Edelstein, M.R., Ramapo College of New Jersey, USA
Sustainability represents a true post modernity, a new paradigm based on premises that are truly antithetical to the modern perspective. The challenge has been how do we get from here to there. In this talk, I draw on the lessons of contamination to understand how people enmeshed in the modern paradigm are confronted by disconfirming conditions and reformulate their core assumptions and understandings of life accordingly. As the tragedies of past September underscore, disaster can almost instantly deconstruct imagery not only of place but of how we make sense out of our collective and individual lives. Although the World Trade Center disaster was an unusual contaminating event, its consequences follow the basic outcomes found with other such events. The literature on contamination can not only help us better understand this horrible event, but it can help place the role of disaster into a broader perspective that is instructive of the social learning process required for sustainable change. Psychology has a vital role to play in elucidating and creating conditions that will allow social change toward a sustainable future.