Pathways to Environmental Responsibility

A Qualitative Exploration of the Spiritual Dimension of Nature Experience


  • Annick Hedlund-de Witt VU University, Amsterdam



nature experience, spirituality, environmental responsibility, worldviews, sustainable development, transformation


This study aims to generate understanding into the spiritual dimension of nature experience and its relationship to environmental responsibility, as reported in interviews with nature-lovers/environmentalists and spiritual practitioners in Victoria, Canada. As the interviews demonstrate, seeing nature as imbued with meaning, intrinsic value, and/or the sacred seems to engender an increased sense of environmental responsibility. Simultaneously, a natural, evolutionary, this-worldly spirituality tends to lead to a ‘kinship with all life’ ethics. The spiritual nature experience was characterized by three key themes labeled presence, interconnectedness, and selfexpansion. Many participants explained that these experiences informed their worldviews, senses of environmental responsibility, and sometimes career choices. The research thereby illuminates three pathways to a sense of environmental responsibility: profound encounters with nature, contemporary spirituality, and their convergence in spiritual nature experiences. Moreover, the results give an insider’s perspective into the worldview of contemporary nature spirituality, which is claimed to be of increasing importance for sustainable development.

Author Biography

Annick Hedlund-de Witt, VU University, Amsterdam

Annick Hedlund-de Witt is currently completing her doctoral research at the Institute for Environmental Studies (department Environmental Policy Analysis) at VU University, Amsterdam. She is also a post-doctoral fellow at the Center for Biotechnology and Society, Delft University of Technology. Her research examines the relationship between worldviews and goals and issues of sustainable development, including environmental behaviors and political preferences, social-cultural change, and environmental policy-making.


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How to Cite

Hedlund-de Witt, A. (2013). Pathways to Environmental Responsibility: A Qualitative Exploration of the Spiritual Dimension of Nature Experience. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 7(2), 154–186.