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«Annick Hedlund-de Witt Worldviews and the transformation to sustainable societies An exploration of the cultural and psychological dimensions of our ...»

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The major contribution of the present study is that it systematically and empirically describes and analyzes the worldview(s) of this societally-influential group of environmental leaders in a fair amount of detail. The results demonstrate that these individuals tend to: share an evolutionary/developmental, spiritual-unitive perspective on the nature of reality (ontology), hold a positive view on human nature as characterized by a vast, though generally unrealized, potential (anthropology), emphasize an internalization of authority, as well as an integration of multiple modes of knowing (epistemology), and engage in their sustainability-work from a spiritual foundation (axiology). The results also show how these premises logically flow forth in a ‘sustainable social imaginary,’ which is 1) positive; 2) emancipatory; 3) inclusive of post-rational ways of working/knowing; and 4) integrative/synthetic. For example, a view on human nature as full of latent potential tends to logically go together with a more positive, emancipatory, and integrative approach to sustainability-issues. In a similar fashion, an epistemology that emphasizes multiple methods of knowledge acquisition, including more internalized forms of knowing, is likely to result in an approach that is inclusive of post-rational ways of working and knowing. In my view, it is precisely because these individuals envision a highly compelling 242 sustainable society, are positive and emancipatory in their outlook, and generally choose an integrative/synthetic (rather than a more polarized) approach, that this social imaginary may appeal to the larger public and serve the important task of public communication and large-scale mobilization for sustainable solutions to our pressing, planetary issues.

243 Appendix IV: Interview-guide

Short introduction I am researching worldviews and their relationship to goals and issues of sustainable development. In this context, I am particularly interested in the dynamics of worldviews— that is, the changes that take place in how people understand themselves and the world that they are surrounded by. Sociological and survey research indicate that our current, collective worldview is undergoing profound changes. Departing from the idea that these changes may bring specific potentials for sustainability-issues, I am attempting to investigate and articulate this newly emerging worldview, precisely by speaking with individuals who have demonstrated themselves to be visionary and societally engaged, like yourself. In this interview I am interested to hear more about your own worldview—about how you see the world, nature, the role and purpose of the human being, society, the divine, et cetera. Next to that, I am also interested to hear more on how you view the societal changes taking place.


1. In the first place, what to you is a worldview? What do you think of when I say that word? [Make sure there is mutual understanding with regards to our conception of worldview]

2. I would like you to describe your own worldview. Perhaps we can start with how you view nature, and the relationship between human being and nature?

3. What, in your view, is the nature, role, and purpose of the human being?

4. Do you believe in a God? [And if yes, what does this God look like, what kind of being is it and how is it related to the world that surrounds us?] Is there a transcendental dimension to life?

5. What is a ‘good’ life, according to you? Both in a moral and a qualitative sense?

6. And what is not it, what is it that we need to get rid of? [What is the biggest contrast with the ‘old’ worldview?]

7. How did you come to the worldview as you have just described it? Did you go through a transition in which you started to look differently at the world (nature, yourself, the divine, et cetera), or is this a perspective that you have held for a long time?

8. Do you yourself think a change in worldview is taking place in society? And if so, how does that come to expression?

9. How do you perceive the global environmental issues we see ourselves faced with today? What is the source of these problems, in your eyes?

10. What do you think is most urgently needed in our society right now, considering global challenges such as climate change?

11. Do you have questions or comments yourself?

244 Appendix V: List of interview-participants Listed positions reflect the positions at the time that the interview took place (2009-2010).

Civil society/non-governmental organizations

1. Thomas van Slobbe, director Earth Value Foundation; publicist and author of several books and numerous articles.

2. Irene van Lippe, chairman Nature College; author of several books

3. Froukje Jansen, TV and documentary maker for LLINK, idealistic and green TV channel

4. Peter Merry, leader of the Centre for Human Emergence; author of ‘Evolutionary Leadership’

5. Joanna Macy, spiritual activist and environmentalist; author of several books, including ‘World as Lover. World as Self.’ Academia

6. Richard Tarnas, professor of philosophy and psychology; author of several books, including ‘The Passion of the Western Mind. Understanding the ideas that have shaped our worldview’

7. Maarten Meester, philosopher and publicist; author of several publications, including ‘Nieuwe Spiritualiteit’ (‘New Spirituality’)

8. Joep Dohmen, professor of ethics; author of several books including ‘Het leven als kunstwerk’ (‘Life as a form of art’)

9. Klaas van Egmond, professor environmental sciences and former director of the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency; author of several books and publications

10. Iteke Weeda, former professor of sociology and emancipation; author of several books including ‘Spiritualiteit en Wetenschap’ (‘Spirituality and Science’).

11. Michael Braungart, Professor of chemistry, and author of Cradle to Cradle:

Remaking the way we make things.

Government and policy

12. Herman Wijffels, politician for the Christian Party, former chairman for the socioeconomic forum, Dutch representative of the World Bank.

13. Bram van de Klundert, secretary for the council of Housing, Spatial Development and the Environment in the Netherlands; author of several books

14. Marianne Thieme, parliamentary leader for the Dutch ‘Party for Animals’; producer of the documentary “Meat the Truth”

15. Michaela Hogenboom, youth representative sustainable development for the UN;

the Dutch youth council 245 Business and finance

16. Paulien Assink, journey-leader Twijnstra & Gudde; author of several books, including ‘Uit het harnas. Vier wegen naar authentiek en verantwoord leiderschap’ (‘Beyond the armour. Four ways to authentic and responsible leadership’).

17. Thomas Rau, director green architect-agency RAU; inventor of “one planet architecture”

18. Bart-Jan Krouwel, director Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) at Rabobank, co-founder and former general manager Triodos-Bank.

