Monday, May 12, 2008

Gross National Happiness (GNH)

I'm starting to feel panic at the pump. In Rhode Island this past weekend, I paid $3.99 for a gallon of gas. When I arrived home, I found this week's issue of Business Week waiting for me. Some energy sector analysts are predicting $200 / barrel oil by the fall of this year. Wal-mart and Costco are placing limits on the amount of rice any one customer can buy. Food bills, air fares, electricity prices are all climbing. And then there's the real estate market.

On my long drive home from work, I often consider whether or not we did this to ourselves. Our consumption level is frighteningly high. In this country we seem unable to be happy with what we've got - it's embedded in us, as Americans, that we always strive for more. 

While we are obsessed with measuring GDP, other nations in the world have different benchmarks. The country of Bhutan considers GNH, Gross National Happiness, an indicator of societal well-being. A while back I found the following definition and history of the term GNH:

"Coined by Bhutan's King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, Gross National Happiness (GNH) measures actual well-being of a country's citizens rather than consumption, accounting more fully for social, human and environmental realities. Its premise is that basic happiness can be measured since it pertains to quality of nutrition, housing, education, health care and community life. By contrast, the conventional concept of Gross National Product (GNP) measures only the sum total of material production and exchange in any country:

Promotion of equitable and sustainable socio-economic development

Preservation and promotion of cultural values

Conservation of the natural environment

Establishment of good governance    

At the GNH International Conference in 2004, participants adopted a declaration that said that the facilitation of GNH should be accompanied by "the development of indicators that address human physical and emotional well-being. They must be capable of use for self-evaluation, so that individuals and groups may gauge their progress in the attainment of happiness. In addition, indicators should facilitate full accountability, good governance, and socially constructive business practices, both in day-to-day life and in long-range policies and activities."   

So while we weather this latest economic situation, the consideration of alternate indicators is at least worth a few moments of time. After all, if you're going to wait out a storm, you might as well have some reading material that gives you hope for a better tomorrow. Learn more at

The images above can be found at

No comments: