What is Cultural Sustainability?

By cultivating a greater awareness of who we are, we are better able both to understand the beliefs and values we share collectively, and to comprehend the differences in worldview and experience that make us distinct from one another. When we have deeper understanding of the things that are important to us we make decisions about the future that are informed by who we were, who we are, and who we would like to be.

"Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" is the concise definition of sustainable development put forward by the World Commission on Environment and Development for the United Nations General Assembly in 1987. This perspective on sustainability is readily applicable to a more general understanding of the concept of sustainability as it is currently employed. The definition cited above informs how we at the VFC use the term sustainability.

While sustainability continues to be most often discussed in relation to development, planning, economics and the environment, in the last several years there has been an increased interest in exploring culture and sustainability from two distinct perspectives:
The first of these perspectives can be framed as the role of culture in sustainability. The second of these perspectives can be framed as ensuring the sustainability of cultural practices. The Vermont Folklife Center engages with ideas of culture and sustainability from both of these perspectives, and we created the Cultural Sustainability Institute to provide training to support activities rooted in cultural sustainability from both or either point of view.
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