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Knowledge for sustainable development: a worldviews perspective

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

A huge tension exists between recognizing sustainable development (SD) as a meta-discourse and accepting a limitless interpretational width. We analyse the impacts of diversity of worldviews on the interpretation of SD—as a knowledge-based concept—through a critical literature review, resulting in recommendations on the topic. We apply a social-constructionist approach, appreciating the complex socio-ecological interactions at the heart of SD. Only recently worldviews are recognized as constitutive elements of SD. Little attention has been given to the impacts on generated knowledge for SD. Variety of worldviews induces a variety of knowledge claims and needs. To retain SD’s ‘universal’ appeal as practical decision-guiding strategy for policy and action, we propose an integrative approach towards knowledge for SD—entailing an explicit pluralization of knowledge. SD should be re-interpreted as a joint worldviews construct, embracing a diversity of views in collaborative research and co-production of knowledge. Interpreting SD as a joint endeavour is necessary to overcome historical obstacles like cultural hegemony and a hierarchy of knowledge systems. We identified the following requirements for an inclusive knowledge for SD paradigm: re-interpretation of SD as a worldview constructs in progress; interpretative flexibility; co-production of knowledge; subjectivity awareness and self-reflexivity; respect for a diversity of worldviews/knowledges; identifying shared goals; collaborative research; a systems approach; transdisciplinarity; and recognition of contextuality. Further research—concerning potential methodologies and typologies—to reconcile variety of worldviews and knowledge systems in a joint SD worldviews construct is urgently needed.

Journal: Environment, Development and Sustainability
ISSN: 1387-585X
Issue: 3
Volume: 15
Pages: 687–709
  • ORCID: /0000-0002-4816-3445/work/104831377