By Life Connected

Introduction to our plan

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“A different world cannot be built by indifferent people.”

Peter Marshall

Why care about an ecosystem if your child is sick due to malnutrition? And why care for your natural surroundings if no one in your community does? Most of us can relate to this. This supposed indifference towards the health and conservation of the natural world is often not a choice. Especially in the Third World this behavior is fueled by several socio-economic problems (such as poverty, a lack of education, corruption, etc.). A logical argumentation would be to say that we can create a different, sustainable world where nature is conserved, by solving these socio-economic problems. Today, however, the dominant form of conservation in the third World, the Nature Reserves, do the exact opposite. They exclude rural people from nature and most of the benefits from conservation go to private and governmental organizations. By doing so, natural parks simply displace the problem to another area. The bottom line is that natural parks do preserve nature, but avoid to provide a long-term solution for the degradation of the natural world.

From this perspective, we believe that full sustainability is only possible if all three sustainability pillars (environment, economy and social) get equal attention. In the case of nature reserves, attention is paid to environmental sustainability, the other two are largely ignored. If you look at many large organizations (for example, UNEP, WTO, UNICEF) you'll see the same one-sided strategy. In our opinion, these methods are too discriminatory to solve large scale problems. Instead, there is a need for a method that integrates many disciplines so that the sustainability of the natural, economic and social systems can all be safeguarded. In this way a fully sustainable (local) society can be created which has an acceptable impact on nature.

The plan

We want to participate in setting up a transdisciplinary project that aims at improving the sustainability of a socio-ecological system in order to boost the standard of living of local people and protect nature. The first project would be in the form of a small rural community and its surrounding ecosystems somewhere in Southern Africa. As part of a team of experts in various disciplines (human-wildlife conflicts, hydrology, education, mental and physical health, sustainable business development and diversification, renewable energy, waste management, etc.), we require a great deal of participation from the local people. Together, we can then formulate a detailed plan which should realize a balance between people and nature and provide local people with an opportunity to develop their mental and physical health. One of the most important questions we strive to find an answer for is: can a group of people, who still have a close relationship with nature, sustainably improve their living standards? The past has shown that progress often goes hand in hand with the deterioration of natural resources. Is this the rule? Or can we recognize that the only objectively sensible way to continue our development as a species, is to steer toward circumstances that benefit all that are “By Life Connected”?

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