It’s cultural - because our values shape our actions

Culture has the capacity to bring about the attitudes needed to ensure sustainable development (SD): our cultural values, which often include religious beliefs, shape our way of living and acting. This page highlights how SD is concerned with people-to-people relationships.


Why education and culture are key aspects of Education for Sustainable Development

  • Understanding SD is the foundation for people to act as responsible consumers and citizens
  • Opportunities for education and development are damaged by a lack of tolerance. SD is founded on intercultural understanding.
  • Culture strongly influences how ESD is dealt with: values, diversity, knowledge, languages and worldviews differ with national contexts.
  • Education is a critical complement to other policies

This is why, amongst other initiatives, the United Nations has launched the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014, DESD), with UNESCO as its lead agency: The objective is to encourage changes in behaviour, for a more sustainable and just society for all.


Education for Sustainable Development is different from environmental education

  • Environmental education is well established. It focuses on relationships between people and nature.
  • Yet, people-to-people relationships lie at the core of a sustainable society. This is why SD is set in the broader context of socio-cultural and political issues.

A mind shift is needed to build a sustainable world

The Club of Rome ’s Limits to Growth (2004 update), highlights 5 “essential characteristics for any society that hopes to survive over the long term”:

  • visioning or imagining
  • networking
  • truth telling
  • learning
  • loving 

How education and information make the world change

The USA now recycles more than 1/3 of its waste. A change which comes notably from an understanding of the need to recycle, e.g. via the media, governmental policies, innovative learning materials…

Note there is often also an economic driver: recycling can be a profitable business...

Find out about “Waste in our life”: this EU supported publication provides key tools and resources for educators who work with the topic of waste.



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