Changing Cultural Values and the Transition to Sustainability

by Hardin Tibbs


This paper examines how change in cultural values could contribute to achieving sustainability and explores the timing of a possible transition. Global modeling of unsustainability points to a need for both technological changes and a shift in social priorities to make the socio-economic system sustainable. The technological changes are well understood in broad terms and could be achieved with existing know-how. The critical requirement is the social and political will for implementation, but until recently only a minority of the population in the global North had adopted the new cultural values this requires. However, social survey data indicates that in many affluent nations close to 50 percent of the population have now adopted post-materialist values. Modeling this cultural shift as a substitution phenomenon shows the values of modernity being rapidly replaced by the values of transmodernity and suggests an important turning point in progress towards sustainability. The potential of this shift in values for shaping different future scenarios of the transition to global sustainability is discussed.

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