Cultura21 is a platform for the promotion of a cultural change in the sense of a sustainable, social ecological change process, i.e. for a cultural evolution of societies and lifestyles. The term ‘sustainability’ expresses the close connection between social justice, peace, democracy, self-determination, ecology and quality of life. In order to reach these goals we need a cultural strategy of sustainability, that is based on the assumption that the media, the arts, education, communication and organizational forms as well as human emotions play decisive roles in processes of social change.

Most indicators of the “global crisis” are still not showing any sign of improvement. The alarming fact is not only that those problems have structural causes, but also that the previous approaches and tentative solutions to the crisis have proven to be inadequate, focused on a short-time vision or even are part of the problem.

To overcome the global crisis

The ultimate ambition for sustainable development was to overcome the global crisis. The global crisis is characterized by social, economic and ecological dimensions that call for integrated resolutions. However, after the unfulfilled hopes of the 1992 UN-Conference for Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, the debate on sustainability began to stagnate

  • The ecological modernization approach which remains popular among national policy circles, modernist intellectuals, concerned multinational firms and international institutions, has maintained in the focus of public attention and the locus of action on the design and implementation of new technologies. It has spawned a language of rationality and efficiency that sang to the hearts of bureaucracies, whether public or private.
  • The business as usual mentality, which inhabits most social, economic and environmental policies, has kept issues of worldviews and lifestyle-changes at bay.
  • The radical alternative movements, such as self-sufficiency, ‘Décroissance’ and ecological utopias focused on an denunciation of economic growth, have failed to effectively change the hard competition between the social, ecological and economical dimensions of development as it is practised worldwide.

These alternative models have remained unpopular and frontally conflict with dominant interests. Besides, their affinity to the revolutionary discourses of the previous centuries discredits them in an age of post-modern scenarios. New forms must be found for a global discourse to emerge and shape its legitimacy.

The cultural dimension of sustainability

The goal to overcome the global crisis and the debate on sustainability need new approaches. In recent years, the cultural dimension of development has been pointed out by several actors engaged in the discussion of sustainability. The global crisis has cultural roots. Thus its resolution requires cultural approaches. The path towards a more sustainable development of contemporary societies is closely connected to a postcolonial re-thinking of the western civilization model.
This rethinking must overcome the mechanicist bias in our materialist perception of reality as well as the economic-centred conception of the advancement of societies, the materially defined conception of wealth and well-being and the expansionist fascination with control over nature. It must as well break through the fragmentation of understanding that linear causality (at the epistemological level) and social differentiation (at the societal level) have brought to knowledge and experience.

Even more than on its ideological contents, the power of the current globalisation model is based on the influence of the mass media as a cultural system. It is not possible to imagine a global market and culture without mass media. The socially constructed truth of the ‘global now’ is heavily constituted through the mass media and controlled by it. The spectacularization and simulacra of mediated experience structure the institutionalization of the culture of globalization.

Open learning cultures

On the contrary, only an open learning-process culture in an open system could be sustainable. Indeed, as the theories of complexity claim, only an auto-eco-organization can allow a living system to sustain itself. But the dominant culture is a closed one and it claims it can indefinitely transform the reality=environment through powerful technology (including the mass media).