Sustainability (Dis)Connections: Principled Practice, Practiced Principles, or Unprincipled Practices?

Authors: Stephen Axon*, Southern Connecticut State University
Topics: Sustainability Science, Human-Environment Geography, Environmental Perception
Keywords: Sustainability, Principles of Sustainability, Applied Sustainability, Sustainability Engagement
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 18
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Developing effective sustainability projects continues to be one of the largest challenges for society. Yet more challenging is ensuring that such projects follow the principles of sustainability, as illustrated in the Rio Declaration, which have evolved over the last 60 years as a result of numerous international conferences, agreements, and policies. This raises more questions than it answers. What do sustainability science students really think about how sustainability should be applied, and its importance? Is it important to encapsulate these principles within applied sustainability? Are newer concepts such as justice and engagement more worthwhile to incorporate than those encapsulated as part of the Rio Declaration? Applied sustainability has frequently lacked a central guiding framework that remotely reflects the principles within the Rio Declaration. Consequently, this presentation will address these questions with results from a survey of 3 consecutive years of environmental studies, geography, and sustainability science students at Southern Connecticut State University. Having undertaken a course in the Principles of Sustainability, the survey findings demonstrate that the Rio Principles have little practical application, while current sustainability students favour new concepts such as community, engagement, and justice to be more appropriate for inclusion to applied sustainability. The paper will conclude with implications for sustainability science and applied sustainability projects.

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