Exploring a sustainability imagination : a perspective on the integrating and visioning role of stories and symbolism in sustainability through an alternative education case study

Beyers, Christelle (2008-03)

Thesis (MPhil (Sustainable Development Planning and Management))--Stellenbosch University, 2008.


In a modern world of fragmentation and embedded dualisms, access to the imagination and creativity seems minimal, especially in science. Human beings and nature, science and the imagination (art), and spirit and matter (body) – these dualisms permeate our sciences and other disciplines, as well as the way we envision the future and educate children about the environment. Sustainability positions a key debate for the future and mediates intergenerational equity (it thus in a way captures the future). Sustainability further proposes an ecological approach wherein systems thinking, holism and the exploration of new (extended) forms of knowledge are subtly starting to reshape the future outlook of the planet. A personal reflection on my own alternative learning process with the Sustainability Institute (SI) resulted in a deep concern and intrigue about the symbolic base of sustainability learning. Imagination, art (stories) and symbols played an intrinsic role in how I integrated many of the empirical and non-empirical, as well as scientific and meta-physical, aspects of the learning. These intrigues led me to explore the nurturing education opportunities that might exist for children to engage with the imagination, art and alternative aspects of education as integrative aspects in learning. Waldorf education claims to use stories in this regard. Waldorf education – together with a review of the role of environmental education – is the case study of this research. This is an inherently transdisciplinary study and, although literature in the separate fields abounds, a comprehensive literature review conducted for this study revealed a gap in research related to the interface between areas of symbolism, sustainability and education (“symbolism-in-sustainability-in-education”). The study is underpinned by the following fields: • Sustainability (with a strong focus on environmental ethics) • Literature (traditional stories) • Psychology (psychoanalytical and environmental psychology) • Education (environmental, Waldorf and finally sustainability or ecological education) This study thus explores the role of the imagination and symbolism, both being ontologically recognised, as well as stories to integrate some of the dualisms prevalent in our modern world, dualisms that are contributing to the reigning ecological crisis. In addition, it focuses on the role of these functionalities to access and open up other forms of knowing in science (with particular application to the built environment/ and planning), which supports the claims of sustainability and sustainability science. I conclude by briefly highlighting a pattern that proposes a way of connecting the ideas in this study in support of ecological education (the future) – and thus sustainability – in an enduring and deep-seated way that is intrinsically human[nature].

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/2548
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