Sustainability and Our Cultural Myths

David Chapman

Abstract


This paper begins by weighing the term sustainability and considering its meaning in “common culture” terms as people outside the academy might understand it. The first implication is that none of our current behaviour meets the simplest criteria of sustainability. The question “why?” is raised. In responding to this question I suggest that our social structure is founded on a number of myths. My view is that these myths provide a useful explanation for the false consciousness in which western culture appears to be lost. I conclude that educational efforts that do not confront the system of myths work against the environment by tacitly supporting the mechanisms and structures that are the causes of environmental problems. I suggest that the U.N. decade for sustainability must be made to work despite critique of the term sustainability. In closing I suggest that confronting the myths addresses only one aspect of a concert of forces that constrain education on behalf of the environment and elaborate some suggestions for new thinking.

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