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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The emergence of sustainability : culture shift and the transformation of worldviews through social learning Gonzalez, Julian Matias


There is an abundant literature describing the sustainability problems our planet is facing, ranging from the loss of biodiversity and ecosystems that are necessary to support healthy communities to the everexpanding population, social inequality and worldwide increase of poverty. Many of the existing sustainability initiatives attempt to address these issues by creating new technologies, increasing efficiency, and modifying systems of governance. While many of these approaches are promising, their success fundamentally depends on their acceptance by society. I argue that this aspect is frequently overlooked and more attention should be paid to the human dimensions of sustainability development. The approach presented in this thesis uses a more comprehensive approach and highlights the importance that consciousness, culture, and values play in shaping our views of reality and therefore our understanding of sustainability. I explore the all-quadrant, all-level approach of integral theory (Wilber, 1996b) as an overarching framework to discuss these ideas. The all-quadrants concept of internal and external, individual and collective realities is used to outline the multiple dimensions of sustainability. I apply the all-levels concept of human development to explain the multitude of conceptions, behaviours and attitudes that individual mindsets and collective worldviews have towards sustainability. One of the main challenges for sustainability is overcoming the values crisis in modern society and it is argued that in order to achieve this, a cultural shift is required if we hope to address today's pressing socio-ecological problems. To this effect a framework of social learning has been developed based on the synthesis of the literature that serves to guide this cultural shift. To illustrate the potential of this framework a case study was conducted in a natural resource conservation and forestry course at the University of British Columbia. The results are encouraging and demonstrate the potential of social learning for shifting individual mindsets towards ones that are more inclined towards cultivating sustainable livelihoods.

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