Cultural Sustainability: Perspectives from the Humanities and Social Sciences, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Cultural Sustainability

Perspectives from the Humanities and Social Sciences, 1st Edition

Edited by Torsten Meireis, Gabriele Rippl


282 pages | 19 B/W Illus.

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If the political and social benchmarks of sustainability and sustainable development are to be met, ignoring the role of the humanities and social, cultural and ethical values is highly problematic. People’s worldviews, beliefs and principles have an immediate impact on how they act and should be studied as cultural dimensions of sustainability.

Collating contributions from internationally renowned theoreticians of culture and leading researchers working in the humanities and social sciences, this volume presents an in-depth, interdisciplinary discussion of the concept of cultural sustainability and the public visibility of such research. Beginning with a discussion of the concept of cultural sustainability, it goes on to explore its interaction with philosophy, theology, sociology, economics, arts and literature. In doing so, the book develops a much needed concept of ‘culture’ that can be adapted to various disciplines and applied to research on sustainability.

Addressing an important gap in sustainability research, this book will be of great interest to academics and students of sustainability and sustainable development, as well as those studying sustainability within the humanities and social sciences, such as cultural studies, ethics, theology, sociology, literature and history.


"Sustainability involves much more than energy-efficient technologies and landscaping strategies suited to particular ecosystems. Ultimately, the quest for sustainability requires us to know ourselves better, our human nature, our values and desires. Cultural Sustainability, in exploring the human dimension of sustainability, is an important contribution to the environmental humanities."Scott Slovic, Professor of Literature and Environment, University of Idaho, USA

"A mantra, a slogan, a difficult practice: "sustainability" is the keyword of our time. But can the humanities contribute to shaping more ecological lifestyles and cultural policies? How sustainable are we? Written by prominent international scholars, the essays in this very timely volume investigate the cultural dimension of sustainability using the toolkit offered by the environmental humanities. Whether you are a teacher, a policy maker, or simply wish to learn more about this critical issue, Cultural Sustainability: Perspectives from the Humanities and Social Sciences is a superb book that deserves to be at the top of your reading list."Serenella Iovino, Professor of Italian and Environmental Humanities at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, USA

"Transformative science in support of sustainability should take the manifold contributions of the humanities into account. Cultural Sustainability makes that an easy, and sometimes even entertaining, task."Uwe Schneidewind, Professor of Sustainable Transition Management and President of the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy, Germany

"Cultural sustainability is not an additional dimension of sustainability but an integral understanding of the whole concept of sustainability: It transforms knowledge about ecological, social and economic problems into a new narrative of progress, quality of life and the position of man in nature. This volume sketches the rich scope and complexity of that understanding by bringing together outstanding contributions from the whole field of the humanities."Markus Vogt, Professor of Christian Social Ethics, LMU Munich, Germany

"Written by leading scholars in humanities and social sciences, these ground-breaking essays on the cultural dimension of sustainability meet an urgent need of environmental policymakers and educationalists. Drawing together findings on the role of traditions, world views and values in both blocking and facilitating sustainable development, and on the ways in which cultural products participate in the ongoing process of (re-)shaping the social imaginary, the volume provides the first comprehensive and systematic mapping of the field. It will serve as a key point of reference and prompt further research." Axel Goodbody, Professor of German Studies and European Culture, University of Bath, UK

"The concept of sustainability is likely to dominate discussions of natural and cultural environments in the twenty-first century. Cultural Sustainability looks beyond the natural sciences and provides a timely extension of the concept. The volume provides an impressively wide-ranging, thorough discussion of debates around sustainability in various disciplines. By bringing the illustrious tradition of comprehensive study in the humanities to bear on a pressing environmental issue, it makes an important contribution in the field of environmental studies and beyond." —Timo Müller, Professor of American Literature, University of Regensburg, Germany

"The commitment for a sustainable culture is an important task of Christian churches and other religious communities. They need to advocate political and sociocultural change to regain an appropriate power balance between non-human nature and humankind. To further such efforts, ongoing research into the significance and meaning of cultural sustainability is tantamount. This book offers important and critical interdisciplinary insights into that research - a great resource for spiritual leaders."Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, Professor of Social Ethics, Bishop of the Lutheran Church of Bavaria and Chairman of the Council of the Evangelical Churches in Germany

Table of Contents

Part 1: Concepts of Culture and Cultural Sustainability

1. Introduction Torsten Meireis and Gabriele Rippl

2. Culture and Sustainable Development from a UN Perspective Michael Gerber

3. The Future of Cultural Heritage and Its ChallengesAleida Assmann

4. Cultural Sustainability in Times of Cultural Genocide Wolfgang Huber

5. Sustainable Development and the Concept of Culture – An Ethical View Torsten Meireis

Part 2: Philosophy, Sociology, Economics and Cultural Sustainability

6. Sustainability and Modernisation in Conflict: On Roger Scruton’s Conservative Green Philosophy Anton Leist

7. Culture, Consumption and Sustainability in a Sociological Perspective Ulf Liebe

8. Social Happiness as a Cultural Value: An Analysis of Shared Values for Ecosystem Assessment Galit P. Wellner

9. Challenges of Cultural Sustainability on an (Inter)Planetary Scale Andreas Losch

10. Sustainability’s Promise of Salvation? A Kuhnian Reconstruction of Sustainability from Resource Management to Contingency Management Marius Christen, Peter Seele, Lucas Zapf

