A case for ecologically sustainable happiness

Date & time

1–2pm 18 September 2014


Forestry Lecture Theatre
Building #48
Linnaeus Way


Carmel Dunn


 David Salt
 +61 2 6125 9286

This lecture is free and open to the public

Numerous experts from the fields of sustainability, business management and systems thinking tell us that we need to change the underlying paradigm or dominant mind-set if we wish to bring about transformational change towards sustainability. Changing the dominant paradigm, however, is much easier said than done. The current neo-liberal/economic paradigm that has brought us to the brink of ecological and societal collapse is everywhere we look – it is extraordinarily pervasive and deeply entrenched.  This was evident in my research of 46 NSW local government Community Strategic Plans.  If we wish to create a sustainable society, an initial crucial step must be to challenge and change the current neo-liberal/economic paradigm.

This seminar presents an alternate paradigm called ‘Ecologically Sustainable Happiness’. Unlike the ‘Sustainable Development’ paradigm, the proposed new concept of Ecologically Sustainable Happiness may prove powerful enough to oppose the formidable neo-liberal/economic mind-set. This is because the human drive for happiness is, arguably, the most fundamental motivator of human behaviour.  Certainly many renowned thinkers throughout the ages have thought so – ranging from Aristotle to Freud, from Augustine to Darwin. If forced to choose, people will always choose happiness over economic growth because “how to gain, how to keep, how to recover happiness, is in fact for most [people] at all times the secret motive of all they do, and of all they are willing to endure” (William James 1902). Not everyone is interested in sustainability or environmental protection or good governance, but everyone is interested in their own lasting happiness, making this new paradigm universally appealing. Furthermore, my research has found that it is possible to adopt Ecologically Sustainable Happiness as the overall purpose of a Community Strategic Plan making this new paradigm practicable at community levels in Australia.

About the speaker

Carmel Dunn is currently in her final year of a PhD – and has been for the last 2.5 years. Carmel has had much experience as a sustainability change agent in local government in Australia and in aid projects overseas. This somewhat frustrating career path led her to undertake a PhD in the hope of finding an easier and more effective way of motivating transformational change towards sustainability at local levels.

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