scored highly with regards to environmental and social sustainability. People who value social responsibility among business leaders and those societies that had higher trust in one another were also more likely to be more focused on sustainability.
On the other hand, some traits tied to sustainability were less than obvious. For example, sustainable habits and practices were tied closely to countries where high levels of pay were important to people. Conversely, populations that were considered "unselfish" or focused on equality for all were not as likely to practice sustainable behaviors."

Although this research is based on country wide traits, I think it gives some encouragement for the likelihood of sustainable behaviours in churches. After all, one of our biggest assets is our social capital, including things like social cohesion, trust, tolerance and respect within our communities. Also, we believe in the importance of social justice and responsibility so I imagine we value this among business leaders.

I am less surprised than the author of the article about the link with high levels of pay as there is often a link between environmental concern and wealth. Though one should be careful in saying this because the poor definitely care about the environment - they feel the direct affects of degradation of the local environment long before the rich, but often they don't have time to think about broader environmental issues when they are struggling just to survive.

The last point though, about countries with a focus on equality being less likely to practice sustainable behaviours, I find a bit more confusing. Perhaps this is more coincidence than correlation, as more selfish countries like the US and Aus are richer and thus tend to focus more on sustainability.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

EmpowerWA: What are you doing for a cleaner tomorrow?

Join the movement in WA! Make a video about what you are doing for a cleaner tomorrow and post it here:
Also, check out the awesome map of what others in your area are doing.

Some interesting news items today:

Mining is digging the heart out of conservation covenants 

Across Australia, landholders are signing conservation agreements or covenants to protect biodiversity on their property. These agreements, offered by state governments, create private protected areas that commonly bind future landholders to protect the property’s biodiversity, ensuring the long-term survival of plant and animal communities.
It seems like a good deal: a private protected area comes at little to no cost to the government and offers protection to biodiversity that might not otherwise have been protected.
Unfortunately there’s a catch. The government does not exempt these private protected areas from mining activities. Rather, in all states of Australia, the government can still give miners permits to explore and extract in these private protected areas.

Lost in the clouds 

ABOUT 220 species of animals, reptiles and amphibians live in the lush rainforests of far north Queensland — with 90 or so found nowhere else in the world. But, because of the effects of a warming climate, the situation for 83 of these species is bleak, with many facing extinction over this century, says Professor Steve Williams.

Our fragile ocean under scrutiny

AUSTRALIA could be on the brink of making marine history.

In the near future, the Federal Government will decide on the creation of a marine park system around Australia, including whether to establish the world's largest highly protected marine national park in the Coral Sea.



Saturday, May 12, 2012

A really big thanks to everyone who came along to the Five Leaf Eco-Awards Presentation Ceremony today. It was a great event and enjoyed by all. Most of all - congratulations to our awardees!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Five Leaf Eco-Awards Presentation Ceremony this Sat in Perth!

4pm for a 4:30pm start.

St Luke's Anglican Parish Mosman Park, 20 Monument Street.

If you care about church greening and you're in Perth - be there!

New World Environment Day Resources Available

For resources to help plan services around the 5th of June (World Environment Day), see:

Friday, March 30, 2012

Event in Tasmania

15th-18th May, "ASSISI Formation - Animators for Sustainability Program"
Event name: ASSISI Formation - Animators for Sustainability Program
Date/time: 15th-18th May, 2012
Location: Maryknoll, Blackmans Bay, Tasmania
Note: The same program is also being held on 14th-16th March, at Hotel Victor, South Australia
Organisation: Catholic Earthcare Australia
Cost: $990 (incl. accom, w'shops, meals, support materials)
Description: A three-day intensive formation program for people interested in forming sustainability teams in their school, organisation or community. Themes: ecological theology, sustainability, building learning communities in your own context.
Are you wondering ...
  • What would it take to animate the call to justice, peace and integrity of creation such that we learn together how to live and work sustainably on our planet?
  • What is required for your organisation to take the transformative journey to ecological sustainability?
  • What wisdom exists in Catholic Teaching that may help you and your organisation respond to the call for ecological conversion and sustaining God's Creation?
  • What would it take to truly harness the energies of God's love?
Catholic Earthcare Australia offers ASSISI as a comprehensive and holistic sustainability initiative for organisations to achieve sustainability. A three-day intensive is central to the formation experience. Participants are required to do preparatory work and follow-up work. During the course of the formation experience, participants are exposed to contemporary ecological theology, scientific understandings of sustainability and transformative social processes that can inspire and support this critical work.
Would you like to join with others to seek, discern and transform a new way of being that responds to the call for ecological conversion through participation in our ASSISI Formation - Animators for Sustainability program?
Then find out more at:

