Overall Theme 2005: People and Planet — Longer, Broader and Deeper Views

Theme 1: Environmental Sustainability
  • The science and technology of environmental sustainability.
  • Ecosystemics.
  • Sustainable agriculture.
  • Urbanisation and its consequences.
  • Ecological footprints and ecospaces.
  • Atmosphere and biosphere: global warming, the ozone layer, pollution.
  • Energy: renewable and not.
  • Water: sources and uses.
  • Land and sea, mountain and savannah, desert and wet zones, forests and coasts: variable impacts on varied environments.
  • Biological diversity: its past and prospects.
  • Biotechnology and its critics.
  • Bioethics.
  • Nature as intellectual and physical property.
  • Danger signs: rising sea levels, desertification, soil degradation.
  • Wastes and waste management.
  • Measuring impacts: environmental assessment.

Theme 2: Cultural Sustainability
  • The meaning of cultural sustainability.
  • Belonging and identity: their environmental, economic and social significance.
  • Changing patterns and cultures of consumption.
  • Cosmopolis: local cultures, globalisation, diaspora.
  • Civic pluralism: multiculturalism and cultural sustainability.
  • Cultural and political liberalisation: challenges and dangers.
  • Women and men, children and the elderly, families and sustainability.
  • Cultural dimensions of childbearing and population growth.
  • Cultural resources and indigenous or local intellectual property.
  • Cultural tourism.
  • Indigenous peoples: self-government, self management and cultural autonomy.
  • Indigenous knowledge and traditional practices of sustainability: broadening the scope of valid knowledge.
  • The arts and creativity as a resource for sustainability.
  • Religion and human sustainability.
  • Community and identity as sources of resilience.
  • Education sustaining language and culture.

Theme 3: Economic Sustainability
  • The economics of environment, culture and society.
  • What is economic value?
  • Cultural, social and environmental capital.
  • The economics of sustainability.
  • Needs, wants and demand: reconfiguring the economic equation.
  • Business cases: the cost and value of sustainability.
  • Risks and risk management: where economy meets environment, culture and society.
  • Free trade and fair trade.
  • Global flows: finance, trade, technology transfer and debt.
  • Sustainable aid and aid for sustainability.
  • The dynamics of production and consumption.
  • Accountability: beyond financial years and bottom lines.
  • Measuring performance and reporting sustainability.
  • Organisations and corporations: defining the stakeholders and meeting their interests.
  • Corporate values and business ethics.
  • Development, underdevelopment and sustainability.
  • Tourism and its impacts.
  • Sustainable and unsustainable transportation.
  • Structures of ownership: private property, public property and the commons.

Theme 4: Social Sustainability
  • One, two, three, four, how many ‘bottom lines’?
  • Good citizenship in fragile environments, cultures, economies, societies.
  • Levels of governance: sustainability at local, regional, national, and international levels.
  • Domains of responsibility: NGOs, corporations, persons.
  • Wellbeing and quality of life: sources and strategies.
  • The sources of sustainable innovation.
  • Planning for sustainability.
  • Capacity building in theory and practice.
  • Sustainability and community participation.
  • Managing human ‘resources’.
  • Poverty and its eradication.
  • Health in its environmental, cultural, economic and social contexts.
  • Population growth and its consequences.
  • Urbanisation and the sustainability of human settlement.
  • Theories of complexity and uncertainty.
  • Knowledge sources, information resources and data collection processes.
  • Natural and social sciences: taking an holistic view.
  • Researching sustainability.
  • Knowledge capacities: developing science and technology locally.
  • Public knowledge: the role of the media and government.
  • Teaching and learning sustainability: schools, universities, communities.


The Sustainability Conference and The International Journal of Sustainability create a forum for discussion and a place for the publication of innovative theories and practices of sustainability.

