Science and “facts” do not drive our actions. Meaning does.

Posted on May 15, 2012

Published as a working paper on Sustainable Learning. All comments welcome.


What do ‘things’ mean and how does meaning emerge? Meaning is a cultural construction based on multiple layers of input and interpretation. While science can help us understand the materiality, or physical reality, of things, language, artistic expression, stories, philosophical and public discourse are the elements that combine to create meaning. It is meaning, not materiality, that defines how we act. If the conservation and environmental worlds wish to be successful in influencing individual, collective and political action, we need to change our focus from an ever more detailed scientific description of materiality to ways of understanding and influencing meaning. In this process, the arts can play a fundamental role. To date artistic involvement in environmentalism has been marginal and has largely been limited to a regurgitation, through a different medium, of the established environmental narrative. The arts can play a much deeper role by helping us understand and give meaning to abstract concepts such as environmentalism itself.

pdf can be downloaded here