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Elizabeth Lange

Transforming Working and Living: Adult Education for Sustainable Societies

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Transforming Working and Living: Adult Education for Sustainable Societies

Purpose and Summary of Study

What will it take to engage individuals and communities in significant changes that constitute a sustainable society? The primary purpose of this qualitative educational research study, carried out in Canada, was to determine the entry points and learning processes that are most effective in engaging middle class adults in actions that contribute to a sustainable society.

The three specific objectives of this study were:

1. empirically analyzing the cognitive and normative conditions within middle class consciousness and thus determining key entry points for bringing people into a learning process;

2. assessing the effectiveness of transformative action learning for understanding wholistic sustainability as well as catalyzing actions that transform living and working, and

3. critiquing existing theoretical concepts of transformative learning.

In particular, a transformative learning process was designed to catalyze new forms of working and living based on an ecological rather than an industrial model. This paper summarizes the conceptual framework, design of the learning process and research study, the key findings and primary conclusions. It closes with a discussion of values regarding what is most important to consider for learning our way into sustainable societies.

Briefly, the study concludes that adults become interested in the concept of sustainability and transforming their patterns of living and working when the learning process holds the promise of enabling them to return to their sense of life purpose, re-defining and raising their quality of life, and mobilizing their moral and ethical autonomy, particularly in the context of work. During this study, the participants began a transformative journey from what Fromm (1976) calls "the mode of having" including consuming and grasping, to "the mode of being" or relatedness, a mode that is part of an ecological way of being. The participants also began to restore organic connections to their time, space, body and human relations. It was concluded that both transformative and restorative learning are vital elements for integrating ecological principles into everyday living and working and hence, for creating sustainable societies.

Conceptual Framework: Theory and Method

Critical transformative learning theory guided this study. Transformation for purposes of this study was understood as "moving beyond the existing form" where change occurs at the radix or root of systems, not at the symptom-level. Transformative change is therefore considered a profound or deep-level change that involves both the socio-economic structures and cultural systems of a society as well as human consciousness. In other words, structural change does not precede or succeed changes in consciousness but they both need to proceed together. As Paulo Freire (1984) has explained, conscientization avoids subjective idealism (thinking we can change individual people’s hearts without changing the social structures that make those hearts "sick") as well as mechanical objectivism (denying the importance of changing individual hearts as part of social change). Rather it a dialectical union between consciousness and the world.

The general model for critical transformative learning, whether it has been implemented in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere, is to begin with the felt issues of a community. A community group is assisted in a problem-posing process where they begin to generate questions about their reality that can guide what they wish to investigate and change. The community gathers data to deepen their understandings, including carrying out a socio-economic analysis and a value assessment of their community issue. From this groundwork, the community can take collective action to change the problem they first identified. Most importantly, it is vital that this process be a collective not individual process of change. As outlined in more detail by Hall (1981), the general ‘phases’ are:

· Immersion into the Reality - intentional ‘seeing’ to name presenting issues and surface the assumptions and existent knowledge of participants,

· Problem-Posing - between the facilitator and participants where assumptions and existent knowledge are examined and critiqued through developing questions that relate individual and group knowledge to larger social realities,

· Social Analysis - to gather information that can be classified into themes and begin to generate the community’s own theories on how their reality works,

· Collective Education - to learn about and discuss alternative explanations of reality and other values that might offer new insights,

· Planning an Action - that the community, building from this social analysis, can take more effective action that will contribute to social transformation.

Two years of thematic investigation between 1996-1998 in the Edmonton area indicated a need to revise this process. The participants did not identify with any specific geographic community within a large urban area. The issues were not understood as community issues but as individually felt issues. Nevertheless, through interviews, it was clear that similar work issues were shared by all participants, irrespective of type of work or employer. Public and corporate sector cutbacks, organizational restructuring, information and technological overload, job tenuousness, forced learning and self-development for marketability, and ethical conflicts at the work site all contributed to feelings of being "exhausted, alienated, isolated, disconnected, pressured, depressed, stressed and angry." In sum, they felt they had "sacrificed their self, their relationships, and their personal and family well-being for work" and from this realization emerged a "longing for soul and getting back to basic values." The participants were searching for "balance."

