Sustainability and Inner Transformation
Humanity is facing increasingly complex environmental and sustainability challenges. Current coordination mechanisms, problem-solving strategies, and modes of scientific inquiry, teaching and learning appear insufficient to address these challenges and bring about transformative change towards more sustainable pathways. As a result, the notion of inner transformation (or inner transition) has emerged as a new area of exploration. The course explores this new area and creates space and opportunities for learning and knowledge development on this topic. Inner transformation, as used here, describes changes in the sphere of human interiority related to people’s (expanded) consciousness, associated values, mindsets and/or beliefs. Accordingly, it relates to all kinds of activities that can support such changes (e.g., mental, religious and indigenous practices/knowledge). The course critically discusses related concepts and activities.
The overall aim of the course is to critically assess the potential role of inner transformation for sustainability, and how this is reflected in sustainability science. This also involves a critical reflection about inner transformation as a social phenomenon. Inner transformation through expanded consciousness is an inherent capacity of the human organism that is rooted in the fundamental activities of consciousness. It has increasingly been the subject of academic studies based on established concepts and theories of e.g., attention, awareness, emotional intelligence and mindfulness disposition. Inner transformation is often viewed as a pre-requisite to the development of compassion, and involves a fundamental shift in the way people think about and ultimately act on both local and global economic, social and ecological crises.
The specific objectives of this course are threefold. Firstly, it allows students to develop a critical understanding of the potential interlinkages between inner transformation and sustainability (in theory and practice). Examples of topics where sustainability and inner transformation have been linked in literature include: subjective well-being, sustainable behavior and consumption, the human-nature connection, equity issues, and social activism. Secondly, inner transformation theories and practices are assessed in relation to a specific sustainability field, such as climate change adaptation and/or risk reduction. Potential topics and concepts include mindful climate action and organizational mindfulness for strategic adaptation mainstreaming. Thirdly, the course allows students to engage and critically reflect on the nature of inner transformation and its salience to sustainability science and learning.