7. Jason John: identity protective cognition, existential risks, election analysis, Adani update, islander rights

Rev Dr Jason John is a eco-theologian working for Uniting Earth. With a background studying zoology, environment and theology, Jason's PhD explored the interconnections between evolution, ecology, environmentalism and faith. He has been a university chaplain, an environmental officer, a researcher and a congregational minister. He has started a couple of ecofaith outdoor worship communities with the Uniting Church, has written three books, hosted a radio show that ran for over 100 episodes (Ecofaith on the Air), has a few talks on his YouTube channel and is an active part of Common Grace's Creation and Climate Justice team.

He lives with his family on the edge of a forest near Bellingen on the NSW north coast.


Episode Outline

I. What's the big idea?

Byron chats with Jason John about some of the tricks our brain plays on us when we get news we don't like, a phenomena psychologists call identity protective cognition. When we come across new information that threatens our sense of self or the narratives we use to orient ourselves in the world, we all have a defensive tendency or bias to somehow render that information toothless. Whether through ignoring it, reinterpreting it into a less threatening form or outright denying it, this identity protective cognition forms a series of patterns that appear whenever we stumble upon certain kinds of bad news.

When it comes to the climate crisis, there are multiple ways that our planetary diagnosis undermines some of the common basic assumptions we make about ourselves and our society. So our identity protective cognition gets to work making sure we find excuses not to take this diagnosis too seriously.

What can we do about this?


II. What's going on?

1. World Environment Day and existential climate risk

2. Of mice and misdirection: attributing responsibility in the recent election

  • Full text of Byron's commentary.NB The discussion briefly references dozens of stories, which can be made available upon request, but would excessively clutter these notes to include them all.

3. Adani Carmichael coal mine update

4. National Reconciliation Week and taking Australia to the UN Human Rights Commission


Poem: The 'C' Word


III. What do we do?

  1. Immediate and simple: Our Islands, Our Home - A petition for Torres Strait Islander justice case, discussed in the final story.
  2. Film recommendation: 2040. This new Australian documentary is currently sitting at 100% fresh on film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.
  3. More ambitious: Read Common Grace's series for National Reconciliation Week and commit to taking some of the suggested actions.



  • Host - Byron Smith
  • Producer - Simon Bunstead
  • Sound - Byron Smith
  • Music - Francis Preve
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