From this thematic investigation, the course publicity reflected these themes areas highlighted by the participants. The first theme was to problematize the dominant training approach to work that seeks to commodify people for job opportunities. The second was to question the overall purpose of the work that they do daily and whether it contributes positively to the community and to a balanced life. The third was to consider their ethical frameworks and how this relates to the work they do. The fourth theme was to explore the ethical and ecological implications of a globalizing economy. Even though the participants were not aware of the shared basis of the issues around work, this became an important entry point for a collective investigation.

Previous teaching experiences also demonstrated that middle class people are not likely to change their habits through learning processes that generate wealth guilt, fear of global doom, calls for material sacrifice, or by what is perceived as institutional or corporate blaming. In contrast, this research began with the assumption that middle class people desire to act "for the good." As Charles Taylor has expressed, we come to one of the most basic aspirations of human beings, the need to be connected to, or in contact with, what they see as good, or of crucial importance, or of fundamental value…in order to make minimal sense of our lives, in order to have an identity, we need an orientation to the good (1989: 43,47).

Over and over, ordinary middle class people express their good intentions and desires regarding the serious social and ecological issues present in our society. They regularly expressed the conclusion that "something is deeply wrong" in our society. Yet, they listed many reasons why they felt they could not act or felt their actions were ineffectual. So this research sought to record the contradictions and constraints that middle class people experience that prevent their acting "for the good."

Similarly, previous teaching experience revealed that engaging too early in a socio-economic analysis creates paralysis and despair, not a momentum for change. Hence, from these observations and preliminary investigations, a new learning model was devised as follows:

· Weaving the Web - illustrating the connectivity between the personal, the global and the ecological,

· Formation of Hope - by site visits to individuals who had adopted alternative patterns of working and living,

· Cultural Analysis - surfacing a "text" of beliefs including a self-audit of money, time, life-energy, consumption and life purpose,

· Socio-economic Analysis - the impact of a global economy vis a vis a bio-regional economy,

· Redefinition and Recommitment - envisioning changed relationships to money, time, life-energy, consumption and life purpose,

· Action Planning - planning sequenced changes to living and working and negotiating these changes with loved ones or management/colleagues, and

· Celebration - a much forgotten human need that affirms community.

The relations between the learner and teachers are of vital importance in this process for they can prefigure the nature of a transformed society. Democratic relations, not expert or authoritarian relations, most effectively enable learners to be active rather than passive in the learning process. Democratic relations are fundamentally based on dialogue where many viewpoints are given expression and learners become conscious of the values and beliefs that guide or do not guide their daily actions. While the normative ideal of a sustainable society was a key concept in the course, each individual struggled on their own and in groups to understand this concept and what it meant for their living and working.

A wholistic definition of sustainability was the key learning pivot in the conceptual framework that guided this study. A review of the international development and sustainable development discourse underscored that the present political economic systems of capitalism, social and communism share the same conceptual roots that have created escalating environmental degradation, gender inequity and concentration of power. In particular, they share a preference for economistic and technological modelling, social engineering and other interventionist prescriptions as well as instrumentalist views of humans and natural systems. Even the notion of "development" says Wolfgang Sachs (1992), is a conceptual invention that relies on the myth that all social, cultural, economic, political and ecological elements in a society can be managed toward a utopian state. This has resulted in a tremendous loss of diversity through the standardization of desires, homogenization of architecture/clothing/daily objects of use, and a crippling of human creativity. Sachs and many other theorists (Mies & Shiva, 1993; Adams, 1993; Esteva, 1988; Trainer, 1989; Waring, 1989; and Bahro, 1994) call for a post-development imagination that challenges developmentalism and the industrial, growth-oriented culture that is consonant with it. This research was positioned within this post-development discourse.

