Fostering a culture of sustainability
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Fostering a Culture of Sustainability. Presented To: Saskatchewan Regional Centre of Expertise UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development. Douglas Worts and Glenn Sutter WorldViews Consulting October, 2007. Workshop Outline. identify pressing issues

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Fostering a Culture of Sustainability

Presented To:

Saskatchewan Regional Centre of Expertise

UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development

Douglas Worts and Glenn Sutter

WorldViews Consulting

October, 2007

Workshop Outline

  • identify pressing issues

  • clarify the role of culture in our lives

  • discuss how our culture adapts

  • identify our current cultural needs

  • choosing pathways to our future

  • assessing if we are on a sustainable path

What are the most pressing issues we face globally?

What are the most pressing issues we face locally?

What are the most pressing issues that you are facing personally?


(and unsustainability)

is a cultural matter

Rooted in:

  • Our values

  • Our behaviours

  • Our attitudes

  • Our priorities

  • Our systems

But what do we mean by ‘culture’?


“a basic pattern of assumptions invented, discovered or developed by a given group as it learns to cope with its problems of external adaptation and internal integration”

Edgar Shein

A Definition of Culture

….the sum total of all values, collective memory, history, beliefs, mythology, rituals, symbolic objects and built heritage which reflect the manner in which a people relate to both those aspects of life which:

a) they can know and control; as well as,

b) those they cannot fully understand or control, but to which they need to have a conscious relationship.

Culture isRelationships

The Unknown


Global humanity







<--Present -->

How is our culture lived and perpetuated?:

  • Individually

  • & - Collectively

Consciously & Unconsciously

Sustainability and Adaptation

Personal Level, e.g:

  • - changes in personal relationships

  • changes in career

  • moving from country to city (or vice-versa)

Collective Level, e.g:

- migration => monocultures become pluralistic

=> urbanization


Experiments, Creativity & Surprises


Stronger Connections & Increasing Potential for Change


High Levels of Complexity Rigidity, & Resilience


A Rapid Collapse

The Adaptive Renewal Cycle

Holling (2004)




Two Traps




Holling (2004)


Maintaining the capacity for adaptation.

Partly due to resilience, a property that varies through the adaptive renewal cycle.

“…the amount of disturbance that can be sustained before a change in system control and structure occurs.”

Cross-scale Interactions

Cycles of Different Sizes form a “Panarchy”

How does culture respond and contribute to adaptive renewal cycles?

Cultural Needs of Civil Society

  • Personal:

  • Empowerment

  • Empathy and Sympathy

  • Connection to place,

    people, the past, the future

  • Safety

  • Personal meaning

  • Spiritual connection

  • Creativity

  • Stewardship

  • Consciousness of relationships to people and nature

  • etc.

  • Collective:

  • Rights

  • Responsibilities

  • Justice (social, economic)

  • Stewardship

  • Participatory democracy

  • etc.

Describe how you have experienced these needs (or others)

in adapting to global, local and personal issues.



How do we want to live?

How will we get to Preferred Future?


You can’t live without it!




Culture of Sustainability

Probable vs. Preferred Future

Critical Assessment Framework

Criteria for assessing initiatives aimed at 3 levels of cultural adaptation:

  • Individual

  • Community

  • Global

    Working Group on Museums

    and Sustainable Communities

Individual Level

  • Encourages personal reflection

  • Captures imagination, stimulates curiosity

  • Affirms, challenges, deepens identity

  • Enhances ability to think critically & creatively

  • Provides opportunity to examine & clarify values

  • Helps deal with complexity and uncertainty

  • Increases responsible action

Working Group on Museums

and Sustainable Communities

Community Level

  • Addresses vital & relevant needs/issues

  • Engages a diverse public

  • Encourages social interactions and debate

  • Links existing community groups to one another

Working Group on Museums

and Sustainable Communities

Global Level

  • consciousness of global impacts of local choices

  • foster global ecosystem health

  • reduce global ecological footprint

  • enhance global social justice and equity

Working Group on Museums

and Sustainable Communities

Getting the right indicators

“Development divorced from its human or cultural context is growth without a soul.”

‘Our Creative Diversity’, UNESCO, 1995

Where is our culture headed?


Glenn Sutter

Regina, SK

<[email protected]>

Douglas Worts

Toronto, ON

<[email protected]>

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