Implementing the Rainbow Covenant for Earth Mission

Crowea saligna. Photo: Sandra Payne.A Rainbow Covenant for EarthMission has been developed by the National Council of Churches Eco-Mission Project Team, representing a significant development in mission within the Australian Church.  Congregations and mission groups are now invited to discuss this document and explore where and how it might serve as a vehicle for promoting our mission to Earth as an important dimension of the mission program of the church. How best can this document be utilised and promoted?  Would a manual be useful for parishes and groups to study the biblical basis of the document and provide guidelines as to ways in which an Earth mission might be implemented?  Would it be helpful to include a network of resources, and examples of how groups have been motivated to engage in Earth mission and to take practical action?  Would your congregation endorse this mission?  Please send any comments and suggestions to Clive Ayre,

Canberra Events

00% Ready: Clean Energy Public Forum

100%A vast majority of Australians support a move to 100% clean energy. But a lot also wonder whether we can make it happen yet. The Nature Conservation Council is holding forums across NSW to hear from locals who are leading the future in clean energy.  The forums are showcasing real stories from the clean energy frontline that prove we're 100% ready to start making the switch. Join the discussion and help Australia make the switch to 100% clean energy.
Andy Hughes - Office of Environment and Heritage
Deborah Kingsland - 100% Renewable Campaign
Jeff Knowles - PV Solar
Pat Osborne - Landholder Windfarm
Katrina Willis - Queanbeyan City Sustainability Initiative  
Free entry, refreshments provided. Register now at
When: Tuesday 3 April, 6:30-8:30pm
Where: RB Smith Community Centre, 262 Crawford St, Queanbeyan

Coal Seam Gas: Is It All It's Made Out To Be? 

book coverThe ACT Greens MLAs invite you to a public forum on CSG.

Australia’s latest Energy White Paper suggests we are entering the golden age of gas and the ACT is increasingly looking to gas as an option in meeting its 40% emission reduction targets. But from where will this gas be sourced? As Australia seeks out alternative sources of energy, where does Coal Seam Gas (CSG) stand as an option? Comprising 13% of Australia’s domestic gas supply and heralded as emitting 70% fewer emissions than coal, is CSG as clean as some make it out to be?

Join us for an open discussion with our guest panel:
Ruth Armstrong - Queensland grain and cotton farmer and Save our Darling Downs Member
Larissa Waters - Greens Senator
Carmel Flint - Lock the Gate and the North West Environment Council
Dr Gavin Mudd - Senior Lecturer in Environmental Engineering, Monash University
Sean Munro - Australian Student Environment Network and ANU Environment Collective

When: Wednesday 4th April, 6 for a 6.15pm start
Where: Pilgrim Conference Centre, 69 Northbourne Avenue, Civic

Melbourne Environmental Events

Saturday 24th Mar , until Saturday 14th Apr
exhibition, benefit
Support Bush Heritage by coming along to an exibition of wonderful landscape paintings this Saturday.
» more info

Friday 30th Mar , until Sunday 22nd Apr
submissions open
The People & Planet International Photography Competition aims to select 53 photos to be published in the 2013 People & Planet: Social Justice & Environment Diary and Calendar, which raise money for our group of about 50 Australian charity partners.
» more info

Friday 30th Mar 
performance, benefit
A Beyond Zero Emissions fundraiser. BZE volunteer and internationally acclaimed comedian Matt Grantham asks that very question and explores whether two Independents and a Green would actually speed up the process.
» more info

