• Seva Corps

BUEN VIVIR: SERVING MOTHER EARTH BY REFORESTING THE HARMONY OF LIVING





General image of green mountain ranges, extending into the distance.
Photo by Qingbao Meng at Unsplash


When you think of seva, what comes to mind?

Who do you imagine being served?


Did you happen to think of nature, also called Pachamama or Gaia?


Throughout our work, focused on serving those who serve, we realize that our greatest example, what inspires us most, is the way nature behaves with all beings, serving indistinctly and tirelessly.


And in these times of uncertainty due to the climate crisis, there is an increasingly global awakening that our way of living should be less individualistic and more supportive and sustainable. It is urgent to reestablish a loving, harmonious and respectful relationship with all aspects of nature if we really want to make sense and continue with our existence as a species. For this superorganism that serves us, embraces us and sustains us unlimitedly is crying out for us to take care of it.


Human history begins thriving as a species in deep symbiosis with nature. And throughout human history, even after the Renaissance bias that consolidated human supremacy over everything else, there were always those who were serving the Earth body.


And in recent decades, more precisely since 1972, with the Stockholm Conference, the demand to build a structure of a more symbiotic relationship with nature has come to light again with the climate emergency. This has been gaining increasing relevance in the scientific environment, in the public policy sphere and in the awareness and engagement among the human population in general - especially the younger people.


Since then, we have experienced an intensification of changes in the natural scenario and all the catastrophes and bio-social issues that arise with increasing momentum and a consequent invitation for each of us to shift our living logic. A logic imposed for centuries and which in its anthropocentrism, "lives to suffocate life and the world of life", as Bolívar Echeverría, an Ecuadorian philosopher, says.


It is in this perspective that ways of living that resisted the pasteurization of patriarchal colonizing culture are gaining attention. And it is in this context that Buen Vivir emerges as a different perspective.


The Buen Vivir



Profile of an indigenous man, dressed in traditional clothes, with his head covered with a white wool cap, white wool coat and white backpack, looking down, holding a thread in his hands. In the background, banana leaves and mountains in the distance.
Photo by Berend Leupen at Unsplash

According to Alberto Acosta in his book The Buen Vivir: an opportunity to imagine other worlds, "the best-known expressions of Buen Vivir refer to languages originating in Ecuador and Bolivia: in the first case it is Buen Vivir or Sumak Kawsay, in kíchwa, and in the second, Vivir Bien or Suma Qamaña, in aymara, apart from appearing as Nhandereko, in guarani. There are similar concepts among other indigenous peoples, such as the mapuche of Chile, the kunas of Panama, the shuar and the achuar of the Ecuadorian Amazon, and in the mayan traditions of Guatemala and Chiapas, in Mexico."


This principle of life based on these Andean peoples’ ancestral worldview sustains, much like the South African concept of ubuntu, that the well-being of one individual can only be achieved through harmonic relationships with the community in a broader sense, which includes people, the environment, other living beings, their ancestors, the spirit world and the Cosmos.


In practice, this worldview implies an organized, co-participatory, co-responsible, sustainable and dynamic set of economic, political, sociocultural and environmental systems, where there is a different relationship with nature, promoting it, as well as community relations, and taking into account the interconnection of all the elements that together form the Whole, thus ensuring the realization of a fuller life, the realization of the Well Living.

Through this perspective, the paths of action are many and all of them matter. From the simplest of options - which do not mean easy and affordable ones - such as the consumption of local, organic or agro ecological products, reducing animal products consumption, investigating the type of labor employed in the production chain of what we consume, the public pressure on governments to act for a greater collective good, and supporting local institutions committed to the planet’s well-being, these are all more than activism, they are ways of pushing for the enactment of laws and public policies that favor nature and its biodiversity, community life quality, effectively fighting hunger in countries with abyssal social inequality.


It is on this path that Well Living is a way of existing in the world that is being considered by communities outside the original peoples, and that we invite each one who is a part of our network to experience and take on through the social and environmental principles that translate into food sovereignty, the Earth rights, environmental justice, economic solidarity, protection of local biodiversity, among others.


Seva through the Buen Vivir perspective



There are several possible ways to undertake Buen Vivir, so there are those who refer to this new possible way of living as Well Living and Well Co-living. In any case, the voice of the original peoples is increasingly louder, striving to reforest human perspectives on ways of living well.


