The social and cultural diversity of the world can be judged from the fact that there are around 820 ethnic groups in 160 countries. Around four percent of the indigenous people live in areas that are highly diverse in the composition of their flora and fauna. A community is the custodian of local values in the use of local resources because it knows best the value and the life span of that resource. Once they are displaced the outsiders bring in their technology for extraction and ruthlessly overuse the precious and limited earth resources. Preserving indigenous territorial rights thus protects biodiversity and the local culture, including knowledge and resource-management skills with potentially wide application.
The Earth Summit in 1992 recognized the intrinsic relationship between local communities and environment. Agenda 21 specified that the local communities or natives should be treated as custodians of their environment and natural resources. This led to a task force on indigenous people and the declaration of 1993 as the International Year of the Indigenous People. Subsequently, the World Summit on Sustainable Development at Copenhagen in 1995 brought the social growth of people into the central theme of development. This summit recognized that ‘social development is central to the needs and aspirations of people throughout the world and to the responsibilities of governments and all sectors of civil society’.
Therefore, a developmental policy needs to be framed in which the livelihoods of local communities are preserved and they in turn start taking interest in the earth’s resources through self regulation. The following combination of factors can help in approaching self regulation:
The scale of economy which would generate organizations harnessing technological potentials, eco-infrastructure, local money, cooperative consumption etc.
Participatory democracy leading to green municipalism, participatory green city plans, community indicators.
A green regulatory structure, encouraging bioregionalism, quality and community.
Green market mechanism for ecological tax system, account money, community currency and green financial Infrastructure.
Knowledge as a regulatory force via resource inventories, eco-accounting, product information and labeling and community indicators.
All these factors work within the parameters of culture. Real citizenship and community life cannot be achieved without a degree of bonding, shared vision and values. Working in the direction of sustainable policies would also bring social solidarity amongst diverse ecosystems. This has been done in the village experiments of Seed in Udaipur in Rajasthan and of Ralegaon Siddhe in Maharashtra. The local community framed their own regulatory mechanism to preserve their wetlands, land and forests.