The definition of sustainability was adapted from the Brundtland Report: ensuring that people’s activities and societal needs can be met without diminishing the capacity of the environment to provide for future generations. If human societies are to move beyond notions of "modern development" and "resource/economic man", then human/human and human/nature relationships require transformation. Vandana Shiva suggests a return to the ancient sacred understanding of resource as "re-source" that recognizes the regenerative capacity of the natural world and human reciprocity, best expressed through mutual aid and cooperation. As Paul Hawken (1993) has said, an enduring or sustainable society is one where everyday acts and livelihoods are ecologically restorative and socially just. Within a sustainable society, the ultimate purpose of business and work is not simply to make as much money as possible, but to increase the well-being of humankind through service and stewardship of the wealth we have been given. In sum, this wholistic approach to sustainability could illustrate and address the interrelationships between global poverty and injustice, environmental degradation, rapacious use of natural resources, and centralization of economic power. More importantly, a wholistic approach to sustainability could pose realistic possibilities for constructing a new worldview, transforming cultural patterns for living and working, fostering ecological literacy, redesigning commerce, regenerating land knowledge, redesigning human institutions, and encouraging bio-regional responsibility.

Design of the Learning Process

The research was carried out through the construction of a new university extension course self-selected by the general public. As described above, thematic investigation was carried out two years before course construction to derive thematic issues, understand the material conditions surrounding working and living, and locate relevant course materials. To summarize, the key issues that brought participants to register for the course were balance between work and home, spirituality, ethics, and a profound frustration and dissatisfaction with existing jobs. They either wanted to find a way to exist in their current work or they were on a longer term search for work that is fulfilling and had a positive community contribution. The concept of sustainability was broadened in a way that connected these personal issues to various aspects of sustainability. To combat individualist thinking that we are islands simply responsible for ourselves, the learning process slowly expanded their attention from personal sustainability to ecological sustainability and finally to community and global sustainability. The metaphoric use of a life web was used to illustrate this connectivity.

i. Personal Sustainability

The concept of personal sustainability assumes that most people consider the following attributes to provide a high quality of life - time for quality relationships, a comfortable income, feelings of competence and contribution, and healthy bodies. These attributes involve five personal spheres: work, relationship to money (particularly earnings, spending, debt and savings), relationship to consumption, expenditure of life energy and consequently time, and sense of life purpose or ‘place in the universe.’

Each participant carried out an audit of each sphere separately to understand their personal habits of living and what is expressed about their values. They examined the impact this area had on other areas of their life, such as the connection between spending and the time they needed to spend at work. The participants determined if these "relationships" were consistent with their sense of life purpose and yielded a high quality of life. By making these patterns conscious and highlighting the cultural norms in each area, possibilities for change then became evident. Similarly, by exploring the principles of sustainability, changes that could bring greater integrity and richness to each person’s life was identified.

ii. Ecological Sustainability

By linking the previous analyses of money and time with consumption, the larger connections to the global human community and ecological communities could be made. The linking concept was natural abundance. Basic ecological activities like photosynthesis and entropy are the primary activities that keep humans alive and are able to generate the primary products that human well-being requires. Human relationship with the Earth is not a static rock-like thing, but a breathing, constantly changing dance of life that requires an attitude of abundance rather than scarcity. The ecological impact of consumption was best examined through the notion of ecological footprinting to determine how much impact they have on the productive capacities of the earth. The other key notion was the adoption of voluntary simplicity as a way to decrease impact on the earth and enhance one’s ability to live with conscious intent or mindfulness of abundance. Reversing the cultural norm of material wealth and social adequacy to a new norm of material adequacy and social wealth (Kitagawa, 2000) enabled the shift to a different priority system that positively impacts environmental health and sense of fulfillment.

