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Inside-out sustainability: the neglect of inner worlds

Ives, Christopher D.; Freeth, Rebecca; Fischer, Joern


Associate Professor

Rebecca Freeth

Joern Fischer


In the context of continuing ecosystem degradation and deepening socio-economic inequality, sustainability scientists must question the adequacy of current scholarship and practice. We argue that pre-occupation with external phenomena and collective social structures has led to the neglect of people’s ‘inner worlds’—their emotions, thoughts, identities and beliefs. These lie at the heart of actions for sustainability, and have powerful transformative capacity for system change. The condition of people’s inner worlds ought to also be considered a dimension of sustainability itself. Compassion, empathy and generosity, for example, are personal characteristics that mark individual expressions of sustainability. Sustainability science must take inner life more seriously by considering how language shapes and is shaped by paradigms about the world, prioritising enquiry into how spirituality, contemplation and sustainability transformation relate, and encouraging scholars and practitioners to intentionally cultivate their inner worlds to strengthen inner resources necessary for addressing sustainability challenges.


Ives, C. D., Freeth, R., & Fischer, J. (2019). Inside-out sustainability: the neglect of inner worlds. AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment, 1-10.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 9, 2019
Online Publication Date Apr 24, 2019
Publication Date Apr 24, 2019
Deposit Date Apr 18, 2019
Publicly Available Date May 9, 2019
Journal Ambio
Print ISSN 0044-7447
Electronic ISSN 1654-7209
Publisher Springer Verlag
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Pages 1-10
Keywords Ecology; Geography, Planning and Development; Environmental Chemistry; General Medicine
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Received: 6 July 2018; Revised: 1 February 2019; Accepted: 9 April 2019; First Online: 24 April 2019


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