The Conference and the Journal are cross-disciplinary in their scope, a meeting point for natural and social scientists, researchers and practitioners, professionals and community representatives. Our times call for interdisciplinary and holistic approaches. As the challenges to our human and planetary existence become less capable of being addressed by purely personal, corporate, local or short term solutions, so too narrowness of thinking will no longer suffice. This is not to say that we do not need to develop careful, finely grained, locally nuanced and deeply grounded knowledge and social practices of sustainability. Such perspectives are, if anything, more critical than ever. But increasingly they need also to be situated in the context of longer, broader and deeper views.

Four Fundamentals

Four foundations - four fundamentals - constitute a fourfold ‘bottom line’ for sustainability.

Environment: nature is a dynamic thing in and of itself, and sometimes convulsively so. Over several millennia, the human species has become one of the forces of nature, a critical part of its destiny, and ever more so today and tomorrow. Perhaps even, the human species may be a catalyst in another convulsion in the course of natural history. As nature more and more becomes an object of human artifice, its prospects become a subject more and more at the forefront of human consciousness. ‘What have we done with nature?’ we may well ask ourselves. What have been the forms and effects of our interventions? What are the implications of our newfound species-role as a force of nature, and what the responsibilities that accompany this role? How can we create a viable home for ourselves and the other lifeforms of the planet?

Culture: this is the stuff of our human natures, our subjectivities, our shared meanings and our memories. Culture is the glue of similarity (‘identity’, literally) that grounds our sociability. It is also a matter of difference or cultures in the plural, the multilayered combinations of which forms persons in the plural: ways of seeing, ways of thinking, ways of meaning, ways of relating to each other, ways of connecting with nature. The challenge of culture is as much to forge a productive diversity for the human species (ethnos, gender, ecosystemics) as it is to nurture the sources of cohesion and commonality.

Economy: or the dynamics of our material life, where our social relations and our tools mix their energies with the natural world to meet our human needs. Here, the challenge is to create economic systems which are environmentally viable, not destroying or damaging our life sources as natural beings; which are culturally viable, not harming our identities and ultimately what is humane in our natures; and which are socially viable, not creating destructive tensions and unsustainable injustices around axes of inequality of access to material and social resources.

Society: or our systems of regulation and governance. What allows for all our participation as autonomous yet social beings? What makes for good citizenship? How do we create, manage and propagate knowledge? How do we integrate the four fundamentals of environment, culture, economy and society so we can address our human futures and live to the full our human potentials?

The Conference and the Journal attempt to locate the now, the here and the felt in longer, broader and deeper views of the four fundamentals of sustainability.

Longer Views

On a length dimension, we may wish to question the now-ness of our interests and actions: organisations which measure performance in solely in terms financial years; people who measure wellbeing in terms of instant gratification; communities which compromise future generations by satisfying their wants in the present. Of course, we need to live in the here and now, but that living is limited if it is purely for the here and the now and so prejudices environment, culture, economy or society in the longer view.

Broader Views

On a breadth dimension, we may question the here-ness of our interests and actions: acting locally without thinking globally; living personally without knowing politically; living in our cultures but sensitive to the diversity of others; operating to narrow economic or social goals without taking into account their ecosystemic sources and effects.

Deeper Views

On a depth dimension, we may question the this-ness of our interests: what we feel in our everyday lifeworlds in relation to deep and less immediately tangible social, economic and ecological structures; our individual and corporate motivations in relation to human and ecological values; monetary value in relation to human value; the hidden hand of personal self interest as opposed to the conscious hand of good governance, responsible citizenship and the values of caring for nature and each other.

The Sustainability Conference and the Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability provide a forum for discussion of the connections between environment, culture, economy and society. The perspectives presented range from big picture analyses which address global and universal concerns, to detailed case studies which speak of localised applications of the principles and practices of sustainability. Conference presentations and published papers traverse a broad terrain, sometimes technically and other times socially oriented, sometimes theoretical and other times practical in their perspective, and sometimes reflecting dispassionate analysis whilst at other times suggesting interested strategies for action.