Human well-being can include cultural heritage, health, access to land and natural resources as well as more material factors such as income-generating opportunities. What constitutes human well-being will vary based on factors such as history, local culture and norms, political and socio-economic conditions, geography, and ecological circumstances.
Discussions about well-being can therefore reveal different perspectives, experiences, values, concerns and aspirations, which in turn can stimulate improved understanding of people’s changing relationships with nature and possible innovations to benefit both nature and people. At its core, the term human well-being refers to people’s ability to live a life they value (IUCN).
Empowering rural communities represents the most important opportunity to forge a sustainable balance between human needs and aspirations, biodiversity conservation, and reduction of carbon emissions. EcoLogic seeks to expand the opportunities represented by these communities by increasing social and human capital through strengthening of community organizations and the skills and knowledge of community leaders and members for climate-smart landscape management. Empowered communities at multiple levels will better be able to access political decision-making that affects their economic interests and take conservation actions to address threats and create new opportunities for sustainability.
Empowered communities will be able to engage in more productive management of their agroecosystems and watersheds. Empowered communities will be able to maximize the opportunities available for governance of conservation areas, reduction of carbon emissions, and long-term carbon storage in healthy ecosystems despite the constraints or absence of effective government at other levels. Strong social capital allows communities to increase their ability to protect and enhance the natural resources upon which they depend, and to strengthen their access to ecosystem services such as clean water and biodiversity. Rural communities in Mesoamerica frequently have high “bonding” social capital—close relations and trust with family and neighbors.
However, the challenge is to channel that into informal and formal organizations to act together on agroecosystem management on individual farms and governance of community conserved areas, and to build the ability to manifest “bridging” social capital, with community and inter-community organizations that can interact effectively with organizations of civil society, government, and the private sector in multi-stakeholder collaborations for collective impact.
Nature and biodiversity have many positive impacts on human well-being, from physical health to spirituality, having a sense of place, social and cultural rootedness, recreation, and learning.