It is axiomatic that how problems are solved depends greatly on how they are framed (Lakoff 2004, Nunberg 2006). This is why the framing of sustainability is so critical. The more people try to find some kind of ‘balance’ or ‘fit’ between themselves and their environment—as if environments were not only already set in place but also separate and independent of the organisms presumably contained within them—the more the present discourse fails to keep pace with recent thinking in a number of key disciplines informing our understanding of sustainability.
Building on recent work in the biological sciences— i.e., Wilson (1996, 2002), Lewontin (1991, 2000), Odling-Smee, Laland and Feldman (2003), and Erwin and Krakauer (2004)—as well as in architectural theory and cosmology (Alexander 2002a,b, 2004a,b, 2005), we propose to re-frame our understanding of both “the environment” and “sustainability” while still honoring the definition of sustainability adopted in the 1987 Brundtland Report.
In this re-framing, the challenge of sustainability shifts from a focus on control to a focus on creation. In fact, it shifts to a focus on co-creation through organism:environment interaction. In Lewontin’s words (1991: 109), “Just as there is no organism without an environment, there is no environment without an organism. Organisms do not experience environments. They create them.” Ultimately, this re-framing fundamentally changes the challenge of sustainability from one of control to one of joint creation—a change of significant import for how sustainability itself might actually be achieved.
|Keywords:||Sustainability, Environment, Framing, Niche Construction|
Associate Professor of Mangement, Department of Mangement, University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, Wisconsin, USA
Professor, College of Business, University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, Wisconsin, USA
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