Speaker - William Powers: The Bolivian Eco-Municipality: A New Sustainability Framework?
The Latin American concept of buen vivir, or "living well," suggests well-being "is only possible in the specific context of a community, which is social but also ecological." (Gudynas, 2011). Buen vivir represents a paradigm of sustainability steeped in historical practice and currently under revival for contemporary culture. The Plurinational State of Bolivia has recently crafted laws and policies around buen vivir, including the Framework Law of Mother Earth which grants ecosystems the equivalent of human rights. Powers' 2016 World Policy Institute field study examines how - even in the context of contradictory neo-extractivist pressures in Bolivia which cuts against sustainability - such new biocentric policies play out in one of Bolivia's twenty-four nationally-designated "ecological municipalities," the 4,500-person town of Samaipata at the cusp of the Amazon and Andes. Results show the critical link between sustainability and well-being: Samaipata's happiness levels (measured through the Bhutan-inspired Gross National Happiness Survey and other metrics) are above U.S. levels, yet at just 1/17th of U.S. per capita carbon footprint and GDP.
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