Written By:

How Do We Live Well with Earth and All Her Beings?

Focus Question

Herman Greene

Human civilizations, while their histories have been checkered, have aimed at betterment of the human condition in terms of health, wealth, education, security, justice, freedom, and morality. These civilizations have taken various relations to Nature. The ability of such Nature to support human and other life has not, however, until recently been an issue. For the first time, humans are dealing with a globalized eonomy and culture, planetary limits, environmental human rights, the rights of Nature, and the rights of future generations.

Humans in general are aware in a new way of the interconnectedness of Nature, Earth’s biodiversity, Earth’s life systems, and along with these, of the fragility and power of Nature. Further, there is a general human awareness of the onset of the Anthropocene—the time when humans have become the exceptional agents in climate and environment and that the relatively stable climactic conditions that characterized the Holocene epoch (the period that began around 12,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age) have ended.

One might say that humans have learned to live well on Earth, with Nature as resource, but have not learned to live well with Earth and all her beings in mutually enhancing relationships. With the contemporary technological and other capacity for humans to disrupt Nature on a planetary scale, this art and skill of living well in Earth community has become imperative.

The question “How do we—especially we of the Global North—live well with Earth and all her beings so as to bring about a principled transition to an ecological age?” will be the focus question of CES in the next phase of our work. In stating the question this way , we acknowledge the contributions of Latin Americans in the quest for living well, or as they would say Buen Vivir.

This term was described by Eduardo Gudynas as follows:

  • Buen Vivir or Vivir Bien, are the Spanish words used in Latin America to describe alternatives to development focused on the good life in a broad sense. The term is actively used by social movements, and it has become a popular term in some government programs and has even reached its way into two new Constitutions in Ecuador and Bolivia. It is a plural concept with two main entry points. On the one hand, it includes critical reactions to classical Western development theory. On the other hand, it refers to alternatives to development emerging from Indigenous traditions, and in this sense the concept explores possibilities beyond the modern Eurocentric tradition. The richness of the term is difficult to translate into English. It includes the classical ideas of quality of life, but with the specific idea that well­being is only possible within a community. Furthermore, in most approaches the community concept is understood in an expanded sense, to include Nature. Buen Vivir therefore embraces the broad notion of well-being and cohabitation with others and Nature. In this regard, the concept is also plural, as there are many different interpretations depending on cultural, historical and ecological setting.10

One wonders what traditions and undestandings those of the Global North who are in the lineage of colonial oppressors and have inherited Western ways of knowing and doing might draw on in shaping their understandings of living well in community and in cohabitation with Nature?

It is the supreme challenge for those in the Global North to develop the art and skill of living well with Earth and all her beings so as to bring about a principled transition to an ecological age.

Photo by Alex Antoniadis in Unsplash

10 Eduardo Gudynas, “Buen Vivir: Today’s Tomorrow, Development 54, No. 4 (2011): 441-47.