Despite the great progress in increasing public awareness of and attention to the issue of sustainability, the measures taken so far fall dramatically short of halting deleterious cycles. This apparent deficiency can be ascribed to two main factors: insufficient efforts to finding viable and visible alternatives and the failure to thoroughly re-examine dominant cultural paradigms. The widespread resistance to adopting more sustainable habits, in spite of the patent environmental crisis, suggests that there are persisting epistemological substrates so compelling as to be called ‘secular dogmas'. Higher education should undertake to promote both empirical research and applications, and systemic cultural critique. Geographers are among the most apt coordinators for such a complex interdisciplinary task. This paper shows the results of an international survey on some spatial, taxonomic and teleological macro-coordinates that underpin people's perception and representation of reality and thus influence the above-mentioned ‘secular dogmas', which, if not properly addressed, may inexorably hinder the adoption of sustainable development models.