Tags: Economy, environmental issues, sustainable development
Bhutan is really a special country. I know that they since a long time has defended for maintaining its values and culture by sharply limiting the contact with the outside world, by example, not allowing tourists and Western influence to a big extent.
In the project “Educating for GNH, Refining our School Education Practices, A Guide to Advancing Gross National Happiness” they are teaching the children how to live in harmony with nature, with the social environment and with themself. Can it get better? I think that they are indeed a pioneer in what is really important in life.
I really hope that the knowledge of this will spread around the world. I have long called for this type of teaching in our schools and maybe it’s not entirely impossible that it could happen in future schools’ teachings? If enough people start asking for it, so…
Link: Educating for GNH, Refining our School Education Practices, A Guide to Advancing Gross National Happiness. (pdf)
Gross National Happiness (GNH)
The tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan has created a new way to define prosperity: by measuring actual well-being rather than consumption.
By Rajni Bakshi
The tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan is an unlikely place for the birth of an international trend. Yet Bhutan is emerging as a global leader in the promotion of “Gross National Happiness,” a concept it first embraced three decades ago and which is now being fleshed out by a wide range of professionals and agencies across the world.
The term Gross National Happiness (GNH) was coined by Bhutan’s King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, when he ascended the throne in 1972. It signalled his commitment to building an economy that would serve Bhutan’s unique culture permeated by Buddhist spiritual values.
Today, the concept of GNH resonates with a wide range of initiatives, across the world, to define prosperity in more holistic terms and to measure actual wellbeing rather than consumption. By contrast the conventional concept of Gross National Product (GNP) measures only the sum total of material production and exchange in any country. Thus an international conference on Gross National Happiness, hosted by the Bhutan government in the capital city of Thimphu in 2004, attracted 82 eminent participants from 20 countries.
The evolving concept of GNH could well be the most significant advancement in economic theory over the last 150 years, according to Frank Dixon, a Harvard Business School graduate who is currently managing director of research at Innovest Strategic Value Advisors. Innovest is the largest international financial services firm catering to ethical investment funds.
“GNH is an endeavor to greatly enhance the sophistication of human systems by emulating the infinitely greater sophistication of nature,” says Dixon.
Just what would it mean for economic structures to emulate nature? Dixon and others explain it as follows. At present individual companies and entire countries are compelled to keep growing indefinitely. The only parallel for this in the natural world is cancer cells, which by growing exponentially destroy the host body and themselves.
Today it is widely acknowledged that the human economy cannot keep growing at the cost of its habitat. Yet even after two decades of expanding environmental regulation we are still losing the race to save the planet. This is partly because production systems and consumption patterns are out of sync with the carrying capacity of the planet. The pressure for ever higher GNP is merely one manifestation of this.
The concept of GNH is seen as one of several ways in which these imbalances might be rectified. The international gathering at Thimphu reflected a consensus that Gross National Product would still need to be measured and given due importance but in ways that are actually conducive to GNH. So far there has been a tendency to treat GNH as merely the well-intentioned slogan of a small country ruled by an enlightened monarch. The obvious difficulties of defining or measuring happiness have also helped to keep the concept of GNH on the outer fringes of serious discourse.
However, as the conference in Thimphu showed, basic happiness can be measured since it pertains to quality of nutrition, housing, education, health care and community life. Thus, GNH may indeed be ready to come of age. The concept is essential for anyone working on development, says Mieko Nishimizu, an economist who was formerly the World Bank’s vice president for the South Asia region and attended the Thimphu conference.
Local Pathways to Global Wellbeing
St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada
It is heartening to observe that toward the end of the last century and at the beginning of this millennium, the reflective and the analytical across all sections of society are seeing the need to search for a clearer purpose and a more rational approach to development. There is a growing level of dissatisfaction with the way in which human society is being propelled without a clear and meaningful direction by the force of its own actions. It is also noteworthy that, there is a general consensus that conventional development process and contemporary way of life are not sustainable.
We see GNH as offering a more rational and human approach to development:
- First, GNH stands for the holistic needs of the human individual – both physical and mental well-being. It reasons that while material development measures contribute, undeniably, to enhancing physical well-being, the state of mind which is perhaps, more important than the body, is not conditioned by material circumstances alone.
- Second, which is a corollary to the first point, is that GNH seeks to promote a conscious, inner search for happiness and requisite skills which must harmonize with beneficial management and development of outer circumstances.
- Third, GNH recognises that happiness should not be approached or viewed as yet another competitive good to be realised by the individual. It supports the notion that happiness pursued and realised within the context of the greater good of society offers the best possibility for the sustained happiness of the individual. Further, while acknowledging that happiness may not be a directly deliverable good or service, it insists that it is far too important to be left as a purely individual responsibility without the state having a direct role. It may be emphasized that the society as a whole cannot obtain happiness if individuals compete irresponsibly for it, at all cost, in a zero-sum game. It is His Majesty’s belief that the legitimacy of a government must be established on the basis of its commitment to creating and facilitating the development of those conditions that will make viable the endeavours of citizens in the pursuit of their single most important goal and purpose in life. To this end, GNH stresses collective happiness to be addressed directly through public policies in which happiness becomes an explicit criterion in development projects and programmes.
- Fourth, as happiness is the most common yearning of the electorate both individually and collectively and as it transcends ideological or contentious values, public policies based on GNH will be far less arbitrary than those based on standard economic tools.