Saturday 31st Mar 
Our annual Harvest festival, a free event which celebrates and gives thanks to the good earth, our farmers and the cycle of the seasons. The day is all about local produce, backyard self-sufficiency and our local community.
» more info
Saturday 31st Mar 
In 2011 The symbolic action of turning lights out for an hour is an expression of concern for the environment and a commitment to do more for the planet...
» more info
Saturday 31st Mar , until Saturday 21st Apr

Sunday 1st Apr 
Join hundreds of people in a fun, effective and peaceful protest against the tripling of coal exports from Newcastle harbour. Borrow a kayak or BYO creative floating vessel!
» more info
Monday 2nd Apr , until Wednesday 4th Apr
Join practitioners from diverse interest groups across the food system to discuss ideas that will help transform Australia’s food system.
» more info

Upcoming Perth Eco-Faith Events for your Diary

"Preaching Peace" and Christian Responses to Climate Change with Michael Hardin
Thursday April 26 2012 7-9pm
Details here:

Five Leaf Eco-Awards Presentation Ceremony
Saturday May 12th 2012, 4pm for a 4:30pm start
An essential event for anyone in Perth interested in getting their church involved in the Five Leaf Eco-Awards!
Details here:

Wollaston Tree Planting Day
Saturday June 30th 2012, 9am - noon
Details here:

Ecumenical Eco-Care Retreat
September 24 - September 28th 2012
Details here:

Awake Article: Encouraging Responsible Waste Disposal

This is the third in a series of articles summarising research into efforts to encourage specific areas of sustainability-related behaviours.

Our generation of waste is a big problem. Not only the amount of it, but the way in which we dispose of it. This is a pretty big topic, and we could focus on the amount of stuff we buy, where it comes from, what it’s made of and so on. But for now let’s look at the psychological aspects of our disposal of waste, especially recycling and composting.

There is a large body of research looking at the question of why we do or don’t recycle. While the results of this research vary widely, a few key things emerge.

Firstly, our attitude toward the environment is not a big factor in whether or not we recycle.  For example, a Portuguese study into the topic concluded that “recycling behaviour is not determined by citizens’ general ideological position toward environmental issues”. This is thought to be partly because recycling is generally quite easy, so it does not require a strong ethical or moral obligation to engage in the behaviour.  A Swedish study decided to differentiate between easy and difficult recycling behaviours and found that those with green attitudes were more likely to take on the behaviours which required a degree of effort, but that there was no difference for low-effort behaviours. So basically, you have to be fairly committed to the cause to go out of your way to recycle. But if you don’t have to go out of your way, then it doesn’t matter how ideologically committed you are.

Given that environmental attitudes are not a predictor of recycling behaviour, what are the factors that do make a difference?

While our attitude toward the environment is not so important, our attitude toward recycling specifically is important. Those who feel recycling does make a difference, feel confident and clear about what and how to recycle, and believe that it is not too much effort, are found to recycle most.

In particular, perceived convenience is a strong predictor of recycling behaviour.  In an article discussing the motives for recycling, Ewing states that “Evidence suggests that the amount consumers engage in environmentally benign behaviour is an inverse function of the effort or inconvenience involved and a direct function of the personal benefit expected”.
Confidence in our knowledge and skills also influences our propensity to recycle. AnotherPortuguese study was among many that found knowledge forms a large part of “perceived behavioural control”, something which in turn makes us more likely to recycle.

Another major driver of recycling behaviour is perceived norms. This refers to our belief of the right thing to do (personal norms) as well as our perception about what everyone else is doing (social norms). In fact, it has been shown that the latter can influence the former – that our view of the right thing to do can be shaped by observing others.  A2007 UK study was among many who have found that recycling is a highly normative behaviour , as opposed to reducing our consumption and re-using products, which are driven more by values, knowledge and concerns.

Closely related to social norms is the concept of modelling – the influence of seeing someone else demonstrate a behaviour. A revealing study into the disposal of food waste in food courts and fast food outlets found that the example set by actors planted by the researchers led to a large increase in customers choosing to place their waste in the composting bin. By contrast, the presence of a sign on each table urging people to compost made no difference.

