There is a long list of recent, man-made and potentially hazardous environmental threats, climate change being but one prominent example. As a paradox, it might have been our underlying attitudes and values, which we believe create wellbeing and security that substantially contributed to the collective creation of these environmental threats.
As we realize the essential role of a sound and vital environment, we largely rely on technical advances to achieve future environmental sustainability. However, isn’t the success or purpose of any science or technology, of any social or economic system, or of any political framework largely depending on the underlying human motivations and ethics? To put it in other words: “We can use technologies and resource efficiencies to reduce our ecological human footprint and to increase prosperity where needed, or we can use the same technologies and resource efficiencies to further increase the volume of sales” (v. Weizsäcker 2009). It is a matter of motivation and a matter of attitude; it is a matter of our mind setting, and it has far reaching consequences for the state of the environment.
The outer and inner dimension of sustainability
Given that influential connection between our minds and the environment, the unseen and man-made magnitude of environmental threats might require a new dimension of action. It might require us to re-direct our focus. We might not only have to search for technical solutions somewhere outside ourselves. We might also have to reconsider our inner values and motivations and thus the settings of our minds.
Humanity and science have been intensively investigating the physical interactions between our lives and the environment. However, the inner dimension of sustainability - our mental connection with the environment - is rather unknown or unnoticed. Therefore, mind-environment-interactions are being studied in recent sciences such as environmental psychology. Also, there is an uprising field of educational programs aiming to raise awareness for the environment. Additionally, there is an increasing range of alternative economic tools and theories along with national and international political programs that aim to foster the sustainable use of resources. On the other hand, there are ancient traditions of ‘mind sciences’ and religions. They have also been devoted to the exploration of some sort of mind-environment-interactions for hundreds and thousands of years, and could certainly make valuable contributions to implement the so called “inner dimension of sustainability”.
We invite scientists, experts and practitioners from various disciplines to share their multifaceted perspectives, knowledge and experience (View) regarding the processes and causalities that stand behind our motivations, attitudes and ethics to benefit the environment and to bring about inner contentment and frugality. Also, we would like to explore and summarize existing methods, programs and concepts that aim to foster inner wellbeing and contentment, and that help to raise an environmentally attentive motivation, attitude and ethics (Learning). Eventually, innovative examples should be presented of how this inner dimension of sustainability can be put into practice at various scales (Conduct).
Hence, we would like to explore how the state of the environment reflects our individual and common mind setting (Figure 1). This should help us to understand
whether, why, and how we can consider our minds individually and collectively in the concert of environmental sustainability efforts, how this might be reflected in our society, and what we have
to be aware of. We will make these insights and practical learning methods available to interested individuals and institutions for the sake of individual and environmental well-being. We
sincerely hope this may contribute to a more sustainable and compassionate society and to individual wellbeing.
This 'mind-and-environment' project is organized by scientific staff and former graduate school members of the University of Freiburg
in Germany at a voluntary basis, inviting doctoral students and any other interested people from science and practice to exchange and reflect upon the link between mind and environmental
sustainability. The seminar is supported by the Graduate School 'Environment Society
and Global Change' of the University of Freiburg.