An Introduction to


Chapter 6


Annotated Bibliography

  1. Dresner, Simon 2008, The Principles of Sustainability, London: Earthscan.

    Simon Dresner’s book has been highly regarded since it was first published in 2002. It is admired for its analysis of key sustainability discourses.

  2. Nemetz, Peter 2015, ‘Reconstructing the sustainability narrative: Separating myth from reality’ in Helen Kopnina and Eleanor Shoreman-Ouimet (eds) Sustainability: Key isses, Abingdon: Earthscan/Routledge, pp 25-39

    This presents a fairly strong critique of some of the shallow ideas about sustainability which have arisen in the last 30 years or so. It presents some challenges that are addressed in other chapters in the same book.

  3. Giddings, Bob, Bill Hopwood and Geoff O’Brien, 2002, ‘Environment, Economy and Society: Fitting Them Together into Sustainable Development,’ Sustainable Development, 10, pp 187-196.

    This paper argues for the ‘nested diagram’ model that is discussed in Chapter 6.

  4. Hawkes, Jon, 2001, The Fourth Pillar of Sustainability: Culture’s Essential Role in Public Planning, Melbourne: Cultural Development Network.

    Vastly experienced Australian community arts practitioner Jon Hawkes was commissioned by the Australian Cultural Development Network to write about the importance of culture for the sustainability of local communities. He described ‘cultural vitality’ as the ‘fourth pillar’ of sustainability and this idea has attracted interest in Europe, Canada and New Zealand as well as in Australia.

  5. James, Paul 2015, Urban Sustainability in Theory and Practice: Circles of sustainability, Abingdon: Earthscan/Routledge

    This book reports on work done in range of global cities with the ‘Circles of sustainability’ model developed in the Global Cities Research Institute at RMIT University by Paul James, Andy Scerri and Liam Magee. This works with a four domains model of sustainability

  6. Orr, David, 2010, Hope is an Imperative: The Essential David Orr, Washington: Island Press.

    David Orr first rose to international prominence with a book titled Ecological Literacy in 1992. He has gone on to become Distinguished Professor in Environmental Studies at Oberlin College in Iowa, with a visiting professor position at the University of Vermont. This publication is a collection of some of his best essays.

  7. Scerri, Andy and Paul James 2010, ‘Accounting for sustainability: combining qualitative and quantitative research in developing ‘indicators’ of sustainability,’ International Journal of Social Research Methodology,13 (1): 41-53.

    This paper explains the ‘four domains of sustainability’ model that was developed within the Global Cities Research Institute at RMIT University, Melbourne, between 2008 and 2010.

  8. Wright, Diana and Donella Meadows, 2012, Thinking in Systems: A Primer, London: Routledge.

    Donella Meadows became internationally famous as the lead author of the 1972 Limits to Growth report commissioned by the Club of Rome while she was working as a researcher in system dynamics at MIT in Boston. She taught systems theory and practice for 29 years at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire until she died of a bacterial infection in 2001. This overview book on systems thinking was produced in her honour by her student Diana Wright.

  9. Washington, Haydn 2015, Demystifying Sustainability: Towards real solutions, Abingdon: Earthscan/Routledge

    A well-researched and well-constructed argument for deep cultural and social changes in order to act on sustainability imperatives. It includes a chapter (11) on ‘Solutions for Sustainability’ which includes many tips on ‘What you can do’.

Annotated Links to Further Web Resources

  1. Indiana Business Review: Triple Bottom line

    IBR research and consultancy group provides a good account of the history and development of TBL as a composite index. The description includes some examples of how TBL has been used in North America.

  2. Professor Stuart B. Hill

    Stuart Hill has been the foremost advocate of the Social Ecology model of sustainability as it emerged at the University of Western Sydney in the 1990s. This website provides access to a range of PowerPoint slide presentations Professor Hill made between 2007 and 2012.

  3. The Fourth Pillar

    Following unexpected international interest in his 2001 proposal that cultural vitality should be seen as the ‘fourth pillar’ of sustainability, Australian author Jon Hawkes has established this website to further promote the idea and share relevant news.

  4.  Systems Thinking

    This website provides a good introduction to the principles and practices of systems thinking. It presents models and simulations and resources for businesses and organisations wanting to work with such models.

  5. The Use and Abuse of Scenarios

    The website of McKinsey and Company provides access to a good account of the use and abuse of scenarios mapping work.

Annotated Links to Video Clips

  1. What is the triple bottom line?

    Duration: 11:12

    In this 2011 presentation, the person who coined the term ‘triple bottom line’ ‒ John Elkington ‒ explains why it was needed, how it has evolved and how it has encouraged corporate social responsibility.

  2. Stuart Hill and the Sandbox Syndrome

    Duration: 3:48

    Professor Hill works with the parable of the sandbox, in which children are forced to play with, or alongside, strangers to consider how people might be able to overcome prejudices or fears of other people.

  3. Systems Thinking

    Duration: 7:28

    A clever whiteboard animation presentation by James Swanson that introduces some key principles of systems thinking.

  4. Navigating Webs of Independence, Peter Senge

    Duration: 5:17

    In this 2011 presentation, renowned MIT University academic Peter Senge explains that we all live in systems in our family life and that we can reflect on that experience to work out better ways to operate in teams and workplace organisations.

  5. Scenarios Planning for Environmental Management

    Duration: 2:36

    A good, animated introduction to using scenarios planning for environmental management. Produced by the James Hutton Institute in 2015

  6. Introduction to Scenarios Planning

    Duration 4:04

    This video makes good use of animations to introduce some key principles of scenarios planning.

