In 2008 Ecuador took a bold step. The people of Ecuador rewrote their constitution and declared an intention:
“Hereby … to build a new form of peaceful coexistence in diversity and in harmony with nature, to achieve the good way of living, sumak kawsay;
A society that respects, in all its dimensions, the dignity of individuals and communities…”
Sumak kawsay comes from the Kichwa words “sumak” for good, beautiful, pleasurable and “kawsay”, collective life. The term translates very loosely to “buen vivir” in Spanish or “living well” in English. Americans and Europeans need to be careful with the reference to “living well” lest ones thinks of a life of abundant money and accumulation of material possessions or of being driven for more. In this context, the reference to living well is to a much deeper quality of a life that is in harmony with nature and in which needs for living comfortably are fulfilled based on a set of values that give meaning to life in the individual and in the collective.
Mario Melo, Ecuadorian attorney outlines the fundamentals of the provisions for Good Living and Rights of Nature in Ecuador’s Constitution. Living in harmony that combines the relationship with the natural environment, the “land without evil” and the culture or “wisdom of the ancestors.” It is a complex concept, alien to the ethical-religious traditions from which Western civilization is nurtured, not obsessed by “living well” but “better”.
ResponsibleTravel.com highlights Ecuador’s assimilation of Buen Vivir or “living well” and recognition of Rights of Nature in its offerings of Responsible Travel to Ecuador. The one thing that strikes you in Ecuador is that responsible tourism comes naturally. So much of it is locally run and environmentally aware. This is due to a combination of factors. First, they seem to be innately socially conscious people and proud of that heritage. Second, the people took on the oil industry and its devastating impacts on people and place, in an unprecedented case to protect their indigenous lands in the 1990’s. And thirdly, in 2008, a new constitution was ratified by the people which included a Chapter: Rights for Nature. This acknowledges that nature in all its life forms has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, and that the people have legal authority to enforce these rights on behalf of ecosystems.
Traveling through the Andean Highlands or to the remote pristine rainforest to ecotourist lodges such as beautiful Kapawi Eco Lodge owned and operated by the Achuar peoples, one experiences the essence of living in harmony with nature in today’s modern world.
Our international work for Rights of Nature/Rights of Mother Earth has deep roots in Ecuador and Bolivia because the culture of both of these rich Latin American plurinational countries is centered in the ideals of Buen Vivir, Sumak Kawsay, or living well which gives rise to recognizing nature and natural communities have the right to exist and maintain their integral systems.