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 Will conservationism save the world?

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Key words:  Colombia, amazon, politics, religion, identity, indigenous, society, ideas, ontology, nature.



Broadly speaking, Amerindian people originally conceived themselves as part of a world in which the relationship with non-humans relies on a common “humanity” shared by many beings, despite different appearances.


Selected beings among animals, spirits and people have managed their coexistence through transdimentional relations based on reciprocity, ultimately giving rise to a set of rules and prohibitions that encompass the whole environment.


Due to Amerindian's core value of maintaining good relations with other beings, their practices have resulted in something akin to the Western concept of sustainability. In the meantime, during the last decades, the international community has tried to revert an environmental crisis at global scale by promoting sustainable practices.


This story is set in an Amazonian community where an American NGO is carrying out conservation practices, with the support of the community's younger generations. The narration reflects the misunderstandings arising from the clash between two generations. Whereas the older generation maintains their traditional way of being, the younger generations have been experiencing a clear ontological shift.


Their adoption of Christian values changed the mode of relation with other beings. After originally holding to a relational identity, they transitioned to an acceptance of a complete and incommensurable inner self detached from other beings. This fits into a modern ontology which upholds human exceptionalism over non-humans and practices which aim to conserve nature for instrumental purposes. 


In a period during which many consider the culture-nature divide a root cause of current environmental problems, the present article concludes by assessing, from a broad perspective, what this community's ontological shift means for all of us.

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