Is culture truly a ‘fourth’ pillar of sustainability alongside ecology, society and economy? Or is it more central, more fundamental, more essential? How does culture act as a catalyst for ecological sustainability, human well-being and economic viability? What would our futures look like if sustainability was embedded within culture in all of its multiple dimensions, including different worldviews and values, ways of life, and other forms of cultural expression? A cultural transition that embeds sustainability in the cultural understandings and daily practices of society has the power to shift humanity’s currently unsustainable trajectory.
Culture plays many roles in (un)sustainability, but the scientific, policy-making and societal spheres have lacked understanding of the essence of culture in sustainability. During a four-year period (2011-2015) European research network Investigating Cultural Sustainability (www.culturalsustainability.eu) has sought out state of the art and radical research across Europe and beyond. The network has highlighted this research in order to provide researchers and policymakers with instruments for integrating culture as a key element of sustainable development.
The main results of the work are:
• A final report: “Culture in, for and as Sustainable Development” summarizing the conclusions of the work and introducing three roles of culture in sustainable development: www.culturalsustainability.eu/outputs/conclusions.pdf
• a new book series, Routledge Studies in Culture and Sustainability and its first three volumes draw directly from the Action’s work, focusing on culture and sustainability in European cities, heritage and regional development: http://www.routledgementalhealth.com/books/series/RSCSD/
• an international transdisciplinary conference Culture(s) in Sustainable Futures: theories, policies, practices in Helsinki 6-8 May, 2015 at which the results of the Action were discussed by almost 300 scholars and practitioners. On the website you can find an overview of the sessions and streamed registrations of the plenary sessions, student’ reflections, the list of abstracts and the list of participants: http://www.culturalsustainability.eu/helsinki2015/programme. Lummina Horlings of the RSO group organised a session on Values in Place and gave a presentation during the plenary session on Culture in Sustainable Futures (starting at minute 36): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jItM_Hd_SAg&feature=youtu.be
Altogether 100 researchers from 25 countries within the EU with additional participants from Israel, Albania, New Zealand, and Australia contributed to the work in different ways. The network incorporated a wide variety of disciplines and fields of research, ranging from cultural, humanistic and social sciences, through political and natural sciences, to planning. The profiles and research interests of the members are introduced in the publication, Investigating Cultural Sustainability: Experts and Multidisciplinary Approaches: www.culturalsustainability.eu. The work was co-ordinated by the University of Jyväskylä and supported by the European COST Association (Cooperation in Science and Technology), which is funded within the European Commission’s research programme Horizon 2020.