Culture & Sustainable Development

23

The idea of sustainable development has evolved; from being confined to an environmental protection agenda exclusively focused on making current advances in the environmental field, it now includes an expanded viewpoint of resource management for coming generations, cutting through the dependency of social, environmental, and economic realms. Today, sustainable development encompasses socio-economic development in line with ecological constraints, the redistribution of resources, and the potential to allow long-term use of resources to ensure that future generations have the essential standard of living. “Without including culture, no development can be sustainable” (UNESCO). Culture affects the actions and perspectives of people immensely. Most of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) also consider the role of culture, including those that focus on quality education, sustainable cities, economic growth, sustainable consumption and patterns of production, stable and inclusive communities, gender equality, and food security. Culture can be an enabler, but it can also hinder sustainable growth. Too often, the consumerist culture promoted in the urban centers of countries fails to take into account the sustainability and environmental effects of products and services, directly impacting the country’s efforts to achieve sustainable development. Awareness and understanding influence cultural practices. However, in many places, these variables depend exclusively on tradition and indigenous knowledge passed on through generations. These tend to involve unsustainable strategies that are highly detrimental to the natural environment. Culture today can be modeled from a reformative point of view to redirect individual perceptions and efforts towards sustainable development. The transformative influence of culture through ideals of social inclusion, resilience, and development recognizes it as a key enabler and important driver for all efforts to achieve sustainable development. Culture can serve as a creative medium by which individuals and social groups can discover, support, reflect, criticize and grow their culture, their common cultural assets, the world as they view it, and the world as they want it to be. Creative cultural expression creates ideas, inventions, and abilities, empowers local communities, and promotes models of economically and environmentally sustainable lifestyles from a micro-level. Hence work must be geared towards the creation of a society where sustainable conduct is rooted in the culture of all people.

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