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Number: 67
Year: 1999
Author: Eloísa Trellez Solís and Gustavo Wilches Chaux
Title: Education for a Sustainable Future in the Americas


Latin America and the Caribbean: Total Biodiversity

If Central and South America and the Caribbean are to be characterized accurately, their biodiversity in every dimension of life must be emphasized. In this sense, we refer to biodiversity of ecosystems, biodiversity of cultures and the merging of cultures, and biodiversity of genetic resources. Biodiversity in the region incorporates many elements which remain to be discovered. For us, biodiversity is in many ways the basis of Latin American and Caribbean identity, although it is yet to be understood or appreciated.

Similarly, sustainable development in, from and for Latin America and the Caribbean may only be conceptualized and pursued on the basis of this multidimensional biodiversity. The sustainable development of the region should become explicit in our expressions, in the many ways that communities relate to their members, to themselves and their ecosystems. This type of development can be sought without the expectation of a unique and completed blueprint for change, and without following directives from beyond the region, itself.

Many relationships are forged simply because they may guarantee that a given community does not become a threat to other communities, to its own people, or to the ecosystems with which it interacts. Other relationships are established in order to prevent the phenomena inherent in the dynamics of a given ecosystem from becoming a threat to human communities. Therefore, insofar as we do not know each other and do not understand ourselves, our societies become increasingly unsustainable. When we speak of ourselves, we also speak of our ecosystems and of the geographical and ecological processes that constitute them; the same processes that have made Earth, in general, and the American continent, in particular, what they are.

Similarly, the manner in which we define development and pursue it, will determine whether we become more or less vulnerable to potentially destructive phenomena, i.e., more or less sustainable, not in comparison with others but in relation to our own context and reality.

Challenge for the Future
  • To base educational programs for sustainable development on endogenous natural and social environments.
  • To seek an understanding of our environments within a framework of dynamic ecological and cultural processes, bearing in mind that humankind is both a cause and an effect of these same processes.