Given that there are a number of different drivers of recycling behaviour, it is hard to know where to start in attempting to influence its uptake and increase. This challenge is emphasised even more in a study by Spanish researchers, who draw the distinction between a number of roles in the recycling process, including that of the influencer, the initiator, the decision maker and the vendor (the person responsible for transporting the waste to the collection points). They found that each have may distinct motives - for instance, the influencer is motivated by ecological concerns, whereas the vendor is worried about convenience. The researchers go on to advocate a marketing segmentation-type approach to promoting recycling, with a different message for each of the roles.

In conclusion, a review of the research emphasises the need to bear in mind the following points when promoting conscientious waste disposal

  • research your target audience, to understand their views, motives, perceptions and barriers with relation to the behaviour you are promoting
  • ensure that the desired behaviour is as convenient and interference- free as possible
  • ensure information and instructions are accessible, clear and unambiguous
  • foster a sense that the behaviour is the norm by role modelling, emphasising the social imperative and reporting successes, increases in behaviour, and environmental outcomes


You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it:

Awake provides psychology-based tools and services which support organisations and communities to develop a culture of sustainability.  Visit for more info

Climate Change: Theology for Easter

Article by Mitch Hescox

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Talking about the 'carbon tax'

What’s in a name? The term 'carbon tax' has really caught on, but this is a triumph for those who oppose the legislation to be implemented in July. 
How about the proper term, 'Clean Energy Future' legislation, or at least 'price on pollution'? 'Carbon tax' is misleading. The price on pollution being imposed is not a tax, nor is it the only aspect of the legislation. Other aspects include energy efficiency standards, public investment in renewable energy, a biodiversity fund and compensation for households.
For sanity to prevail, ordinary people like you and me, need to be correcting misperceptions and letting people hear that there are those of us who agree with what’s happening. Let’s not be excessively conflict-avoidant. While being respectful of various views, it is possible to positively influence people. If people only hear others being critical, where would that lead us? Read more.

Source: Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC) March e-Newsletter

Monday, March 19, 2012

Update Australia’s dietary guidelines to consider sustainability


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Rick Chromey on why the church has to go out into the world (eg. Through environmental work)

"The church was meant to be missional. Like a mighty ship, the bride of Christ wasn't created for the harbour, but the open water...Somehow we've convinced ourselves that if we provide a safe, comfortable, and even entertaining place for people to come, they will.
But they're not coming. In fact, they're leaving. The fastest growing segment in Christianity is the "formerley churched" - individuals who have grown tired of a faith framed by buildings, schedules, and programs. In a 24/7/365 world, people won't settle for a 2/1/52 faith. The churches that figure out how to sling this stone [going out into the world like David against Goliath] into its community and culture will knock down false perceptions and priorities."

Rick Chromey in Energising Children's Ministry

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Awake Article: Being A Sustainability Leader

Is a sustainability leader any different to a normal leader? It is a question which arises occasionally in forums and debates about creating the sustainable organisations of the future.

Various commentators have attempted to describe the attributes that a sustainability leader requires in order to be successful. Nicolas Ceasar writes that they need to excel at mindfulness, advocacy (arguing for sustainability in a savvy way), holding discomfort (hanging in there) and femininity (being collaborative rather than combative).  Expanding on the gender theme, Tania Ellis describes how “softer, collaborative and intuitive behaviours” are becoming important in the new world of business.

In order to develop and nurture these characteristics, according to Mary Gorham, we need to get clear on what matters to us, understand what is driving our mindset, and undertake personal disciplines which help us to stay on course.

Reading these viewpoints, a certain pattern emerges - sustainability leadership requires a level of emotional and spiritual intelligence which allows us to operate with deep integrity, courage and vision. Indeed, a 2000 study into the values of the leaders of 73 environmental organisations found that they were more ecocentric, open to change, and “self-transcendent” than managers of other organisations.

Equipped with these feminine, courageous and mindful characteristics, sustainability leaders must then go forth and use them to create change in their organisations. So, what do they do?

