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BNELIT - Datenbank zu Bildung für nachhaltige Entwicklung: wissenschaftliche Literatur und Materialien
Bildung für nachhaltige Entwicklung: wiss. Literatur und Materialien (BNELIT)
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A Future for Sustainability?
Water, Air, and Soil Pollution
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Sustainability has become a focal topic and important goal for many people concerned about environmental issues. It is, therefore, important for educators, and others, to talk about sustainability with their students and colleagues—about its meaning, curricular application, and practice. However, I do not think this is sufficient. In this paper I will examine limitations of the language of sustainability and implications for environmental thinking.

Before launching into a critique, I do acknowledge the importance of "sustainability" and the usefulness of this concept. Many ecological processes are not sustained—not kept going continuously. Species are going extinct at an alarming rate and whole ecosystems are at risk. So, sustainability is important. However, we must also pay attention to what sustainability is not. And, we should consider why these limitations matter.

For example, "education for sustainability" has gained rapid acceptance, yet little critical attention has been given to the term. Just as many environmental educators have expressed reservations about "education for sustainable development," I believe there are serious problems associated with allowing our work to be subsumed by the term "education for sustainability." In this presentation I will explore reasons for educators, and others, to be concerned about relying on the language and goals of sustainability. These areas of concern, or limitations, are discussed in terms of determinism, exclusivity, and conceptualization. Some suggestions are provided to help refocus our direction.