Conference — Cultural sustainability: theories, policies, practices

May 4, 2015


May 5-7, 2015: Cultural sustainability: theories, policies, practices

  • Is culture the fourth pillar of sustainability, alongside the ecological, economic and social aspects?
  • How does culture act as a catalyst for ecological sustainability, human well-being and economic viability?
  • What would our futures look like if sustainability was embedded in the multiple dimensions of culture, including different worldviews and values, ways of life, and other forms of cultural expression?

A cultural transition that embeds sustainability in the cultural understandings and daily practices of society has the power to shift humanity’s currently unsustainable trajectory. Culture already plays many roles in (un)sustainability but the scientific, policy-making and societal spheres lack understanding of the essence of culture and how it influences sustainability.


Paper presentation: Framing culture(s) in sustainable development: breaking the boundaries



Tobias Luthe, Michael von Kutzschenbach


Sustainability is an inflationary used term that has been more and more diffusing into public awareness. Globalization, population growth, environmental and social catastrophes, cultural inequalities, mobility patterns, growing demand for energy, and limited natural resources in an ever increasingly fast moving and intercon- nected world bring the concept of sustainability to the forefront of daily discussions in the public press, in politics, in the corporate sector, and in education.

Despite of its importance and need, sustainability is a complex concept that is of- ten misunderstood and misused, and difficult to display. New efforts are needed to better communicate sustainability to the broader public to enable a wide soci- etal participation for the transition towards a sustainable society. In this paper we draw from the existing conceptualization and communication of sustainability in its widely accepted three pillar model, given its simplicity. The three pillar model has shortcomings, however, since it first equally weights the ecological with the economic and the social sphere, while it is widely accepted that the ecological fun- dament must be of higher relevance. Second, there are three further dimensions missing – the technological, the participative and the cultural. We thus propose a new model addressing both shortcomings, while maintaining a sufficient simplicity to make it widely usable. This new, simple but rich model in the shape of a build- ing may contribute to develop new mental models in the public understanding of sustainability.

Keywords: mental model, ecosystem services, cultural values 

Conference — Cultural sustainability.


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