A few studies have looked at the key leadership behaviours which encourage sustainability. Research in UK organisations found that the top two facilitators for effective environmental practices were “managers' support and openness to pro-environmental practices” and “senior management commitment”. Conversely, the biggest barrier was “lack of management commitment and/or support”, while the third biggest barrier was “unclear leadership strategy and goals towards environmental issues”.

The importance of the combination of clear strategies and aligned behaviours was echoed in the findings of aUS study in 2002, which found that employees were more likely to try an eco-initiative if the organisation had a clear, written environmental policy, and if they felt like they had the support of their supervisor.  The behaviours which had the most impact were a “participative environmental management style, including use of a democratic, non-hierarchical approach to encouraging communication from employees”.

So it is clear that the way in which leaders operate has a large effect on the extent to which a culture of sustainability gets embedded in the organisation. Recent analysis of data from Awake’s Sustainability Culture Indicator (SCI) tool shows a strong relationship between leadership behaviours and employee connection to the organisations sustainability vision. This suggests that people take the sustainability commitments more seriously if they perceive that leaders are walking the talk.

In summary, it does appear that fostering a sustainable organisation requires something a little different of leaders. This is probably true of any organisational change toward being less traditional and more visionary and transformational. Furthermore, these can be divided into what the leader needs to do, and how he/she needs to “be” in order to do those things.


What a sustainability leader needs to doHow a sustainability leader needs to be
  Create a clear sustainability commitment  Direct and inspirational
  Demonstrate the behaviours and walk the walk  Self-transcendent and honest
  Encourage and support sustainability initiatives  Collaborative and participative
  Keep going when the going gets tough  Resilient and courageous
Leadership Self-Assessment

The article above outlines some of the behaviours of effective sustainability leaders. If you are a sustainability leader (note. leadership does not have to be a formal role), then you may find the following questions helpful to see if and where there is room for improvement.

Rate yourself on the following items from 1 (low) to 5 (high)

  1. The extent to which I have clearly communicated the commitment to sustainability for our group/team/organisation
  2. The degree to which I walk the talk, demonstrating the behaviours which I expect of others
  3. The extent to which I act collaboratively, supporting and encouraging others and sharing responsibility for sustainability
  4. My resilience and optimism when faced with challenges to sustainability goals and intentions
If you scored 15-20 in total, well done, you are likely to be operating effectively as a sustainability leader.

A score of 10-15 means you have a few things to brush up on - take the behaviours you scored low on and make a plan to improve them.

Below 10 probably means you need to have a close look at the way you are operating - perhaps consider some leadership development training or coaching.


You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it:

Awake provides psychology-based tools and services which support organisations and communities to develop a culture of sustainability.  Visit for more info

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Some interesting reading

Teaching Natural Theology as Climate Change Drowns a Way of Life
Enough is Enough by Walter Brueggemann
Politics, the environment and the greening of faith
Caring for Creation: Faith Groups Have a Role in Environmental Causes
Making Headlines: Finding Consensus on Climate Change Through Religion

Friday, February 3, 2012

Exciting opportunity for Victorian churches looking for some funding for environmental work

The Bank of Melbourne's "The Local Project" is offering grants of $10,000 for community projects in  5 categories (environment, education, community, culture and recreation). Entries will be shortlisted then voted for on Facebook by the local community.

For more information see:

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Lessons From The World Of Advertising

"In terms of the sustainability challenges we are facing, some would argue that the advertising industry has played a big part in getting us into this mess, through it’s role in promoting materialism and ego-driven consumption. (Clive Hamilton is a particularly strong advocate of this position).

A vigorous debate on this issue was sparked by an article published by WWF in the UK.Common Cause took the position that we need to be influencing what people value, and promoting more long-term, socially responsible thinking, rather than using the same techniques as marketers to “sell” sustainability to people.

Regardless of whether you think it is the problem, or part of the solution, advertising wields a powerful influence on our behaviour. There are, therefore, some useful lessons which we can take from the advertising industry and apply to our efforts to promote sustainability as a way of life. Here are a few of those tactics.