19. Elfrieke van Gaalen, former senior director Corporate Social Responsibility KLM

20. Jospehine Green, trend watcher and sustainable visionary Philips.

246 Chapter 8 Synthesis and policy-implications: Reflexive communicative action for sustainable solutions We need to approach the idea of climate change from a different vantage point. We need to reveal the creative psychological, spiritual and ethical work that climate change can do and is doing for us. By understanding the ways in which climate change connects us with these foundational human attributes we open up a way of re-situating culture and the human spirit at the heart of our understanding of climate. Human beings are more than material objects, and climate is more than a physical entity. Rather than catalyzing disagreements about how, when and where to tackle climate change, the idea of climate change is an imaginative resource around which our collective and personal identities can, and should, take shape.

- Mike Hulme82 In our normal dealings with things, we disregard this dimension of experience and focus on the things experienced. But we can turn and make this our object of attention, become aware of our awareness, try to experience our experiencing, focus on the way the world is for us.

This is what I call taking a stance of radical reflexivity.

- Charles Taylor83

Don’t believe everything you think! - Bumper sticker

82 In: Why We Disagree About Climate Change. Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity (2009, p. xxxvvi).

83 In: Sources of the Self. The Making of the Modern Identity (1989), p. 301-302.


8.1 Introduction While global environmental protection has been on the international political agenda since the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, these efforts have not been effective in altering the trends of human-induced environmental degradation (Biermann et al., 2012). As many now recognize, the failure to alter these fundamental trajectories is largely due to widespread disagreement and gridlock in the global debate on contemporary sustainability challenges such as climate change (Hulme, 2009; Nisbet, 2009; Victor, 2011). It is therefore becoming increasingly clear that the lack of agreement and the often intensely polarized perspectives this lack is based on, is itself a major, if not the major, obstacle to forging robust, effective solutions and building a secure, sustainable, and flourishing ‘planetary civilization’ in the twenty-first century.

As Hulme (2009) has argued, differences in worldview and culture often underlie the ubiquity of such diverging and polarized perspectives in stakeholder negotiations and public opinion, thereby hampering the cooperation and communicative action that is so urgently needed (see also Kahan et al., 2012).

For example, several voices have pointed out how intractable political conflicts in the U.S. are the result of ‘culture wars,’ or clashes in worldviews. It has also been asserted that diverging worldviews are at play in international conflict (see e.g. Koltko-Rivera, 2004). Nonetheless, since our planetary issues are increasingly interconnected and multi-faceted, transnational, transcultural, and transdisciplinary cooperation are absolute necessities; these issues are simply far too complex to be solved from one or two perspectives, disciplines, or modes of rationality (Benedikter & Molz, 2011; Held, 2006). While the divergence in perspectives and cultures clearly leads to misunderstanding, conflict, and inertia, some voices have also emphasized the value of such diversity for addressing our pressing, global issues (Calicott, 2011; UNESCO, 2002b). Precisely because of the diverse range of solutions, strategies, and perspectives that different cultural worldviews tend to bring forth, cultural diversity can be seen as having the potential to enhance our overall capacity for (cultural) adaptation and transformation (see also O' Brien, 2009).

Thus, overall there appears to be a growing recognition of the critically important phenomenon of worldviews in the urgently needed transformation to sustainable societies (see e.g. Esbjörn-Hargens, 2010a; Hulme, 2009; O' Brien, 248 2009; O' Brien et al., 2010). While it has been claimed that some degree of mutual understanding, agreement, and synergy between divergent worldviews is essential to fostering sustainable climate solutions (Esbjörn-Hargens & Zimmerman, 2009), in my view this does not mean that actors need to achieve comprehensive mutual understanding or share the same worldview.84 Rather, basic insight into, and awareness of, worldview-dynamics can prove useful to enable one to empathize with social actors inhabiting divergent perspectives, speak to them without alienating them, leverage and align their diverse cultural potentials, and generate constructive communication and cooperation between them. In my view, it is precisely through such an empathic understanding of other worldviews and their ways of understanding and relating to sustainability issues such as climate change, that we can expect to make progress in including a larger part of the population in this important dialogue around our shared wellbeing and the future of our planet. The aim of this chapter is therefore to generate heuristic insight into the major worldviews in the West, as well as into how such insight can be applied to communication and cooperation for sustainability.

In section 8.3, I synthesize the different insights that have come through in the earlier chapters, resulting into an expanded understanding and articulation of the Integrative Worldview Framework (IWF). As extensively discussed in particularly chapters 2 and 3, this heuristic framework operationalizes the concept of worldview into five major aspects: namely, ontology, epistemology, axiology, anthropology, and societal vision. Using these five worldview-aspects as an organizing scheme, the IWF offers a synoptic overview of the predominant worldviews in (but not limited to) the West—worldviews frequently referred to as traditional, modern, postmodern, and integrative. In section 8.4, I translate the basic understandings of the IWF to issues of multistakeholder communication, intending to demonstrate how this framework holds the potential to illuminate key barriers to mutual agreement and collective action, and enact strategic potentials and opportunities towards sustainable 84 As Hajer (1995) and Hajer and Versteeg (2005) argue, also actors that can be proven to not fully understand each other can still produce meaningful political interventions.

According to them, precisely the effect of misunderstanding can be functional for creating a political coalition.

249 solutions. I show how this framework has the potential to serve as 1) a heuristic for cultural and psychological self-reflexivity; 2) an analytical tool for understanding worldview-dynamics in society; and 3) a scaffolding for effective sustainability communications and solutions. Finally, I close with a discussion on the IWF and offer suggestions for further research.

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