There is a need for a global dialogue on what constitutes a ‘good’ life. One of the consultation questions in the Preparatory Document is: ‘How do you imagine your “serene future” and the “good life” of future generations?’ During pre-synod consultations with indigenous peoples in Guyana, their general response to the question was always spoken of in communal terms: having good relationships within the family and community, attending church, spending time in nature, participating in communal village works and working on the farm. Money and wealth were rarely mentioned. Many shared that they do not experience a good life when they leave their lands, friends and families to live and work in towns. Exploitation, discrimination and loneliness are common. They are often left broken and disillusioned by the promises of the good life promoted by the media.
The current narrative that well-being is primarily based on individual wealth and having ‘stuff’ is causing overconsumption. Annually, we are using the equivalent of 1.7 Earths[vii] to provide resources and absorb the waste generated by the ‘throwaway culture’. Communities in Amazonia, under the pretext of ‘progress’ and ‘development’, are encouraged to abandon farming, get ‘real’ jobs, join markets and engage in consumption in order to become ‘rich’. They are not ignorant of the possibilities of a growth and progress mindset, but consciously choose to have a more harmonious relationship with their environment. They live an integral ecology, since they recognise that the ‘good’ life is grounded in relationships of solidarity and reciprocity with each other and with the earth. As the pope recognises, the central issue is how to reconcile their basic human right to live with dignity with the protection of their particular cultural characteristics. (Preparatory Document, §5).