iii. Community and Global Sustainability

The sustainability web goes beyond linking individual consumption to ecological sustainability by linking global consumption to the global structure of production. By examining the changes the participants experienced in their workplaces as connected to the restructuring of work globally they began to understand the impact of the neo-liberal global economy on themselves and the exploitation of various social groups globally. This analysis then was linked to changes in technology, culture, money, and work and what this has meant to their daily lives and the resulting loss of community and bio-regional sustainability around the globe.

iv. Applying Sustainability Principles

The participants then studied various sustainability principles, including: shifting to a sun energy system, eliminating waste from production processes, restoring/conserving biological diversity, bio-mimicry technologies, labour as priority, bioregional economics, and sustainable social practices. Participants defined the meaning of work for themselves and how their working and living could incorporate sustainability principles. They considered what work needs to be done to assist their immediate locale in becoming a sustainable community. Most importantly, participants developed ethical judgements about their working and living practices. The learning process also sculpted images of social possibilities by bringing the participants into contact with those who had already transformed their living and working, who acted as mentors, models, and harbingers of hope.

Design of the Study

Participatory action research (McTaggart, 1997; Carson & Sumara, 1997) was utilized for this study as it allowed for study of how reflection changes practical action and for its natural affinity with critical transformative learning. In particular, participatory action research and critical transformative learning share the principles of critical collective inquiry, praxis, and democratic dialogical relations. For purposes of this study, the notion of research in action research was the group investigation of how cultural systems and economic structures condition the way we work and live as middle class North America. The notion of action in action research was how participants concretely responded to their collective research and reflection. Additional tasks of the formal researcher were investigating the meaning making of the participants, the normative and cognitive resources of the participants, and an assessment of the socially transformative power of participant responses. In sum, the design integrated transformative learning, collaborative action research, and critical hermeneutics (Gallagher, 1992).

The 14 participants who responded to the course publicity represented a range of ages, personal/family incomes, types of work, ethnic backgrounds and were predominately women. They were all defined as middle class, in considering economic and cultural capital. Data-gathering occurred through pre-, mid-, and post-interviews, pre- and post-surveys, and participant journals. Phenomenological description, thematic analysis and critical hermeneutics comprised the three stages of data analysis.

Key Findings

In 1996, preliminary thematic investigation had traced the impact of work restructuring for a neo-liberal global economy on local people in their daily work. The anger and resistance expressed in 1996 were not evident by 1998 when this course was offered. In the pre-course interviews, the participants indicated that they had adjusted to the work upheaval and new business ideology and that their residual emotions of anger and fear had given way to disillusionment and fragmentation.


The condition of disillusionment as described by the participants was not just the adult task of seeking authenticity and integration during a midlife evaluation. The participants did describe the emptiness of material acquisitions and the overimportance of work for deriving identity that undermined the illusions they held as part of the cultural scripts they were living out. Yet, beyond these aspects of disillusionment was the increasing loss of space to speak or act ethically in their worksites, whether in accord with their professional or personal ethics. Most participants understood their worksites as the primary vehicle for "making a difference" in society, or rather the expression of their civic responsibility. Therefore, they had projected their ethical horizons and identity as moral beings into their profession or position. Their saw their work as providing the moral and ethical space within which they identified themselves and positioned the importance of what they do. The illusion was that they had moral and ethical efficacy within their work structure and that work could be an effective primary vehicle for civic responsibility.


The condition of deepening fragmentation was best described by one participant as "whirling dervishes" of constant, vigorous and hypnotic motion. Most participants reported working simultaneously on several tasks with no sense of completion; isolated tasks without any connected purpose or predictability; constant interruptions of space and need for "sudden" responses; dispersal of energy in too many directions; and balancing competing responsibilities at the job and between the job and home. Most of the participants discussed the lack of energy "to maintain the life structure that I’ve created" and many of them described the condition of burn-out, including serious illness over the last five years. Participants also described the fragmentation of roles where they felt torn apart by all their relational responsibilities. It is clear that fragmentation was not just cognitive but visceral and is carried in the body sapping energy, reducing productivity, diminishing meaning, and dispersing focus.