Building Trust
Advertisers place a lot of emphasis on building a trusted brand. As discussed in the April 2010 edition of Wake-Up Call, trust is a combination of belief that the advertiser can deliver, that they have our best interests at heart, and that they adhere to a set of principles we consider ethical. You will see many advertisers trying to squeeze all those elements into a 30 second commercial.

Those trying to spread the message of climate change have a problem with trust, as a report by the American Psychological Association discusses. The report highlights evidence that many people mistrust the messages of scientists and governments, and that “behavior change requires that one trusts others not to take advantage and that the change is effective, valuable, and equitable (p 126)”. Sustainability advocates would therefore be wise to ensure that these principles of trust are demonstrated in any communication designed to influence the audience’s attitudes and behaviour.

Speaking To Our Values
One of the keys to promoting a product or behaviour is to demonstrate how it will satisfy the values of the audience. Is family your priority? This car will keep them safe. Convenience? This fast food place will ensure “dinner is sorted”.

The key to appealing to values in your communication is to identify what your audience really cares about. This can be done through some initial research if possible. If not, you may need to use common sense. If you can show how something will save or make money, you will get people’s attention. Otherwise, a sense of family is among the most common core values held by the majority of people. If you can demonstrate how your offering will make a family safer or better looked after now or in the future, people will listen. See this Victorian Worksafe advertisement for an example of the family value being used to get across the safety message.

Using Social Norms
The effect of social norms relates to our desire to do what others are doing. In an effort to appear normal or up with the play, we are surprisingly strongly influenced by what we perceive to be the way in which others are acting.

There is growing body of evidence supporting the strength of social norms, including this study which showed that householders were more influenced by a flyer which demonstrated others were saving energy, than by one which showed how they could save money, the environment or benefit society by reducing their energy consumption. Interesting, this and other studies found that people rarely recognise their behaviour was influenced by what others are doing, even though the research clearly shows that this was the key factor.

Promoting products and behaviours using social norms is a matter of embedding messages and images to imply that the audience has the opportunity to be part of a growing trend, or simply that they would be conforming and more normal, if they were to follow your advice. “Green is the new black” is a common catch-cry designed to invoke the power of social norms.

Creating Cognitive Dissonance
One of the central principles of change is that we need to feel some dissatisfaction with our current state in order to change. If everything is OK now, there is no need to change. So the job of advertisers, and other change agents, is to convince us that some need, or value, is not being met.

Such a communication involves a number of elements. Firstly, it needs to get our attention and get us to care, preferably by tapping into our values (see above). Then it needs to somehow show that thing we value is at risk, or can be achieved better. The state of feeling a gap between what you value, and what you are doing or experiencing, is know as “cognitive dissonance” and is a powerful motivator for change. Finally, the communication needs to show that your offering will reduce this risk, or more fully satisfy this need. This simple Youtube ad for a swine flu remedy demonstrates all these elements.

Using the principle of cognitive dissonance to influence people demands that all three of these elements need to be present. If you show something at risk that is not valued by the audience, they are less likely to be alarmed and compelled to act. If you tap into their values, but they feel those values are being satisfied already, they will not be seeking a solution. And finally, if you create the need, but don’t offer a realistic solution, you have missed an opportunity to engage people in change."


You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it:

Awake provides psychology-based tools and services which support organisations and communities to develop a culture of sustainability.  Visit for more info

Starving Baby Endangered Cockatoos

The price of logging and the Margaret River bushfires as starving cockatoos move to Perth city. 

To help, sign the petition here:

Friday, January 20, 2012

Stop the Environment vs Economy Nonsense… or ‘risk becoming irrelevant’, Leading Investor Says

I totally agree. Stop oversimplifying things people - if it's an either or then you aren't looking hard enough for option c.

Top environment stories of 2011


News: Fiji has two more rat-free islands


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Rant: Can we move on please?