In this sense, Alberto Acosta adds that "the Well Living does not synthesize any fully elaborate proposal, even less an indisputable one. The Well Living does not intend to assume the role of a global imperative, as it occurred with the [concept of] development in the mid-20th century. The Well Living is, on the one hand, a path that must be imagined so it can be built, but which, on the other hand, is already a reality. The Well Living will then be a task of (re)construction that involves disarming the universal goal of progress in its productivist version and development as a single direction, especially in its mechanistic view of economic growth and its multiple synonyms."

on these Andean peoples’ ancestral worldview sustains, much like the South African concept of ubuntu, that the well-being of one individual can only be achieved through harmonic relationships with the community in a broader sense, which includes people, the environment, other living beings, their ancestors, the spirit world and the Cosmos.


In practice, this worldview implies an organized, co-participatory, co-responsible, sustainable and dynamic set of economic, political, sociocultural and environmental systems, where there is a different relationship with nature, promoting it, as well as community relations, and taking into account the interconnection of all the elements that together form the Whole, thus ensuring the realization of a fuller life, the realization of the Well Living.


There are several possible ways to undertake Buen Vivir, so there are those who refer to this new possible way of living as Well Living and Well Co-living. In any case, the voice of the original peoples is increasingly louder, striving to reforest human perspectives on ways of living well.


In this sense, Alberto Acosta adds that "the Well Living does not synthesize any fully elaborate proposal, even less an indisputable one. The Well Living does not intend to assume the role of a global imperative, as it occurred with the [concept of] development in the mid-20th century. The Well Living is, on the one hand, a path that must be imagined so it can be built, but which, on the other hand, is already a reality. The Well Living will then be a task of (re)construction that involves disarming the universal goal of progress in its productivist version and development as a single direction, especially in its mechanistic view of economic growth and its multiple synonyms."


An Indigenous woman standing with her back turned, wearing a blue and red poncho with flowers on the back, walks hand in hand with a small child climbing a mountain.
Photo by Azzedine Rouichi at Unsplash

What is most important that Buen Vivir shows us is the invitation to overcome the distances between our speech and our practice. To walk with our words, as indigenous wisdom points out. What's more, to build bridges between ancestral knowledge and our lives today.


In a society of solitudes, as the Uruguayan journalist Eduardo Galeano warns us, "those who find and lose themselves without acknowledging", and whose challenge is to break free of the structures of "a world organized for disbond, where the other is always a threat and never a promise", any way that puts us in genuine contact with the other, that opens us up to an experience of deep listening, that enables co-living with the unknown that is any other being, is an opportunity to reforest our way of existing and living in this world.


That is why the path of Buen Vivir is an inspiration for the seva experience, that is, welcoming, caring, nurturing, cooperating. That which is at the essence of nature, as well as at the root of our harmonic existence as natural beings. Buen Vivir is a map that can inspire us to seek in our reality - both internal and external - how to live a more cooperative, embracing, devoted life.


Because seva is more than an action, it is a lifestyle, it is an opportunity to, through our actions, align with what we desire for the world, for our lives, with what we actually accomplish in our co-living. And not from a romanticized perspective. It is through every step that we can align with the challenge that is to open up and embrace the needs that come to us in a space of non-judgment and willingness to be together that we can reforest and sow a life capable of resisting and surviving the great crisis of this living body that carries us, whose symptoms are just beginning.


Serve today, serve with what you have


Black child, with a road and another child in the blurred background, with their hand criss-crossing a thread in the foreground, forming a net.
Photo by Alex Radelich at Unsplash

We move forward with the intention of inspiring, even though the paths that inspire us are sometimes inhospitable. That's why we end this text inspiring those of you who came here to venture, to take a first step toward opening up to each other. No matter the step. No matter who this other one is.


Buen Vivir inspires us to understand precisely that the other is much more than our peers. Each living being is nothing less than our relative, as the original peoples teach us, because each being has a role to play in the web of harmonious living.


Whether from the country or from the city, in direct or indirect contact, there are infinite ways to put yourself on the path of serving life as a whole. Here we share some of our tangible inspirations for your day-to-day life:

🌱 Notice the diversity of life there is in your environment;

🌱 Shop locally and organic;

🌱 Recycle your dry residue;

🌱 Compost your organic residue;

🌱 Avoid disposable packaging;

🌱 Ressignify and reutilize objects;

🌱 Avoid using petroleum derivatives;

🌱 Be aware of social-environmental issues of the place you live in and notice how your abilities and qualities can collaborate;

🌱 Talk to those who are close to you.

In the end, what we yearn for is that each one who is a part of our network commits to a more conscious relationship with themselves and a reforested co-living, open to the infinite realities that compose Buen Vivir. As Alberto Acosta shows us, “Buen Vivir will be for all, or it will not be.”



Illustration of planet Earth seen from a distance, wrapped in clouds, in daylight.
Photo by Sergey Nivens at Getty Images


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