  7. David Orr@Schumacher College: Ecological Literacy and Ecological Foundation

    Duration: 7:29

    Highly experienced US environmental educator David Orr talking about his life experiences and derived insights with students at Schumacher College in the UK in 2011. We are moving into a global age of the ‘ecological enlightenment’, he asserts.

  8. Strategy 101 ‒ Scenarios Planning

    Duration: 9:48

    In this 2013 presentation, UK business studies academic Christian Stadler goes through a five-step approach to Scenarios Planning.

Group Activities

  1. Dimensions of sustainability

    Submitted by: Blanche Higgins and Martin Mulligan, RMIT University, Australia

    Background to the activity

    In 2010, the Academy Award-winning film-maker Josh Fox made a documentary about his personal encounters with the practice of hydrological fracturing (‘fracking’), which aims to release relatively small pockets of natural gas for subsequent collection. The documentary, called Gasland, helped to build public opposition to growing fracking operations in the United States and evoked a strong reaction from the natural gas industry.

    For this activity the group should watch the trailer for the documentary at and a response from the gas industry at  Participants should be advised to watch the full documentary before participating in the activity if possible.

    Activity purpose

    To consider how the Social Ecology sustainability model might sort out rival claims about the sustainability of the fracking industry.

    Activity description

    Taking the standpoint of people living in an area where fracking is being mooted, the group will do a quick cost-benefit analysis of the proposal under the headings below. Note that while it may not be possible for activity participants to weigh up the accuracy of rival claims about the impacts of fracking, the group should aim to list as many potential costs and benefits as they can, even if some of them require subsequent verification or research.

    1. Personal: Costs and benefits of fracking to individual people who will feel the impacts of fracking operations and/or be able to consume the harvested gas.
    2. Environmental: Costs and benefits of fracking for the non-human environment.
    3. Social: Costs and benefits for society in the United States as a whole, including perceived economic costs and benefits (not to be precisely quantified).

    Having carried out the cost-benefit analysis under the three headings, the group must reach a majority decision on whether or not it supports or opposes the fracking operations.

    Discussion questions

    1. Which factors carried the most weight in influencing the decision you made?
    2. Is it simply a matter of weighing up competing costs and benefits or are some costs too high to be allowed? What kinds of costs are non-negotiable?
    3. How convinced were you by the gas industry response to Gasland? What was it about the gas industry response that swayed your feelings one way or the other?
  2. Introduction to scenarios mapping

    Submitted by: Blanche Higgins and Martin Mulligan, RMIT University, Australia


    A proper scenarios-mapping workshop requires a lot of preparation and time to work towards a range of plausible future scenarios related to a particular context. This exercise is aimed at providing a glimpse into what is involved. It asks the group to contemplate what life might be like in their city or town 50 years into the future.

    Step 1

    If the group has more than eight people present, break it into smaller groups of 4‒6 each. Each group should aim to identify ‘drivers of uncertainty’ that are likely to pose major challenges for the city or town during the next 50 years.

    Step 2

    Once key drivers of uncertainty have been collated by the group as a whole, each small group can pick one or two to focus on. They should then discuss how the driver(s) of uncertainty might affect daily life in the town or city 50 years from now.

    Step 3

    Each small group should aim to write a concise description of life in the city or town in 50 years time which takes into account changes that have occurred and possible adaptations to disturbances that have unfolded.

    Step 4

    Small group descriptions to be read out and then discussed by the group as a whole.

    Discussion questions

    1. What is most surprising about the descriptions of the future?
    2. Do the descriptions provide grounds for hope that the city or town will cope with changes and uncertainties that have unfolded?
    3. What could be done to avoid the worst scenarios depicted in the descriptions?
  3. Tragedy of the Commons game

    Submitted by: Arley Marks, RMIT University, Australia

    Group is split into five groups (nations) which all have a cup of lollies (carbon emissions). In the centre of the room/table is an empty bowl which represents the amount by which emissions need to be reduced worldwide to contain global warming to less than two degrees centigrade. The overall goal of the game is for groups to negotiate and ensure that the bowl (the ‘commons’) is filled with lollies. Nobody gets to eat any lollies until the bowl is full.

    However, the individual group/nation that manages to reduce their own emissions/lollies the LEAST wins a super exciting mystery prize (the ‘commons’ bowl) (plus whatever lollies are left in their cup).

    If you want to make it more complicated/realistic, allocate different amounts of lollies to different countries based on ratio of emissions per capita.

    Supply the following data to each of the nations (I used sticky labels on the lolly cups). What factors will influence their decision about what is a ‘fair’ input from each?

    China: 26% (8,286,892 thousand tonnes annually) (4.9 thousand tonnes per capita)

    USA: 17% (5,433,057 thousand tonnes) (16.4 per capita)

    Australia: 1.19 % (373,081 thousand tonnes) (18.8 per capita)

    Cambodia: 0.01% (4,180 thousand tonnes) (0.3 per capita)

    Denmark: 0.15% (46,303 thousand tonnes) (8.4 per capita)

    Discussion questions:

    1. What were the arguments/decision making criteria that came up in deciding who should allocate the most lollies to the commons bowl?
    2. What worldviews are evident? Did we frame this as a shared problem that everyone should play an equal role in solving (equality of input), or a problem stemming from some players having to give more than others (diversity of input)?
    3. What was our goal? (Equity in outcomes, or diversity?) Why?
    4. Who became the most powerful and the most vulnerable in this game?
    5. What was the complexity in the situation? How did competing vested interests hinder this process?
    6. What would have made it easier to fill the commons?