Sustainability Science

, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 115–117 | Cite as

Sustainability, culture and personal responsibility

  • S. E. van der LeeuwEmail author
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“When white missionaries brought the bible to Africa, they had the bible and we had the land”. They said: “let us pray”. So we closed our eyes and prayed … And when we opened our eyes, we had the bible and they had the land …”

You can surrender your most valuable asset without even noticing it!

Desmond Tutu

The conclusion of the 2011 Nobel meeting in Stockholm on Sustainability ( was unambiguous: we need a change in collective mindset to achieve our vision and goal. As an anthropologist, therefore I ask myself: “What might be the barriers to such a change?”

About 15 years ago, I visited the highlands of Papua New Guinea as a guest to my wife, who was doing research there. In these parts, because the climate is wet and cold at an elevation of over 2000 m, people’s lives focus on a fire that is maintained at all times in a central hearth pit. It serves to heat the dwelling and to cook.

In one village, we observed that the...


Discontinuous Change Burden Sharing Sustainability Debate Potential Unintended Consequence Debate Shift 
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Copyright information

© Springer Japan 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Human Evolution and Social ChangeArizona State UniversityPhoenixUSA

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