Gross National Happiness
The Prime Minister of Bhutan
December 29th, 2009
December 27, 2009
“Nature cannot continue to absorb the abuses that we are throwing at it,” the Prime Minister told me. “The world is finite, and economic growth cannot continue to take place except with considerable cost to this generation and generations in the future.
“It is time that the world understood that we should talk about growth with a different understanding — growth of the individual, growth of the mind, growth of happiness. What really constitutes wealth? What is prosperity, and what is being rich? I think these have to be understood more in human terms, in terms of relationships and in an ecological sense.”
The speaker was His Excellency Jigme Y. Thinley, the Prime Minister of Bhutan, a Himalayan kingdom smaller and less populous than Nova Scotia. Nearly 40 years ago, Bhutan’s Fourth King declared that “Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product,” bravely setting his tiny nation on a unique path to development. In 2006 he abdicated in favour of his 27-year-old son. In 2008, ancient Bhutan became the world’s youngest democracy, its commitment to Gross National Happiness intact.
Gross National Happiness sounds like wide-eyed California mind-mush, but it’s as rigorous as most economic measurements — and far more useful. GNH rests on “four pillars” of value that almost everyone accepts. The first pillar is environmental conservation, caring for nature and others. Second is cultural promotion, preserving the wisdom of an ancient and cherished culture. Third is sustainable and equitable development that benefits all citizens, past and future as well as present. Fourth is “good governance,” the inculcation of active and responsible citizenship.
These “pillars” are divided into nine “domains,” which in turn are broken down to 72 measurable variables. One variable reflects Bhutan’s commitment to maintain at least 60% forest cover forever. In actual fact, 72% of Bhutan is forested, 52% is protected, and Bhutan presently absorbs three times as much carbon as it produces. Similarly, between 1984 and 1994, life expectancy rose from 48 to 66 years, while infant mortality was cut in half. The country now has universal health care and universal free education.
That’s solid data. And that’s GNH in action………………….
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