Part 3: The Arts, Literature and Cultural Sustainability: Theoretical, Historical and Contemporary Perspectives

11. Culture and the Arts in Sustainable Development: Rethinking Sustainability Research Sacha Kagan

12. Cultural Ecology and the Sustainability of Literature Hubert Zapf

13. An Entangled History of Environmental and Cultural Sustainability: Satirical Reflections on the German Forest and the German Oak as Resources of Cultural Energy Evi Zemanek

14. The Cultural Sustainability of Victorian Waste Ursula Kluwick

15. The Moral Dilemma of Unsustainability: Eco-dystopian Fiction as Cultural Critique Alexa Weik von Mossner

16. A Tale of Love and Fallout: Lauren Redniss’ Graphic Narrative and the Ecological Imaginary Torsten Meireis and Gabriele Rippl

17. Sustainability, Eco-Ekphrasis and the Ethics of Literary Description Gabriele Rippl

18. Ecogames: Playing to Save the Planet Joost Raessens

Part 4: Conclusion

19. Conclusion Torsten Meireis and Gabriele Rippl

About the Editors

Torsten Meireis is Professor of Theology, Ethics and Hermeneutics at Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany

Gabriele Rippl is Professor and Chair of Literatures in English at Bern, Switzerland

About the Series

Routledge Environmental Humanities

From microplastics in the sea to hyper-trends such as global climate change, mega-extinction, and widening social disparities and displacement, we live on a planet undergoing tremendous flux and uncertainty. At the center of this transformation is human culture, both contributing to the state of the world and responding to planetary change. The Routledge Environmental Humanities Series seeks to engage with contemporary environmental challenges through the various lenses of the humanities and to explore foundational issues in environmental justice, multicultural environmentalism, ecofeminism, environmental psychology, environmental materialities and textualities, Traditional Ecological Knowledge, environmental communication and information management, multispecies relationships, and related topics. The series is premised on the notion that the arts, humanities, and social sciences, integrated with the natural sciences, are essential to comprehensive environmental studies.

The environmental humanities are a multidimensional discipline encompassing such fields as anthropology, history, literary and media studies, philosophy, psychology, religion, sociology, and women’s and gender studies; however, the Routledge Environmental Humanities is particularly eager to receive book proposals that explicitly cross traditional disciplinary boundaries, bringing the full force of multiple perspectives to illuminate vexing and profound environmental topics. We favor manuscripts aimed at an international readership and written in a lively and accessible style. Our readers include scholars and students from across the span of environmental studies disciplines and thoughtful citizens and policy makers interested in the human dimensions of environmental change.

Please contact the Editor, Rebecca Brennan ([email protected]), to submit proposals.

Praise for A Cultural History of Climate Change (2016):

A Cultural History of Climate Change shows that the humanities are not simply a late-arriving appendage to Earth System science, to help in the work of translation. These essays offer distinctive insights into how and why humans reason and imagine their ‘weather-worlds’ (Ingold, 2010). We learn about the interpenetration of climate and culture and are prompted to think creatively about different ways in which the idea of climate change can be conceptualised and acted upon beyond merely ‘saving the planet’.

Professor Mike Hulme, King's College London, in Green Letters

Series Editors:

Professor Scott Slovic, University of Idaho, USA

Professor Joni Adamson, Arizona State University, USA

Professor YUKI Masami, Kanazawa University, Japan

Previous editors:

Professor Iain McCalman, University of Sydney Research Fellow in History; Director, Sydney University Environment Institute.

Professor Libby Robin, Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University, Canberra; Guest Professor of Environmental History, Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm Sweden.

Dr Paul Warde, Reader in Environmental History, University of Cambridge, UK

Editorial Board

Christina Alt, St Andrews University, UK, Alison Bashford, University of New South Wales, Australia, Peter Coates, University of Bristol, UK, Thom van Dooren, University of New South Wales, Australia, Georgina Endfield, Liverpool UK, Jodi Frawley, University of Western Australia, Andrea Gaynor, The University of Western Australia, Australia, Christina Gerhardt, University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, USA,□Tom Lynch, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, USA, Jennifer Newell, Australian Museum, Sydney, Australia , Simon Pooley, Imperial College London, UK, Sandra Swart, Stellenbosch University, South Africa, Ann Waltner, University of Minnesota, US, Jessica Weir, University of Western Sydney, Australia

International Advisory Board

William Beinart,University of Oxford, UK, Jane Carruthers, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa, Dipesh Chakrabarty, University of Chicago, USA, Paul Holm, Trinity College, Dublin, Republic of Ireland, Shen Hou, Renmin University of China, Beijing, Rob Nixon, Princeton University, USA, Pauline Phemister, Institute of Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh, UK, Sverker Sörlin, KTH Environmental Humanities Laboratory, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden, Helmuth Trischler, Deutsches Museum, Munich and Co-Director, Rachel Carson Centre, LMU Munich University, Germany, Mary Evelyn Tucker, Yale University, USA, Kirsten Wehner, University of London, UK

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
ART / General
NATURE / Ecology