Environmental Ethics

Volume 35, Issue 2, Summer 2013

Climate Change, Sustainability, and Environmental Ethics

Annick Hedlund-de Witt
Pages 133-162

Worldviews and Their Significance for the Global Sustainable Development Debate

Insight into worldviews is essential for approaches aiming to design and support (more) sustainable pathways for society, both locally and globally. However, the nature of worldviews remains controversial, and it is still unclear how the concept can best be operationalized in the context of research and practice. One way may be by developing a framework for the understanding and operationalization worldviews by investigating various conceptualizations of the term in the history of philosophy. Worldviews can be understood as inescapable, overarching systems of meaning and meaning making that to a substantial extent inform how humans interpret, enact, and co-create reality. Moreover, worldviews are profoundly historically and developmentally situated. An Integrative Worldview Framework (IWF) can operationalize worldviews by differentiating five interrelated aspects: ontology, epistemology, axiology, anthropology, and societal vision. The evolution of the worldview concept is suggestive of an increasing reflexivity, creativity, responsibility, and inclusiveness—each of which are qualities that appear to be crucial for the global sustainable development debate.