A ‘territory of life’? Questions for a grassroots discussion

 As part of a grassroots discussion, these questions can be used to help your community to identify whether it is a custodian of a ‘territory of life’ and, if so, what status the territory is in.  

…connection between the community and its territory of life

  • Does our community have a specific ‘territory’ (area, species habitat) for which it feels responsible?
  • Is there a strong sense of connection between our community and this territory?
  • If there is a strong connection, is it related to (among other possibilities):
    • Our community’s livelihoods and income?
    • Our community’s sense of security and capacity to withstand hardships?
    • Our community’s history, language, spirituality and/or culture – our sense of ‘who we are’?
    • Other beings who live in the territory – animals, plants, ancestors, spirits, mountains, rivers?

… community governance

  • Are there important decisions our community has taken, and keeps taking, regarding our territory?
  • Does our community have ways of making decisions about our territory – e.g. via a general assembly, council of elders, spiritual teachers, committee, or trusted leaders?
  • Does our community have rules about access to and use of the territory and its resources?
  • Are we able to implement and enforce decisions and rules about our territory?

… positive results for nature and community livelihoods and wellbeing

  • Is our territory well conserved? (For example, are the main elements of healthy nature — such as soil fertility, water quality and quantity, species populations, agricultural productivity, forests and vegetation, etc. — being maintained or improving?)
  • Are the livelihoods and wellbeing of the community sustained by the territory? In what ways?

Overall: current status of the territory of life

  • Does our territory embody the three main characteristics of a ‘territory of life’?
  • If any of these characteristics is not strong today, did it used to be? What has changed since then?
  • Is our territory of life well-defined, disrupted, or desired?
  • If it is not yet (or is no longer) ‘defined’, do we want to change this, and do we believe that we can?

In discussing the territory of life status, keep in mind that these are judgments of fact, not merit. A territory of life may be ‘disrupted’ for many reasons. Maybe the community governed the territory of life for a long time but right now it cannot because of either internal or external conflicts or pressures. Maybe the community is caring for the territory of life but does not have a strong or recognized role in decision making. Maybe climate change is disrupting the effectiveness of the community’s efforts and more time is needed to adapt.