Psychological Roots of Sustainability:
The Basis for Achieving Personal, Community and Planetary Wellbeing
(presented to McGill University and John Abbott College in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, QC, Canada; 25 October 2007)
We must recognise that the numerous crises and challenges facing the planet, our communities, businesses, families and ourselves are interrelated; and that the dominant fragmented and curative (back-end) problem-solving approaches must give way to integrated, proactive (front-end) approaches that aim to design and manage systems to enable wellbeing at all levels; and our ongoing psychosocial evolution as a species.
To achieve this we must expand the boundaries of our habitual thinking and acting, and be open to major paradigm shifts and the transformation of all of our institutional structures and processes (particularly in relation to business, government, and our health and education systems). Achieving this as a species, and within our nations, communities and families, will require us to engage in profound personal change. This, in turn, will require the provision of more opportunities for transformative learning, and access to healing therapies, supportive spaces and initiatives that enable us to act on our potential.
P.A. Yeomans’ ‘Keyline’ approach to sustainable landscape design and management provides a powerful example of the kind of creative and courageous thinking that is required. The needed changes can be achieved by gaining a better understanding of the processes involved, by engaging in doable meaningful initiatives, and by celebrating the outcomes so that we may be inspired by and learn from one another.
This presentation provides relevant maps, models and case studies from over 40 years of experience by the presenter in over a dozen countries.
Professor Stuart B. Hill is Foundation Chair of Social Ecology
at the University of Western Sydney
School of Education (includes previous School of Social Ecology & Lifelong Learning)
University of Western Sydney (Kingswood Campus),
Locked Bag 1797, PENRITH SOUTH DC, NSW 1797, AUSTRALIA
Co-Editor: Journal of Organic Systems http://www.organic-systems.org/index.html
Co-Creator: Australian Society for Sustainable Business http://societyforsustainablebusiness.org/
Professor Stuart B. Hill is Foundation Chair of Social Ecology at the University of Western Sydney. At UWS he teaches units on Qualitative Research Methodology, Social Ecology Research, Transformative Learning, Leadership and Change, and Sustainability, Leadership and Change.
His PhD was one of the first whole ecosystem studies that examined community and energy relationships (1969); and it was the earliest such study conducted by a single researcher. For this he received the awards for Best PhD Thesis and Best PhD Student. In 1977 he received a Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal for his community and social transformation work.
In 1972, in Canada, he produced a report for the New Brunswick Government on Energy and Agriculture that detailed many of the resource, environment and climate issues that are at last being recognized today. Since then he has produced many more cutting edge reports, and has been an advisor to several ministers.
Prior to 1996 he was at McGill University, in Montreal, where he was responsible for the zoology degree, and where in 1974 he established Ecological Agriculture Projects, Canada’s leading resource centre for sustainable agriculture (www.eap.mcgill.ca).
His last PhD student at McGill was Ann Dale, who was on leave from the Privy Council Office, and who had played a major role in the establishment of the first ‘National Round Table for the Economy and the Environment’. Her thesis, which has been published as a book (At the Edge: Sustainable Development in the 21st Century, UBC Pr, 2001) examines what is needed for governments to deal responsibly with sustainability.
Hill has published over 350 papers and reports. His latest books are Ecological Pioneers: A Social History of Australian Ecological Thought and Action (with Dr Martin Mulligan; Cambridge UP, 2001) and Learning for Sustainable Living: Psychology of Ecological Transformation (with Dr Werner Sattmann-Frese; Lulu, 2008).
More recently he has contributed groundbreaking chapters to five books: Enabling redesign for deep industrial ecology and personal values transformation, in Industrial Ecology and Spaces of Innovation (2006); Redesign as deep industrial ecology: lessons from ecological agriculture and social ecology, in Industrial Ecology: A Question of Design? (2006); Social ecology as a framework for understanding and working with social capital and sustainability within rural communities, in A Dynamic Balance: Social Capital and Sustainable Community Development (2005); Learning Ecology: A New Approach to Learning and Transforming Ecological Consciousness: Experiences from Social Ecology in Australia, in Learning Toward An Ecological Consciousness: Selected Transformative Practices (2004); and Autonomy, mutualistic relationships, sense of place, and conscious caring: a hopeful view of the present and future, in Changing Places: Re-imagining Australia (2003).
In Canada he was a member of over 30 regional, national and international boards and committees. He is currently on the editorial board of five international refereed journals, and until 2004 he represented professional environmental educators on the NSW Council on Environmental Education.
Stuart has worked in agricultural and development projects in the West Indies, French West Africa, Indonesia, The Philippines, China, the Seychelles, the UK, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. His work in the Seychelles to make a whole coralline island completely self sufficient in food and energy is particularly significant.
His background in chemical engineering, ecology, soil biology, entomology, agriculture, psychotherapy, education, policy development and international development, and his experience of working with transformative change, has enabled him to be an effective facilitator in complex situations that demand collaboration across difference and a long-term co-evolutionary approach to situation improvement. These skills were used extensively in his recent role as Provocateur for the Victorian Government (for DPI & DSE: 2004-5).
Recent Keynotes at National Conferences include the following:
Hill, S.B. 2006. Engaging Us: Ecological Thinking as a Basis for Community Change. Keynote to Enviro 06 Conf. & Exhibn.: Building Sustainable Cities [Melbourne; 11 May]
Hill, S.B. 2006. Taking Appropriate Next Steps to Progressive Change: Building on the Past and Risking Deep Transformation Towards More Sustainable Communities. Keynote to APEN ‘06 Int. Conf.: Practice change for sustainable communities: exploring footprints, pathways and possibilities [Beechworth, VIC; 6-8 March]
[web; 18 pp: www.regional.org.au/au/apen/2006/keynote/4003_hills.htm]