United Nations

Working Group Of Indigenous Populations

Geneva, 22 to 26 July 2002


Thank you, Mr. chairman


for the opportunity to contribute a message from the Center of Sustainable Development in Germany to the decade of indigenous people.


Dear brothers and sisters, my name is Peter Schmuck, I am psychologist in that part of the world where 20% of the people are consuming 75% of its resources. I think that this overconsumption is one of the main reasons for what we speak about at this conference: The impairment of the atmosphere, the destruction of the biosphere and especially the genocide of the ethnosphere.


BUT: Are the people in these countries happier today than 50 years ago, when they consumed much less? Not, the contrary is true:  Despite the economic growth and the ever growing average consumption level in these so called „developed countries“ the percentage of happy people does not grow since many decades, and even worse, the numbers of several individual pathologies is increasing.


Thus, we people in the „developed countries“ have to admit that our way of life has pathogene aspects not only for the world but for ourselves and should not longer serve as a model for other people. What I feel we lack most are


-        the spiritual connectedness with all living being of the world

-        the bond connecting us with the past and the future

-        the capability for empathy

-        a fulfilling sense of life


And exactly these are the strengths of you, of the indigenous people of our world. Therefore, a growing number of people living in industrial countries appreciate and need more and more your traditional wisdom and your attitudes toward our planet earth, which many of us have never learned or forgotten. The decade of Indigenous people may serve to accelerate the appropriate transfer.


Mr. chairman,


what happens actually in our world I consider as a „slow suicide“ of the human family. If we want to escape this process, we need the experiences of all family members. The contribution of indigenous people may be to teach us in the „developed countries“ (which I see as the emotional and spiritual slums of our world), what we have to relearn. Let us use the International Decade of the worlds indigenous people to intensify that process. A growing number of people in the northern hemisphere is sensitised for what happens and is willing to learn from you.


Thank you for your attention.


Peter Schmuck

Interdisciplinary Center for Sustainable Development

University Goettingen, Germany