Analysis of Disillusionment.

An analysis of the participant’s understandings of disillusionment revealed that their sense of ethical space was compromised in six ways. First, those who hold a service ethic toward society are blocked by bureaucracies organized by rationalism, mechanistic coordination, and personal detachment. Second, this sense of service was also compromised by increasing organizational politics and/or the business of profits - utility ethics. Third, many participants experienced a disjuncture between viewing humans as having intrinsic dignity or viewing humans (their colleagues) as having instrumental usefulness - where they are used to achieve a goal outside of themselves and where people can be bought and replaced as tools. Fourth, many workers, from managers to support staff, are now expected to adopt an utilitarian ethic that focuses on cost-benefit efficiency analyses rather than the liberal goals of equality, justice and democracy. Fifth, some participants talked about the organization "owning their soul" where, to receive a paycheque and professional identity, people gave over their ethical autonomy and personal identity to the collective ethics and identity of the organization - the property contract ethics of a market society. In sum, this first set of findings on adult disillusionment or "losing one’s illusions" was considered a pedagogical entry point to teach about sustainability.

Analysis of Fragmentation.

An analysis of the participants’ description of fragmentation revealed three faces. One face is of fragmentation as an essential component of the new business ideology. Yet restructuring and cutbacks had an opposite impact by withdrawing autonomy, increasing scrutiny, and reducing efficiency, productivity and creativity. The participants’ need for security made them more malleable and less likely to critique practices within their work organization. A second face of fragmentation is the increased volume and accelerated flow of activity in every aspect of society. Time is the critical commodity in the information era (Rifkin, 1987; 1995) and the power of electronics and a corresponding frenetic economy is increasingly at odds with the organic needs of humans - their embodied seasonal and biological rhythms, social need for continuity, and the spiritual need for reflection and meaning. Interestingly, the participants viewed their need for balance mechanistically, i.e. getting all the parts of the machine (their lives) as timed correctly with efficient apportionments for each work task and with each loved one - mimicking electronic time. The third face of fragmentation is the cultural construction of household life where standards of cleanliness, organization and nutrition have escalated, where parenting and partnering processes have become the most intensive in human history, and where home technologies have inflated levels of consumption and maintenance with an illusion of comfort and convenience (Shor, 1992b). These pressures at home and work mean that many are existing on the razor’s edge of physical collapse. Fragmentation was another key pedagogical entry point for teaching about sustainability.


Further analysis of disillusionment and fragmentation reveal that participants have been estranged from essential ties that are life-giving for human "being." Alienation means to lose contact with or to be estranged or distanced from a part of one’s life, from the vital social mode of existence, and/or from the natural world upon which existence most fundamentally depends. Therefore the experiences of disillusionment and fragmentation were considered to constitute a condition of alienation.

Specifically, these participants experienced an intensified severing of their organic relationship to time, space, their body and human relations. This severance has been encouraged by the rationalization, bureaucratization and intensification of work, the compartmentalization of social roles, instrumentalized and propertied human relations, the microchip revolution, and a consumptive acquisitive society. It has been augmented by a deep cultural notion of scarcity that fuels insecurity, grasping, and competitiveness. This condition of alienation, then, is a diminished and unsustainable existence both individually, socially and ecologically.

Intuitions of Wholeness.

Alongside the above analyses, however, the participants expressed shared norms upon which a new world view could be built. In a world that values change for change’s sake, they wanted their ethics of honesty, integrity, fairness, courage, respect, loyalty, community service and the common good to be affirmed and preserved. They named their search as a spiritual search - a hunger to see their work produce something meaningful, their ideas to be valued, their contributions to create a better society, and a way of living rooted in inner peace and outer harmony. They also intuited that they needed to make choices among the conflicting ethics of modernity that rage within us (Taylor, 1989).

