Diverging Concepts of Nature and Human Well-being - From Theory to Action
A new economic paradigm and its multiple facets for future development were intensively discussed at the international "Degrowth Conference" in Leipzig from 2 to 6 September 2014. Also the Ecologic Institute contributed through presentations, workshops and moderations. Christiane Gerstetter and Timo Kaphengst held a workshop on "Biodiversity and well-being in development cooperation". The handout is available for download.
The concept of the workshop strongly built on the current project "The role of biodiversity in international cooperation". The workshop aimed firstly at making participants aware of the wide range of existing concepts of the human – "nature" relationship and how, in these concepts, nature/biodiversity are related to human well-being. Concepts and perceptions of biodiversity and nature from the global South and indigenous peoples were compared to the more instrumental and economic understandings that currently prevail among Western governments and in international policies.
Moreover, the implications of the at least partial ignorance of traditional forms of knowledge and attitudes towards nature and biodiversity in (official) development cooperation were discussed with the participants.
In the context of degrowth, the following theses were presented in order to stimulate a discussion if the degrowth paradigm can provide meaningful responses to the "commercialisation" or "financialisation" of nature, which is part of a growing controversy in international policy.
- The concept of degrowth provides for closer theoretical links to non-utilitarian perceptions of biodiversity compared to conventional economic thinking.
- Degrowth embraces an understanding of well-being that is profoundly non-economic; well-being is instead based on such understandings as meaningful social relations, rewarding work and a healthy environment.
- Degrowth is not in favour of extending market rationalities – as inherent in the concept of ecosystem services.
With more than 3000 participants and a strong interest by the media, the conference itself was highly successful.