Helena Norberg-Hodge / Ladakh Ecological Development Group

Awarded 1986

Australia

For preserving the traditional culture and values of Ladakh against the onslaught of tourism and development.

Ladakh Ecological Development Group (LEDeG) is a grassroots organisation founded in 1983.  Over decades, LEDeG has promoted ecological and sustainable development that harmonises with and builds on local traditions and culture. To ensure that the rural communities living in the remote villages of Ladakh would shape their future themselves, built on Ladakh’s own resources and culture.  

Helena Norberg-Hodge is an activist and author from Sweden. She is a pioneer of localisation and a leading expert on the impacts of economic globalisation on cultures and our psychological wellbeing.  Norberg-Hodge founded the Ladakh Project to encourage a future based on Ladakh’s own values and its human-scale economy. As an alternative to conventional development, the project has involved informing people about the realities of Western consumer culture while working to restore respect for the local culture.

 

If our starting point is a respect for nature and people, diversity is an inevitable consequence.

Helena Norberg-Hodge, 1986 Laureate

For over a thousand years, the Ladakhi people prospered, creating a rich, harmonious and sustainable culture from the sparse resources of their region. In 1975, traditional self-reliance and cultural pride were suddenly replaced by feelings of inferiority, dissatisfaction and competition when the area was opened to 'development', including tourism, media and advertisement, which brought with them highly idealised impressions of life in the West. Outside economic pressures began undermining the local economy and previously unknown problems such as pollution, crime, unemployment, family breakdown, rapid urbanisation and ethnic conflict began to take hold.

LEDeG has promoted local manufacturing technologies that use solar energy for space heating, cooking, water heating, crop drying and greenhouses, and small-scale water power for grinding grain, producing electricity and pumping water. Today, one or more of these technologies can be found in virtually every Ladakhi village. Now an influential NGO, the respect that LEDeG is accorded was demonstrated when its two co-directors were elected to high positions in Ladakh's new, semi-autonomous government. Significant developments for LEDeG in the new millennium include the large-scale dissemination of new technologies like parabolic dish cookers and photovoltaics, the building-up of a fund to become more independent from donors and the introduction of ecotourism and biodiversity programmes.

Helena Norberg-Hodge is now director, and founder, of Local Futures. Local Futures seeks to alert people to the threat economic globalisation poses to communities, democracy, and the natural world while actively promoting economic localisation through international campaigns and grassroots initiatives such as community-supported agriculture, local currencies, and eco-villages. 

Local Future's written and video materials, including Ancient Futures and The Future of Progress, have been translated into over 25 languages, demonstrating that this message strikes a chord with people worldwide. Local Future has produced The Economics of Happiness, a feature documentary that premiered in 2011 and screened worldwide. The Economics of Happiness project continued and included a series of annual conferences on globalisation and localisation issues.

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