These participant intuitions were analyzed in two ways: one, as the need for broader moral and ethical horizons by which participants could judge aspects of their lives and end the warring between personal and organizational ethics. Second, the search for balance is the search inward, toward the depths of being, and beyond, toward a larger cosmological horizon in which to locate their lives historically. David Bohm (1980) suggests that the words used by the participants - health, whole, and holy - are related etymologically, illustrating that the deepest human urges are toward wholeness and integrity. These cognitive and normative conditions, then, form the basis for teaching about and building toward a sustainable society.

Conclusions of Study

Entry Points For Learning Sustainability

Asking citizens to change their daily habits "to save the environment," "to reduce the exploitation of other people" or even "to save money" were not effective motivators for change. Participants only became interested in the concept of sustainability and transforming their patterns of living and working when the learning process held the promise of enabling them to return to their sense of life purpose, raising their quality of life, and mobilizing their moral and ethical autonomy.

In particular, all the participants expressed a need for societal change. Participants clearly identified that public and corporate policies/practices often violated their ethics as to what is good for society and the natural world. Yet, they had a sense of powerlessness, futility and disillusionment in the face of these large systems. They viewed any individual action they could take as symbolic only, rather than substantive.

Their powerlessness was most apparent with regard to their work. All the participants were disillusioned with their work - their inability to enact their sense of community service, the instrumental treatment of employees, the utilitarian ethics implicit in bottomline priorities that overshadow human and environmental needs, and the loss of personal ethics within organizational ethics. Therefore, contemporary structures of work dictate against ethical voice. For instance, many feared losing their jobs or their professional credibility if they offered an ethical critique of their work organization and its practices or if they spoke out publicly about an issue related to their work. Yet, many of the participants considered their work as the primary vehicle for their civic responsibility. One reason for low citizen involvement in social and environmental issues, then, is not due to ethical malaise or political despondency. Rather it is related to the lack of protected space for articulating ethical thought, the conflict between professional and citizen responsibilities, and the lack of a broader ethical horizon or overarching ideals that compel a purpose and passion. Therefore, one effective entry point that created an openness to learning about sustainability were these questions about life purpose, community service, and ethical autonomy.

The second effective entry point for teaching about sustainability addressed the quality of living and working. All participants reported that the increasingly frenetic and fragmented pace of life negatively impacts health, quality of family life, civic involvement, and likelihood of adopting ecologically sustainable practices. They questioned recent workplace changes that result in longer work days, more intensive pace, and overwhelming workloads. Many of the participants had experienced burn-out or a significant illness in the previous five years. They yearned for a more balanced life where they could respect their bodies, their relationships, their spirituality and the natural world. The concept of sustainability directly related to these daily pressures and was seen to offer a new framework from which to define quality of life - for themselves individually, for their families and for ecological systems.

Learning Processes for Sustainability

The concept of transformative learning traditionally used in the adult education field excludes the need for restorative learning, which was found to be dialectically related to transformative learning. The learning processes utilized within this study were transformative by catalyzing a collective questioning, a naming of issues, and the courage to act against cultural norms. However, it was also restorative by affirming and strengthening their ethical sensibilities, sense of life purpose, and recovering unalienated connections to time, space, body and human relations. Both transformative and restorative learning together comprise an educational model that honors ecological principles within the learning process itself. Dialectically, as the participants restore these forms of relatedness, they are transforming cultural, social, and economic structures.

Transformative Learning Processes

The transformative learning processes were very effective for auditing the sustainability of the participants’ current living and working practices, catalyzing a wholistic understanding of sustainability, and for initiating a process of transforming daily living and working practices. The participants made many multi-leveled changes in their living habits, household patterns, and their work habits/workplaces. They moved beyond habitual practice and positively impacted the environment by consuming less, trading and bartering goods and services, conserving utility services, carefully dealing with and reducing waste, using their car less and walking/bicycling more, raising/purchasing organic food and products, increasing use of bio-regional goods and services, workplace recycling and conservation, working less and volunteering more, seeking work in environmental sector, and speaking out on environmental/sustainability issues. The participants changed their relationship to work, including reducing work hours, quitting disillusioning and fragmenting jobs, planning for and embarking on new work that results in an ethical coherence, and mimicking ecological principles at their worksites. In sum, many participants and their families chose to become identifiers with various principles of ecological sustainability such as restorative economy, voluntary simplicity and global justice whenever these principles cohered with their existent ethics. The participants continue to gather as a community that supports one another in flowing against cultural and socio-economic norms.

