Sustaining “Sustainability” through the Indispensable Visions and Voices of the Humanities

By Shudong Chen.

Published by The Sustainability Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

As an infinitely broad and rich umbrella concept that connects everything of humanity and nature, “sustainability” can be easily related to ideas as lofty as saving the earth from global warming or to activities as mundane as recycling trash. But, the effective means for sustainability, just because of that, is as plenty as its meanings. One of them is the sustainability-inspired and –inspiring new approach to arts and humanities, such as reading Daoism afresh, not as a reputedly do-nothing philosophy of passivism, but as a philosophy of “can-doism” that suggests constant fine-tuning or creative flip of our minds to improve the otherwise much strained human-to-human and human-to-nature relationships. Likewise, we can also benefit significantly from the special “environmental imagination” of eco-criticism that draws inspiration not from Daoism or Thoreau, but from Confucianism that teaches us how to respect nature, not as our convenient “figure of speech,” but for what it really is, contrary to its commonly perceived human-centered approach. From our familiar literary and art works, such as James Wright’s “A Blessing,” Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, Katsushika Hokusai’s “The Great Wave,” and Henry Moore’s “Two Large Forms,” we can equally learn so much from so many intricate scenarios that could impede and/or improve the sustainability-related vital humanity-defining fundamental relationships. In reality, there is also well-coordinated effort in making commerce and culture complementary forces of sustainability. Long You of Zhejiang, China, is a case in point. Clearly, to achieve the goal of sustainability, as Einstein would argue here, “it is not enough to teach man a specialty” without also teaching him of our world through the Humanities for the dispensable global vision and local sensitivity to help make our planet a holistically well-balanced sustainable healthy living environment.

Keywords: Art, Humanities

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp.287-296. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 603.915KB).

Shudong Chen

Professor of Humanites, Department of Humanites, Johnson County Community College, Overland Park, Kansas, USA

Shudong Chen is Professor of Humanities at Johnson County Community College (JCCC), Overland Park, Kansas, U.S.A. He received both his master’s (1992) and doctorate (1998) in English from the University of Kansas and has been teaching courses in the Humanities at JCCC since 1999. A Chinese native born in Shanghai, he came to the U.S. in 1990. Dr. Chen is the author of Henry James: The Essayist Behind the Novelist (2003) and various articles on cross-cultural dialogue, such as these recent ones, “The Spoils of Poynton: Reading Henry James in the Light of Seng Zhao (Zhao Lun) and William James” (2010), “Harmonizing Voice and Vision of Place in Jazz and Daoism” (2007), “Searching for a Voice of Silence Across Cultures: Does Silence Speak” (2006), “Cultural Diversity and Dynamism in Demand, in Dilemma, in the Mend: Modernity and Multiculturalism in Singapore, Malaysia, and Brunei” (2006). For conferences and field studies with grants from National Endowments for the Humanities and Fulbright projects, he travelled in Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, and Brunei in addition to many trips to China since 2000. He was one of five 2003 grants review panelists for National Endowment for the Humanities. On behalf of Chinese New Star Media Group, Toronto, Canada, and in the capacity of Vice President and Chief Consultant on Cultural Issues, Dr. Chen attended 2004 Beijing Municipal Government Conference Commemorating the Third Anniversary of China’s Successful Bid for Hosting the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (July 13-15).


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