However, many economists disagree with this approach, claiming that constraints on the use of natural resources will inhibit the advancement of modern and creative societies (Allen, Tainter, & Hoekstra, 2003). It has been commented upon that the current discourse may be confounded by political biases, which serve only to limit the ability of societies to plan for a sustainable future (Allen, Tainter, & Hoekstra, 2003).
It is generally conceded within the ecological community that there are limits to the human ability to produce and consume of the natural environment. Present research concerns are oriented at global unsustainable development and the threat to human survival within the 'earth household' (Allen, Tainter, & Hoekstra, 2003). From the research findings has arisen an emphasis on sustainability education, both at the academic level, and at the level of the every-day consumer or the corporate executive, all of whom are inter-connected systems of the global ecosystem called Earth. Hence, it is anticipated that this paper will; provide the reader with a reflective review of past and present human activities impact within ecological systems; extend the reader's insight into the core elements of biophysical ecology; inform teacher/researchers about ways to enhance sustainability education; and to contribute toward raising the awareness of consumers as to the critical need for sustainable lifestyles, industry and economic-political institutions.
First, this paper will review the definitions of terms common to sustainability discourse, such as environmental literacy and sustainability. Secondly, three popular theories of sustainability will be outlined. Next, the implications of these theories in regard to ecological education will by highlighted. Finally, a conclusion will synthesize the main points of this paper, present recommendations for future research directions, and emphasize the importance for ecological education in 21st century living.
Landscaping the Discourse
Gaining momentum during the early 1970s, the concept and application of environmental literacy has achieved depth and comprehensiveness, and has been adopted into education systems of many industrial and developing nations (Goodland, 2002). In North America, over 1.5 million primary to secondary teachers deliver and participate in environmental education (EE) courses. As such, numerous models of how best to present new information regarding environmental behaviors have been developed. An emphasis is placed on positive engagement of the student will novel forms of new knowledge about ecosystem energetics and the value of biodiversity. However, it had been pointed out by Golley (1998) that, in general, North Americans are unable to articulate environmental knowledge that could be put to practical use such as protecting community health and natural resources, empowering people to live for a sustainable future. Ironically, the discrepancy between public support for EE, and actual sustainable behaviors, has occurred for over three decades (Golley, 1998). Humans have been remiss in the application of environmental knowledge and some attribute this to a deep believe within industrial cultures that nature is an object to be used, exploited and profited from. Unfortunately, this mindset appears to be embedded across academic