An Indigenous perspective on living well

November, 2008

Value Based Learning

Speaking at the 7th Session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, held at the United Nations headquarters (4/21/2008), Evo Morales Ayma, President of Bolivia said indigenous peoples wanted to propose a new model of "how to live well" within their vision of Mother Earth, which was the source of life. He, then, offered a series of "ten commandments" that he thought should underpin the new model. 

Scroll down to the end of the article for questions to help you determine whether the ten commandments recognize the Earth Charter’s ethical principles.

End the capitalist system 
The capitalist system, has encouraged unbridled economic development. The exploitation of human beings and pillaging of natural resources must end, as should wars aimed at securing access to those resources. Also, the world should end the plundering of fossil fuels; excessive consumption of goods; the accumulation of waste; as well as the egoism, regionalism and thirst for earning where the pursuit of luxury was taking place at the expense of human beings. Countries of the south were heaped with external debt, when it was the ecological debt that needed paying.

Renounce wars 
Second, the world should denounce war, which advantages a very few. In that vein, it is time to end occupation under the pretext of "combating drugs", such as in South America, as well as searching for weapons of mass destruction. Money earmarked for war should be channeled to make reparations for damage caused to the Earth.

A world without imperialism and colonialism 
Third, there should be a world without imperialism, where no country is dependent upon or subordinate to another. States must look for complementarity rather than engage in unfair competition with each other. Member States of the United Nations should consider the asymmetry that exists among nations and seek a way to lessen deep economic differences. Moving along those lines, the Security Council -- with its lifelong members holding veto rights -- should be democratized.

Right to water 
Fourth, access to water should be treated as a human right, and policies allowing the privatization of water should be banned. Indigenous peoples have had a long experience of mobilizing themselves to uphold the right to water. They should put forth the idea of forming an international convention on water to guarantee it as a human right and to protect against its appropriation by a select few.

Development of clean energies
Fifth, the world should promote clean and eco-friendly energies, as well as end the wasteful use of energy. It is understood that fossil fuels are nearing depletion, yet those who promoted biofuels in their place were making "a serious mistake". It was not right to set aside land not for the benefit of human beings, but so that a small few could operate luxurious vehicles. It was also because of biofuels that the price of rice and bread has risen; and the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are now warning that such policies must be prevented. The world should explore more sustainable forms of alternative energy, such as geothermal, solar, wind and hydro-electric power.

Respect for Mother Earth
Sixth, there should be more respect for Mother Earth, and the indigenous movement must bring its influence to bear in fostering that attitude. The world must stop thinking of Mother Earth in the capitalist sense -- which is that of a raw material to be traded. For who could privatize or hire out his mother?

Basic services as human rights 
Seventh, it is the important that everyone gain access to basic services. Services such as education and transport should not be the preserve of private trade.

Fighting inequalilties 
Eighth, it is urgent that consumption be limited to only what is necessary and what is produced locally. There is a need to end consumerism, waste and luxury. It is an irony that millions of dollars are being spent to combat obesity in one half of the globe, while the other is dying of hunger. The impending food crisis will bring an end to the free market, where countries suffering hunger are being made to export their food. There case with oil is similar, where the priority lay in selling it abroad, rather than domestically.

Promoting diversity of cultures and economies
Ninth, it is important to promote unity and diversity of economies, and the indigenous movement should put forth a call for unity and diversity in the spirit of multilateralism.

Living well not better 
Tenth, the world should live under the tenet of "trying to live well", he said, but not at the expense of other.

A value-based ethical framework for evaluating social and ecological events, conditions and practices  Anita L. Wenden

Do the ten commandments recognize the Earth Charter values listed below?

Ecological sustainability
How would the Earth’s resources and life-support systems in your community be affected if the new model for ‘living well’ were implemented? Would the ‘ten commandments” lead to a remediation of the harm already done to the planet in your area?

If the new model were implemented, what means would you expect government in your community and country to take to resolve conflict? Would physical force or aggression be used? psychological violence? Or nonviolent means?

Social Justice
How would the power, wealth and resources in your community be distributed if the ‘ten commandments’ guided policy making? Would all the groups in a community benefit or not? Would their human rights be respected or violated ? Why? Why not?

Intergenerational Equity
How would your community policies and programs, if based on the ‘ten commandments’, affect the wellbeing of future generations? Consider their effects on (1) Earth’s life support systems, (2) accessibility to a country’s resources, and (3) social stability and harmony.

Participatory Decision-making
Would governance based on the new model for ‘living well’ provide opportunities for individuals and groups in your community to share their views on a problem or proposed solution?


Should this model for ‘living well, not better’ be implemented in your community? Share your views with a friend or