Do Global Attitudes and Behaviors Support Sustainable Development?

Many advocates of sustainable development recognize that a transition to global sustainability—meeting human needs and reducing hunger and poverty while maintaining the life-support systems of the planet—will require changes in human values, attitudes, and behaviors.

A previous article in Environment described some of the values used to define or support sustainable development as well as key goals, indicators, and practices. Drawing on the few multinational and quasi-global-scale surveys that have been conducted, this article synthesizes and reviews what is currently known about global attitudes and behavior that will either support or discourage a global sustainability transition.

None of these surveys measured public attitudes toward “sustainable development” as a holistic concept. There is, however, a diverse range of empirical data related to many of the subcomponents of sustainable development: development and environment; the driving forces of population, affluence/poverty/consumerism, technology, and entitlement programs; and the gap between attitudes and behavior.