At a conference for the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, experts discussed the challenges and efforts needed to achieve environmental sustainability. Scientists can reveal important information and share it with the world. Politicians can develop policies or make infrastructural changes. But living sustainably requires individuals to make conscious behavioral changes and lifestyle adjustments, which can be difficult to accomplish.
Thomas Dietz, assistant vice president for environmental research at Michigan State University, said:
Because human decisions and behaviour are the result of ethics, values and emotion, and because sustainability directly involves our values and ethical concerns, science alone is insufficient to make decisions about sustainability.
Information plays a much smaller role than we like to think. In order to truly address big issues like climate change or sustainability, we need to talk at a society-wide scale about our values and reach mutual understanding about the values needed for sustainability.
With climate change as a pressing issue, we need to consider new ways to address the movement towards sustainability. At the conference Dietz also suggested art as a possible new approach:
Art can provoke thinking and actually change people’s perceptions of the complex issues associated with sustainability science
When we’re considering questions about preserving biodiversity versus creating jobs, art can help us examine our values and have a discussion that’s broader than just scientific facts.