So today I decided to entertain myself by dropping into a Christian bookshop (an expensive mistake). So I'm wandering around looking for something interesting (I used to love everything in a Christian bookshop, but after studying some theology at university I suppose my standards have changed. Does anyone else feel like they've just walked into a giant self-help bookstore in most Christian shops these days? I don't really need theology-lite thanks. Plus I can't even look at most of the non-book products in there because of some of the fights I know the majors have had in the past over the idea of switching to Fairtrade and ethical products... in a Christian store! But anyway.... I'm getting off topic), when I spy a section titled 'Science'. Now being me (I have an undergrad in Science and I love Eco-theology), that makes my heart start beating faster and I dash over to see what is on offer.

Hmmm, ok, well I can get 'Discrediting Darwin' or 'Creation vs Evolution' or 'Science vs Religion' or 'Why Darwin was wrong' or 'Christian Science' etc etc. you get the gist. There is not a single book in the whole section that does not talk about something to do with the Creationism vs Evolution debate or how evil Darwin is. Now, as important as the thinking around reconciling modern science with religious tradition is, and I think it is very important, this frustrates me immensely for a range of reasons:

Firstly, just because Darwin is famous for the initial ideas around the theories of natural selection and evolution   (and he was not even the very first to publish these, he just expressed it better in the Origin of Species) doesn't mean it is fair to turn him into some kind of Antichrist. Even if you completely disagree with Darwin's theories, demonizing him is unproductive, unfair and unchristian. Keep in mind that this is someone who had thought about joining the clergy. I doubt he was setting out to 'kill God' or 'destroy religion' (and he hasn't, has he?), and even if he was, he is still made in the image of God and deserves our respect.

Secondly, the moment you frame the debate as 'Science vs Religion' you have already restricted yourself to one of two predetermined answers to the discussion and have ignored any possibly of a fruitful dialogue between the two. You can blindly choose Science and toss faith out the window or you can blindly believe religion and toss out every scientific discovery ever made. And really, are you going to do that? No medicine, no iPhone, no wastewater treatment or water purification? Clearly accepting the findings of science (note I'm not saying 'believing' in science because it is not a question of belief. Belief relates to value systems like religion, not observational and experimental methodologies like science. Scientists may hold belief systems that lie behind the work they do, but these are separate from the science and may well be Christian. Perhaps a familiar metaphor is text vs interpretation. We all know a single verse of the Bible can be interpreted many ways. In the same way, scientific results are just data, how you interpret them can differ) doesn't have to threaten our faith, and putting our heads in the sand as Christians is not the answer. I could go on for a long time about the very interesting discussions going on about how faith can learn from science and vice-versa, but I have covered that in other places and I don't think it would be beneficial. I will just say that please, can we not make it 'Science vs Religion', but rather 'finding partnerships between Science and Religion'?

And finally, I find this obsession with a single debate disappointing because as someone with a deep interest in Eco-theology and Creation Care I am aware that it is stealing all the attention away from so many other interesting discussions about the environment, ecology, and what we can learn from science. One of the books I bought today agrees with me, saying:
"The Christian doctrine of creation has too often been highjacked by controversies of creationism, deistic tendencies and a concentration on Genesis 1 to the detriment of the richness of other biblical passages on creation. As a result the discussion of science and religion in the popular arena features Richard Dawkins attacking six-day creationism and the design argument for the existence of God, while many Christians see God the Creator simply as the one who lights the blue touch paper of the Big Bang. Deism, the tendency to see God interacting with the universe only at its very beginning and then going off to watch it from a distance, has been allowed to flourish by separating the doctrine of creation from its foundational scriptures....
Recapturing a Christian doctrine of creation from Scripture allows us to move beyond the controversies of creationism and encounter a fruitful dialogue with science. Perhaps more importantly it also leads to an emphasis that the most important insight into creation is the Creator God who is to [be] worshipped, enjoyed and trusted." David Wilkinson in Darwin, Creation and the Fall: Theological Challenges, Edited by R.J. Berry and T.A. Noble, Apollos (an imprint of Inter-Varsity Press), Nottingham, 2009.

There are hundreds of books and thousands of words said on this deliberately divisive and falsely dichotomous topic already. Now can we please move on to the many more interesting aspects of creation, science and religion and their connections and positive interplay?