In sum, the participants began a transformative journey from what Fromm (1976) calls "the mode of having" including consuming and grasping, to "the mode of being" or relatedness, a mode that is part of an ecological way of being. Within the learning processes, the research participants had the opportunity to reflect on these two modes. They enlarged their ethical framework to systematically include considerations of the natural world as well as other global human communities. This broader ethical horizon gave them a powerful framework from which to assess their relationships to time, money, consumption, and life energy. They began to redefine the meaning of success, security, balance, meaningful work and life purpose for themselves within this larger ethical framework.

Restorative Learning Processes

The restorative learning processes were effective for restoring the learner’s organic connections with their time, space, body and human relations. For instance, more respect was shown for organic time as based on biological and seasonal needs, including the need for rest. Most participants reordered their priorities including putting their health and relationships first - above job, status, money, and consumer goods. This shifted their relationship to their work, including hours spent at work. They cultivated mindfulness, gratitude and other contemplative practices. Often this was done by reconnecting with and seeking to understand wild spaces. All the participants began to declutter their physical and mental spaces, reduce overconsumption, utilize bioregional sources goods and services; and enjoy non-commodified simple pleasures. Most importantly, restorative learning constituted processes for mimicking ecological principles in everyday living and working.

The second important aspect of restorative learning was assisting participants in articulating their sense of life purpose and their personal code of ethics, that had been suppressed. They examined how they could more effectively animate their ethics in their existing job situations or how they could find or create a new job situation that was more aligned with their ethics. Through the creation of a safe space for clarifying purpose and mobilizing ethical autonomy, they could identify conflicts and elaborate an internal coherence.

Discussion of Values

What will it take to engage individuals and communities in significant changes that constitute a sustainable society? Most importantly, sustainability must be considered as a pathway to a more fulfilling life personally, healthier family life, stronger and more vibrant communities, and work that enhances the well-being of human and natural communities.

One of the most compelling values is honoring the relationship between sustainability and life purpose; in other words, what commitment individuals wish to make to their community and historically. An overarching sense of purpose restricts the economistic notion of contemporary work and the profit bottomlines of business as well as enhancing the meaning of living outside of economic definitions.

A second value is redefining the quality of life from a consumptive, acquisitive mode to a mode of non-consumptive relatedness. This mode challenges the frantic pace, exhaustion and burn-out many people feel. It enables people to restore organic connections to time, space, body and human relations and to engage in non-consumptive forms of fulfillment. Most importantly, it can reduces the depletion of natural resources for endless material goods and exploitation of human and natural communities for profits.

A third value is assisting people in articulating and enacting their ethical principles coherently in all aspects of their lives, particularly in work and civil life. The large, bureaucratic structures of public governance and corporate business constrains the ability to act ethically. As people named the constraints on their ethical autonomy and were empowered to act on them, these structures will be challenged.

A fourth value is to transform toward an ecological-based rather than industrial-based way of being, as individuals and communities. Ecological systems are one source for learning to achieve dynamic balance and sustainable practices in living and working. For North American societies, sustainability will involve a profound inner transformation, cultural transformation as well as socio-economic transformation.

These broad values are not offered to define a utopian end-point or management blueprint, but as principles for societal processes that can be life-restoring and life-giving. Just as it was important for the learning process not to bend the consciousness and choices of the learners to a predetermined end-point, so it is important that freedom and diversity abound within a global reflection "on the good" that unleashes imagination and creativity. Within such democratic public spaces, we can learn our way into sustainability.


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