This article explores the perceptions of development through metaphor use by students of International Business Management Studies at The Hague University. Students’ reflections upon the concepts of nature and development before and after educational intervention are examined through discourse analysis and narrative analysis. Results show that initially students reflect the dominant development paradigm which tends to conflate ‘nature’ with ‘natural resources’. This study suggests that the critical course has the potential to shift the student focus from the unquestioning acceptance of economic development and instrumental view of nature to recognition of more ecologically benign and culturally variable paths to sustainability. In terms of pedagogy, the ‘trans-human’ Gestalt, or mindset conducive to planetary consciousness, may require a distinct type of didactic strategy, discussed in this article. It is concluded that while transformative social learning towards sustainability requires the integrative switching back and forth between the various mindsets, effective, ecologically engaged and critical learning may require a more fixed, committed and above all affirmative action approach.