Original Research - Special Collection: Theology and Nature

‘Ecological justice’: Towards an integrative concept of the protection of creation

Traugott Jähnichen
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 78, No 2 | a7738 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v78i2.7738 | © 2022 Traugott Jähnichen | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 12 May 2022 | Published: 23 August 2022

About the author(s)

Traugott Jähnichen, Department of Social Ethics, Faculty of Protestant Theology, Ruhr-University Bochum, Bochum, Germany; Department of Systematic and Historical Theology, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


This article submits a proposal to replace the term sustainability with the term ‘ecological justice’. This novel expression adds to the term Anthropocene, which largely ignores the significant differences from the perspective of justice concerning which human cultures have profoundly reshaped the Earth. Ecological justice refers to the fact that the Earth is the habitat not only of human beings but also of a multitude of other life forms and includes the rights of nonhuman creatures. Over and above this, the term ecological justice speaks to the rights of marginalised people who suffer because of the destruction of natural resources without having significantly contributed to their misuse. In this sense, a new orientation toward the integrity of creation is necessary to overcome the one-sided technicist and economically determined attitude that has become so typical of modern thinking in the Global North. Churches are challenged to develop an integrative concept of ecological justice from the perspective of the biblical tradition, including recent initiatives such as the ‘Wuppertal Call’.

Contribution: To overcome generalising and anthropocentric perspectives, the proposal of this article argues for the preferred term, ‘ecological justice’. This term is inclusive to nonhuman communities in nature, taking into account the effects of environmental destruction on marginalised people. The challenge should be to develop an integrative and unifying concept of ecological justice. The following contribution addresses the question of semantics concerning the key concepts underpinning ecological challenges.


justice; sustainability; anthropocentrism; Anthropocene; integrity of creation; ecology


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