PS. On a more positive note, I found some really great serious Eco-theology books today, and some guides for living a greener life as a Christian and even an ecclesiology book with a section on the Church and Ecology. This is a great sign for the church greening movement worldwide and in Australia and makes me really happy. A few years ago I would have been lucky to find a single book on these topics in a Christian bookstore in Australia.

News - Great Barrier Grief: Gladstone fish kill spreads upriver


Monday, January 2, 2012

Some thoughts on getting (young) people into church

"In the Acts of the Apostles the disciples were bowled over by Jesus, and a lot of extraordinary things happened as a consequence. Yet the dim-witted (or mendacious) among us trawl those same accounts for techniques, asking what programs might foster more conversions, more missionary energy, more Church growth. But, by so doing, they miss the nub of it - which is faith, hope and love.
... I firmly believe that this is a moment for theological and spiritual imagination, for penitence and faith, and for simple, unadulterated joy in God and the gospel. If we have these, which means that we have a lively relationship with the God of Jesus Christ who gathers and illumines us by the Spirit of God, then we have everything we need. The rest will come."

Revd Dr Scott Cowdell in his book 'God's Next Big Thing: Discovering the Future Church', John Garratt Publishing, Mulgrave, 2004. pp. 2-3

This quote nicely expresses why, as a young person (I'm 24), I often get frustrated with church people telling me that if they just had more modern music (more guitars, switching from hymn books to Hillsong or ditching the oldies' favourite traditional hymns), or a bigger youth focused ministry (by which they mean a really enthusiastic youth leader and a bunch of activities) then their church wouldn't be dying and they would get more young people in. They tried all that with their "seeker friendly services" in the US and other places. To me they are missing the point. Young people aren't stupid. Yes, it's nice to have a present wrapped in fancy paper (things like nice modern music), but if what is inside isn't a very nice present then who cares how it is wrapped? Young people are still people. What we really want is a loving community to be a part of, and one that feels like it is going somewhere. That's one of the big advantages of social and environmental justice work in churches. If your church is dedicated to doing something valuable and contextual in your community then it gives young people something worth being involved in. What we don't want (or at least not for long), is to just show up, sing some songs and listen to someone prattle then go home. We want the preaching to be meaningful, and the songs and service to be linked to additional worship of God in our lives and in practical service, and we want the sense of community. We want to feel embraced and important. Yet there is a big caveat here. Don't make us important just because we are young. Get to know us and care about us for who we are. There is nothing that turns me off more than walking into a church and having people crowd around excitedly just because I'm young and then five minutes later start asking me if I'll lead a youth group or something (believe me, it happens). I want to be involved, but I'd like the chance to volunteer thanks. 

So if you want your church to get more people (including the young), don't look at how your service is presented (or not more than to ask if it is so out of date or unorganised it might be scaring people off), do the hard work of looking at your community and seeing if they are loving, caring people who live out their faith and commitment to Jesus every day, who aren't judgmental or hypocritical and who work together as your church community to do something truly worthwhile. Like Scott says, it's about Faith, Hope and Love. And if you have all that the rest will come. 

I probably don't speak for all young people, but that's the way I see it. 

Important Lessons from the Bible

Why Jesus came:
"that the world might be saved through him"
John 3:17

Who Jesus is going to use to save the world:
"For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God."
Romans 8:19

Our role on earth:
"The LORD God put the man in the Garden of Eden to take care of it and to look after it."
Genesis 2:15

The Five Pillars of A Christian Theology of Sustainability

1. God is the creator, sustainer and redeemer of creation.

2. Covenantal Stewardship (we have a covenant with God as stewards of the earth).

3. The creation-fall-redemption paradigm (God made a good world; human failure broke the relationships between god, man and creation; Christ provides hope for all creation).

4.Bodily resurrection(we will rise with bodies, not as spirits)

5.New Creation (a new Heaven and new Earth refers to a renewal and an earthing of heaven, not starting over).

Adapted from When Enough is Enough: A Christian Framework for Environmental Sustainability, Edited by R.J. Berry, Published by Inter-Varsity Press, 2007, Nottingham p43+