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Measuring happiness

When will Australians start to define and measure what they truly want in life and what they want to leave behind for their children, grandchildren and greatgrandchildren?

Gross National Product (GNP) versus the Happy Planet Index (HPI): The Great Contradiction

The espoused goal of Australian leadership, as well as that of every developed country in the world and most aspiring ones, is to increase the Gross National Product (GNP).

The Gross National Product is simply a measure of money flow.   It represents the total dollar value of all financial transactions in the country.  The more transactions that occur within a country that have a dollar value assigned to them, the greater the GNP.

Measuring Gross National Product is an extremely limited way of looking at how people are actually living and what they truly care about.  In fact, our papers and media seem to want to keep us in a perpetual state of anxiety about how impoverished we are all likely to become.  And that is assuming we will be continuing with our current chase after growth at any cost —  to the detriment of our home planet Earth.

The GNP is an indicator of the goods and services produced for consumption in society during a particular time.  Increasing manufacturing for export as well as for domestic consumption is a significant part of most country’s program for increasing their GNP and improving their balance of payments. However, as we have seen increasing the throughput of raw materials and energy for manufacturing speeds up the rate of environmental damage.

So we are faced with the Great Contradiction − the contradiction between the goal of an expanding economy based on consumer goods and the goal of an environmentally sustainable society.  Under our current mode of operating the two are incompatible.

How the media can distort perception

The flooding in Queensland late 2010/early 2011 is a good example.  Less space was given to how we could change our behaviours so that such natural disasters could be prevented, than was given to how much we would all be affected economically.   In the event, a couple of sane economists pointed out that it would not affect our GNP by more than a percentage point or so  – and that would just be in the next quarter.  Some months later there is little to be seen in the media about the longer term actions we all need to take to insulate us against increasing natural disasters.

Partnership or Dominator?

As we said in the Core Briefing, our ecological and social deterioration is driven by people with a dominator mentality.  They continue to advocate coal, oil and nuclear  power strategies that support increased concentrations of corporate power and wealth to share-holders.   In contrast, a viable future will be based upon wind, solar, eco-efficient design strategies that support local distribution and local jobs, combined with reduced actual consumption and increased personal wellbeing. .

Happy Planet Index

It is a normal human wish to be content and happy.  Can we measure this?  There is a fun site called Happy Planet which has developed an index to help us decide whether or not we are happy and how much our lifestyle is costing the planet.  Costa Rica and Vanuatu top the list and they are hardly economic powerhouses!

Watch Nic Marks from the New Economics Foundation talk about the happy planet index and the messages they try to convey.

We need to start measuring what we truly value in life.  The New Economics Foundation is doing a terrific job bringing this new approach to our attention. In fact they are behind the  Happy Planet Index.    Visit it and sign up to its manifeso and to get its newsletter.


1 comment

  1. noni

    Finding the Happy Planet Index was terrific!

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