About this project

Over the past several years the Democracy Center has covered the impacts of climate change and responses to this crisis in many ways. We’ve looked at the impact of climate change on water in Bolivia, how California activists beat back the power of the Koch brothers, and unmasked the decimating activities of a set of multinational corporations operating in the Andes and Amazon.

But responding to climate change is about more than understanding its impacts around the world and it is about more than political action. It is also about how we live our lives and building new and creative ways of doing so that move away from the habits of consumption and increased individualisation that help foment the crisis at hand.

‘Abundance for Everybody’ looks at how a group of young, urban activists are working day by day to build genuine alternatives in the centre of Bolivia’s hectic capital, La Paz. The Casa de los Ningunos is an experimental community project that aims to challenge the systemic causes of the climate crisis from the roots up. Through group and personal interviews with residents of the house, we have developed a set of materials that explore three main pillars of the project: food, community and economy. These touch on issues of community organizing, system change as a response to climate change, food as an accessible approach to activism, alternative economy and self-sufficiency, privilege, healing our personal relationships and love as a fundamental component of social change.

This project’s producers have a personal interest in the issues discussed here. As with many young people today, they are seeking models and inspiration for alternative, environmentally and socially sustainable ways to construct their lives, with community at the center. Nicky Scordellis, from the UK, brought the “Jueves de Comida Consciente” movement to Cochabamba while she lived there and together with fellow activists opened up a sister house to the Casa de los Ningunos in Cochabamba, called La Kasa Muyu. Leny Olivera, a Bolivian feminist activist who is interested in alternatives to tackle patriarchy and climate change at a structural level, appreciated this opportunity to enrich her reflections around the challenges of communities in urban spaces. And Sian Cowman, an Irish activist and writer, has really enjoyed researching and writing about the practical and theoretical aspects of collectivity in this work – especially how it is a tool for social change.

By sharing the experiences of the Casa de los Ningunos, both as a source of inspiration and to bring to light some of the challenges implied in these types of projects, this work aims to contribute to the global process of transitioning towards new ways of, as the Bolivians say, “living well”.

Thanks!

We’d like to express our deep gratitude to all those who have formed part of the community of the Casa de los Ningunos, not only for helping to make this project possible, but also for the inspiration they offer and the service they do for the world through their constant commitment to their vision of a different future. We’d particularly like to thank Yumey, Apniuq, Ángela, Fabrizio and Gadir for taking time to talk to us, as well as Nina, Maira and Pablo from the wider community who joined us for the group conversations. We also want to thank Wayna Tambo and Movimiento TierrActiva Bolivia for the inspiration they provided for this project. We’d like to thank Carey for the ideas she contributed and Liz, Lehua and Vanessa from the SIT programme for coinciding with us in space-time and interests, and for offering insights and collaboration. We are also very grateful to Jocelyn, Nicole and Katyussa for allowing us to share their photography to bring this story to life.

And finally, thank you to our communications director Maddy for her invaluable advice and editing skills, to our design whizz Anders for making this project beautiful, to Aldo for helping translate and to the rest of the Democracy Center team for their support and for the community spirit at the Center!

Made by…

Research & writing: Nicky Scordellis, Leny Olivera Rojas, Sian Cowman

Editing: Maddy Ryle

Layout & code: Anders Vang Nielsen

Abundance for Everybodyi

Tackling climate change and exploring ways to live well in urban Bolivia

IntroductionLa Casa de los Ningunos

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La Casa de los Ningunos (The Nobodies’ House) is tucked away at the top of a flight of 39 steps on a steep cobbled street in the heart of the bohemian neighborhood of Sopocachi, in the world’s highest capital: La Paz. Overlooked by the mountains of the Cordillera Real, la Casa de los Ningunos is a project that brings together the dreams of a group of young, urban activists in an experimental community.

Beginnings

Three years ago a young civil servant named Gadir realized that he’d had enough of trying and failing to do something about climate change through working in institutions, and took the decision to dedicate all his time to what he believed in. He quit his job at the government foreign office and with his savings rented a house and offered it as a space for activists and young people to gather and hold activities. He was quickly joined by Ariel (Apniuq), and then a few months later by Daniela, Paula, and Fabrizio.

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‘System change, not climate change!’ Photo by: Fabrizio Uscamayta

They shared a common vision of wanting to build a different future and of wanting to dedicate their lives to that vision, not just to be activists in their spare time. The first initiative that really started to bring people into the space was their “Conscious Food Thursdays” (Comida Consciente in Spanish). Every Thursday the house opens its doors to the public and serves a vegetarian lunch, with a different “invited chef” in the kitchen each week. The first Conscious Food Thursday was attended by only a few people. Now this weekly event attracts up to 80 people.

Seeds of a new society

Through the Conscious Food program, urban agriculture, barter and exchange markets, women’s circles and cultural events, the Ningunos seek to inspire change in the world by shifting their values and inspiring the broader community to adopt these changes in their own lives. And community is a word that can be heard often at Casa de los Ningunos. The concept wasn’t present when the house first began, but over time it has become a key pillar of its purpose.

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The poem Los Nadies which inspired the name of the Casa. Photo by: Fabrizio Uscamayta

The name Los Ningunos is from the poem Los Nadies by Eduardo Galeano, referring to the have-nots, those seen as ‘nobodies’ by society at large – those who are most marginalized in the world. Ariel, Angela, and Yumey, the current residents of the house, recognize the need to transition towards a society organized according to principles beyond those of our capitalist system, which drives this marginalization and causes so much social division and environmental destruction. Finding alternative ways to live and work together around a new set of values is part of that transition.

Perhaps one of the most unusual and fascinating aspects of the Casa de los Ningunos is its multi-faceted approach: inspired by the threat of climate change, members of the project are constantly striving to find new ways to collaborate and coexist amongst themselves and to share those experiences with others through their outward-facing activities at the house, whilst also participating in spaces as diverse as policy development groups with the government, Terra Nova (a discussion group that focuses on building a global revolution by healing love and relationships), and running conscious food workshops in rural communities in the Bolivian Altiplano.

Re-imaginings

Being in the middle of the city and interacting with so many different spaces is at once a huge opportunity to be able to create ripples of change within society, but also presents powerful challenges when it comes to building a new way of living and functioning economically while in the midst of “the system”. These juxtapositions are also reflected in the unusual coming together of influences that range from the Tamera intentional community in Portugal to the Andean indigenous philosophy of Vivir Bien.

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The logo of the Casa. Photo by: Fabrizio Uscamayta

The culmination of three years of trial and error in different ways of working and organizing themselves, the Casa de los Ningunos now concentrates its efforts in four areas: community, initiatives for action, economic initiatives, and allies and networks. Here we report on and explore the efforts that these young, urban Bolivians are engaged in to re-imagine economic and social relations, focusing on three central aspects – community, food and economy – and aiming to share their successes, their challenges and the lessons they have learned along the way. As people across the world are coming together to respond to the global climate crisis from the roots up, we hope that these materials will contribute to the cross-pollination of ideas to support the building of more resilient and sustainable communities and to offer inspiration in the fight against climate change and its systemic causes.