Toward robust foundations for sustainable well-being societies

Tags: sustainability | society | core competencies in learning for sustainability | beliefs and action

This chapter explores foundational issues around the meanings, measurement, creation, and continuous renewal of sustainable well-being societies. It begins with a probe into the long history of concern around advancing human well-being and follows with an inquiry into the deep roots of why sustainable well-being societies are not ubiquitous today. The role of three catalytic, historical revolutions – cognitive, agricultural, and industrial – in shaping the underlying metanarrative that guides the present is investigated. Four bedrock assumptions that form the core of the dominant, guiding metanarrative are identified and their role in both forging the status quo and impeding the development of sustainable well-being societies are discussed. While these cornerstones of the prevailing metanarrative may have had significant relevance for leveraging new opportunities and advancing quality of life in the past, they are no longer consistent with our knowledge of the state of the planet, the goals of sustainable well-being societies, or our survival as a species. Calls for largescale, transformative change, which leverages human capacities for learning and modeling the change we seek, are spiraling. I argue that realizing these calls rests on three, intertwined building blocks: constructing new, life-affirming metanarratives, clarifying what we mean by sustainable well-being societies and how to measure them, and learning how to use broad heuristics to rapidly develop, prototype, and test promising social and technological innovations. The chapter concludes with sanguine examples that illustrate how meaningful, lasting change is already resulting from using these sorts of heuristics to create powerful new models that are displacing the existing model of reality, not by fighting it, but by making it obsolete – thus ushering in a fourth, sustainable well-being revolution.