Honors College

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Publication Date



“Sustainability” has been used to indicate certain values, market a way of life, and possesses a prominent role in a number of different disciplines, yet a commonly accepted definition doesn’t seem to exist. This thesis does not aim in any sense to define this elusive term, rather it examines the themes that inform discussions of sustainability. A number of particular thematic elements are used consistently across almost all of the discourses of sustainability: generational time frames, renewable resources, as well as the relationship between sustainability and economic development. Each unique discourse handles these themes in a specific way. What’s valuable is the construction of this concept in the public media. The New York Times and the Washington Post are two national newspapers publications known for setting the stage for relevant and new topics. Using the May 2006 premiere of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth as a cognitive reference point, I will be probing the change, or lack there-of, in the discourse around sustainability. There is contested meaning-making surrounding sustainability in the public discourse, and by examining the rise and/or fall of the dominant themes in the editorials and op-eds of the New York Times and the Washington Post, it will help determine which themes construct the meaning of sustainability