Attitudes of green organizations' personnel toward genuine sustainable development

Camillo Allevato

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Layman's summary:
This thesis dissertation concerns the identification of the main factors that influence attitudes towards genuine sustainable development, in order to identify strategies that will be more effective in education for quality sustainable development. In the pursuit of genuine sustainability, findings of this research indicate that our attitude needs to change from “we need natural resources, let’s take care of nature” to “forget about our wants and needs, let’s take care of nature”, because nature is an asset, not a resource. Sustainability, first and foremost, as it concerns this study, is a transdisciplinary effort that involves genuine appreciation and respect for the natural world, different from the status quo definition that emphasizes explicitly the preservation of humankind. Sustainable development implies a worldview in transition from human-centric to nature-centric, where nature is appreciated for its intrinsic value and humans are a part of nature and not apart from nature.
This study is characterized as exploratory in nature with a small sample of the student body of Woodbury University and a small sample of green organization professionals in Southern California. Mixed research methods involving qualitative and quantitative data as well as different statistical methods were employed revealing interesting findings such as lack of appreciation for nature, pro-environmental concern depends on worldview, exposure to nature during childhood as well as in adulthood leads to pro-environmental behavior.
Findings from University students seems to indicate that major is a factor on attitudes towards sustainability. Business students appear to have less intrinsic appreciation for nature and display human exemptionalism while, liberal arts students indicated an understanding of nature’s interconnectedness and perceived humans as a part of nature. Personnel of green organizations involved in sustainability presented similar anthropocentric views as business students, suggesting that transformative learning strategies may be applied in higher education to promote genuine attitudes towards sustainability.
In this context, strategies to enhance nature appreciation through education and develop genuine sustainability are suggested, such as the inclusion of non-career oriented classes from liberal arts in the traditional business school curriculum; Paulo Freire’s methodology combining learning communities with eco-pedagogy based on World Citizenship specifically for higher education; aspects of the Finnish communal education system; and reflective experiential learning opportunities of different cultures such as indigenous knowledge and worldview of the natural world. Educators and decision makers in regards to sustainability should consider a new dimension named here “systems thinking” to include spirituality, instill awareness of the intrinsic value of nature and the association of interconnectedness with the natural world. The fact that everything is interconnected cannot be denied and suggests that everything has its intrinsic value.
From my perspective, nature should not be regarded as a resource, but rather an asset, and until we as a global society value the natural world, sustainability will remain a utopian concept. I hope that, for the sake of the future of humanity and the natural world, this project will suggest the essentials of an education for genuine sustainability.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
  • Rijsman, John, Promotor
  • Marques, J.F., Promotor
  • Dhiman, S.K., Promotor
  • Evans, G.W., Member PhD commission, External person
  • Bloem, J.G., Member PhD commission
  • Van Beirendonck, L.C., Member PhD commission
  • Wittockx, H.F.M., Member PhD commission
Award date21 Apr 2017
Place of PublicationS.l.
Print ISBNs978-94-6167-310-7
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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