The ‘Dimensions of Sustainable Development’ were proposed in the course of the Dutch ‘Interdepartmental Program Education for Sustainable Development’ as more orderly concept informing sequences to learn (Rikers, Hermans, & Eussen, 2010). The simple embedded model builds on the notion that within a maintainable ecology a fair spread of existential means, well-being, is the only base for accepting differences in welfare (Eussen, 2007).
We therewith sought to prioritize phenomena following their natural chronological sequence and from there their causal relations and inter-dependencies to achieve a better understanding of values.
Earth’s ecology is respected as conditio sine qua non while welfare is positioned as a human-inherent strive for the accumulation of values beyond the realm of well-being. Worded otherwise, when a human activity preserves the Earth’s natural capital and does not diminish the well-being of people living today or in the future, then it is sustainable (Remington-Doucette, Hiller Connell, Armstrong, & Musgrove, 2013). The Dimensions of Sustainable Development therewith present an initially not-anthropocentric worldview.
Also later eponymous models that presented planetary boundaries and society in an embedded way, such as ‘The Doughnut Economy’ (Raworth, 2013, 2017), in our view remained fundamentally anthropocentric and reason within the limitation of present day structures and institutes.
Next to the idea of chronological perspective, the likely prioritizing of phenomena, not anthropocentric worldview and value-orientation, the Dimensions of Sustainable Development also invite to reason outside the present box and consider present structures, institutes, common organisation and behaviour no longer given but subject to transition.
Following, I propose the Dimensions of Sustainable Development to provide us with a framework for more logical reasoning as it unclutters the discourse(s) and brings then more near, provides initial direction and has the capacity to synthesize education into a coherent framework. Before exploring this further I briefly elaborate on the way the dimensions are further interpreted .
The Dimensions appear close to other holistic integrative sustainability approaches (Griggs et al., 2013; Tilbury & Wortman, 2004), which however mention both ‘society’ and ‘economy’, whereas I regard economy as the articulation of how society interprets and transfers values, both for wellbeing as well as welfare. I argue we therefore need a more distinct delineation to provide for a foothold to name and weigh values which underpin our decision making. Hence, I proposed a value- and not an actor-based approach, encompassing values regarding Earth and Wellbeing but also acknowledging that Welfare comprises of not only tangible elements but also values such as those in the realm of the Arts, a persons’ sense of achievement and longer term resilience.