Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-7635

Article | Open Access

‘Living Well’ as a Path to Social, Ecological and Economic Sustainability

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Abstract:  While there is wide agreement on the need to move towards fairer and more sustainable societies, how to best achieve this is still the source of some debate. In particular, there are tensions between more market-based/technological approaches and more redistributive/social approaches. Living Well, a strategy which falls into the latter category, has been proposed as a path to social, ecological and economic sustainability by several state governments of the Global South. This paper examines the Living Well paradigm as implemented in Bolivia through the lens of the recently agreed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The article is based on a 3 year, ESRC funded project on transitions to sustainability and reports the findings of documentary, policy and secondary data analysis, participant observations and semi-structured interviews with local stakeholders. The work indicates that, despite constraints and set-backs, in just a decade, Living Well has achieved a major shift towards social, economic and ecological sustainability in Bolivia. This seems to be primarily a result of the emphasis on redistributive policies, an intention to live in harmony with nature, respect for traditional values and practices, local control of natural resources, and participative decision-making. It is, therefore, argued that other nations might achieve more success in transitioning to sustainability by focusing on these factors, rather than continuing to emphasise the technological/growth/market approaches which are currently dominating global sustainability debates and activities.

Keywords:  Bolivia; Buen Vivir; environment; global south; green economy; human needs; Living Well; sustainability; sustainable development goals; Vivir Bien



© Karen Bell. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.