Sustainability Mindset: Practical Implications of an Existential Analysis of Freedom, Flourishing, and Ecological Interdependence Open Access

Woodman, Betty J. (2012)

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The vibrant field of sustainability is as much about potentiality as it is about repair and restoration of human culture and the natural world. This project examines conditions promoting social and environmental flourishing, including sustainable forms of creative power versus power relations of domination or conformity. It particularly considers the systemic effects of collective mindset, or paradigm, which threaten to erode the goods derived from innovative research and technology. Values, along with power relations associated with hierarchies of masculinities and femininities, affect organizational dynamics and decision-making processes. While multidisciplinary research links social values and gender with domination and environmental degradation, these findings have not yet overcome blindness of connections between gender culture and sustainability.

I propose two innovative applications of existential analysis to illuminate these connections: a research method and an educational approach. Drawing upon fields ranging from deep ecology and existentialist philosophy to critical race and gender theory, I adapt existential analysis to investigate the influence of power relations on decision-making processes and environmental outcomes. The pleasurable, life-affirming eroticism of the new model of sustainability ethics developed here promises to motivate system transformation. The erotic self approaches the blindness of bad faith, illuminates the significance of connections between gender and race, and offers an innovative approach to education and sustainable leadership development.

Over the course of this research project, I developed college courses and high school workshops based upon this adapted form of existential analysis. I further apply existential analysis for sustainable leadership development and consider the solidarity-building potential of the environmental justice movement. These programs intend to cultivate sustainability professionals who are savvy about the dynamics and effects of power relations. The project breaks new practical ground, offering for the first time an application of existential analysis for educational praxis. Through two new applications of existential analysis, I develop a model of sustainability ethics, an erotic conception of self with the power to motivate transformation, and practical approaches to promote awareness of connections between gender culture and sustainability. These findings contribute to the fields of sustainability ethics and decision-making, leadership studies, bullying programs, peace studies, and sustainability education.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Chapter One: Introduction... 1
Chapter Two: Review of Literature...19
Chapter Three: Theoretical Foundations...57
Chapter Four: Existential Sustainability Analysis...102
Chapter Five: Systems View...167
Chapter Six: Practical Engagements...204
Chapter Seven: Conclusions...245

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