Edifying the observations above, Dresner (2002) contextualizes the premises behind the discourse of sustainable development as a reaction against invoking Descartes, and how he “firmly separated man, who possessed rationality, from the rest of the natural world, which did not and could be regarded as a machine.” The “discontents‟ of progress, as Dresner (2002) observes, arise from the hubristic domination of nature that stems from its objectification. These “discontents‟ became prominent in the 20th century when the environmental consequences of human action and issues of human development became more apparent (Robinson, 2003). In reaction, it is important to keep in mind how unfitting it would be to try and solve issues grounded in the same assumptions in which the issues were created. If how we view the world, and being in general, helped to create the development strategies that we now find inadequate and contributing to our crisis, it may be time to reconsider our notions of being, which is exactly what Heidegger did.
Heidegger’s new ontology provides a more holistic notion of being which is better suited for sustainable development. Heidegger argues that our experience is a merged engagement of “being-in-the-world,” (Solomon, 2000). There is no external world, nor is there an inner consciousness; instead, our being is always “being there,” or “being-in-the-world” (Solomon, 1981:45). Although Jean-Paul Sartre‟s ontology was more Cartesian than Heidegger’s, his understanding of being, as a form of inter-subjectivity, supports the unifying aspect of Heidegger’s being-in-the-world (Solomon, 2000). Soren Kierkegaard‟s (1813 – 1855) statement that our “primary access to reality is through our involved action” is indicative of this kind of ontology (Guignon, 1993: 289).
This interconnected ontology has been used by some modern ecologists, like Arne Naess (1995), to argue for a non-anthropocentric “deep ecology‟ (Guignon, 1993: 260). Such an attempt, however, is misguided as it misrepresents being-in-the-world by diminishing the importance of being, or Dasein. Given that our global problematique is recognition of a human perceived problem, we cannot attempt to solve such a problem with a solution that is non-anthropocentric. The fact that this is contradictory to the principles of sustainable development is clear when someone like Arne Naess asserts that pursuing ecological sustainability might be acceptable, “regardless of the state of affairs in the domains of peace and justice,” i.e. social and economic sustainability (Naess, 1995; Gladwin et al, 1995: 888).
Alternatively, this critique can also apply as a critique against a techno-centric objectification of the world and the elevation of the importance of being despite the world (Gladwin et al, 1995). Instead, the more inclusive ontology of Heidegger better supports what Gladwin et al. (1995) provides as a more suitable synthesis for sustainable development; sustain-centrism, in which “humans are neither totally disengaged from nor totally immersed in the rest of nature.” While this new synthetic paradigm may not be totally existentialist in terms of its characteristics, the ontology that best supports it is the existentialist ontology of Heidegger. This ontology has great potential in terms of mending the “fractured epistemology‟ of organisational science and escaping what David Ehrenfeld (1978) as cited by Stanley (1995:257) calls the “arrogance of humanism,” in which all problems are solvable because “nature is ours to control” (Stanley, 1995: 257)