Projects related to the Seminar

Nature awareness and identity: status quo and need for action in science and practice

Conference and work-shop, 4. - 7. October 2017, Vilm, Germany

According to the Nature Awareness Study (Federal Agency for Nature Conservation 2015), a relatively large proportion of the people in Germany is not aware of the mutual dependency of their lives with the natural environment. Even if people are aware of this dependency, they still often struggle to align their intention, knowledge and environmentally-relevant behavior.

External intervention measures attempt to foster environmentally friendly behaviour, but are limited in scope. Hence, the question is why people do not have a natural benevolent and caring attitude towards their environment and nature, and why there is a gap between their intention and actual behaviour. In the search for answers to this question, the topic of the human "identification" with or "separation" from nature will be at the centre of this conference. Scientific talks will introduce the status quo of nature awareness and the socially defined self-understanding in Germany. Thereafter, developmental pathways to identities will be highlighted, which consider nature, the environment and fellow human beings more intensively and thus may contribute to overcoming the gap between intention-behaviour at individual and collective level.

In order to provide new impulse for such inner transformation as a means to overcome the often observed intention behaviour gap, two workshops on Buddhist psychology and practice as well as on wilderness pedagogy address the human-nature relationship. In particular, they will introduce individual and active approaches to identity and interdependence with nature and the environment. In Thinking Labs, participants will jointly develop further research questions and action plans.


Institution: Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Chair of Site Ecology and Vegetation Science

Project leader: Dr. Hendrik Stark

Scientific staff: Christoph Pfisterer

Duration: Juli – December 2017

Funding: UEFOPLAN plan of the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) / Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB)

Contact BfN: Andreas Mues und Norbert Wiersbinski

Contact BfN:




Download the detailed program in German language here.


Registration for the conference in German language: here.


Sustainability, mindfulness and organizations

Thesis project

Can mindfulness practices contribute to organizational transformation towards sustainability, and if so, how? An explorative study using integral theory


Christoph Pfisterer


Researchers on mindfulness have found plenty of evidence that mindfulness practices can result in better physiological and psychological health, improved cognition, as well as greater happiness and compassion for other beings. Ericson et al. (2014) argue that mindfulness can positively affect individual wellbeing and simultaneously cultivate values, empathy and compassion that altogether may lead to “sustainable happiness”, - a form of happiness that relies less on the exploitation of natural resources and human labor force. In his thesis project, Christoph Pfisterer asks whether such positive effects of mindfulness, that were suggested for individual people, might also apply to organizations. He thus seeks to explore whether mindfulness can contribute to organizational transformation towards sustainability, and if so, how. Principle research questions are: 1) how does mindfulness practice influence experienced practitioners at work? 2) how can mindfulness practices and organizational activity be linked in a meaningful way? 3) how can mindfulness influence organizational sustainability? 4) is there a need for an alternative and comprehensive communication of mindfulness in the West, that specifically links a sustainable development of mind and matter? Guided by a meta-theory (integral theory), semi-structured interviews will be conducted with a) selected mindfulness practitioners who professionally work in the realm of sustainable development, and b) with mindfulness teachers who introduce mindfulness to organizations. The study is conducted in Germany, with Germany-based organizations. With this study, Christoph would like to contribute to a better qualitative and conceptual understanding of how mindfulness may support transformation towards sustainability on an organizational level.


Ericson. T., Kjønstad B. G., Barstad A. (2014). Mindfulness and sustainability. In: Ecological economics, 104, 73-79.
Forbes, D. (2016). Modes of Mindfulness: Prophetic Critique and Integral Emergence. In: Mindfulness, 7 (4).

Institution: Chair of Societal Transition & Circular Economy, Faculty of Environment and Natural Resources, University of Freiburg, Germany
Duration: 02. - 08. 2017
First supervisor: Dr. Sina Leipold
Second supervisor: Prof. Dr. Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker

Advisor: Dr. Hendrik Stark