Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happiness and Well-Being Trump Material Growth

Monks play volleyball at Rabdey Dratsang in the southeastern district of Samdrup Jongkhar in Bhutan

 Monks play volleyball in Bhutan, where the Gross National Happiness Framework was developed. Photograph: Str/REUTERS

Happiness is more important than GDP. This will not be a surprising statement for many, but what is surprising is that the statement comes from the former head of the civil service, permanent secretary to the Treasury and UK member of the IMF, Lord Gus O'Donnell. The statement coincided with the launch of the Wellbeing and Policy Report, commissioned by the Legatum Institute.
The idea of putting happiness at the heart of our economy is not new, but is not the focus of mainstream policy or culture in western economies. We have long been led to believe that GDP growth is ultimately the measure of a country's progress, creating jobs, investment and production of goods and services. However, our focus on spending our way to happiness is not borne out either by people's experience or by the statistical evidence.
The Legatum Report calls for a new policy direction that puts wellbeing at the core of economy and society. It shows that people are much happier in strong communities where trust is high and that mental health is the single biggest factor explaining cross sectional variation in life satisfaction. The core message that money does not buy happiness is borne out by many other studies. For example, a YouGov poll recently commissioned by Action for Happiness revealed that the majority of British people (87%) would choose happiness for their society rather than money (chosen by only 8%).
According to the same poll, when asked to choose the three most important factors for personal happiness, "relationships with my partner/family" came out top (80%), with "my health" in second place (71%) and "money" third (42%). "My possessions" polled a mere 4% of votes.
This is not a purely a British phenomena. Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett in their highly acclaimed book, The Spirit Level found that behind the economic growth statistics lies a more important trend. We now know that "economic growth and increases in average incomes have ceased to contribute much to wellbeing in rich countries". What is far more important in indicating level of happiness is the level of income inequality. Across countries and over time, they revealed a consistent finding that reducing inequality is the best way of improving the real quality of life in developed economies.
This shift in focus from material growth to equality and wellbeing goes to the heart of the concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH). GNH is more than a concept, it is a living experiment in an alternative development path pursued by Bhutan. Dr Tho Ha Vinh, programme director of the Centre of Gross National Happiness in Bhutan was invited to share the country's experience in GNH with participants at a recent course in the economics of happiness at Schumacher College in South Devon.
The definition of GNH from the first elected prime minster of Bhutan is clearly different from our popular understanding of "happiness", in our popular culture linked to feeling good, leisure and pleasure.
"We have now clearly distinguished the 'happiness'… in GNH from the fleeting, pleasurable, 'feel good' moods so often associated with that term. We know that true abiding happiness cannot exist while others suffer, and comes only from serving others, living in harmony with nature, and realising our innate wisdom and the true and brilliant nature of our own minds."
So, what is the Gross National Happiness Framework initially developed in Bhutan that is now having influence all over the globe? The Framework is based on the four pillars of preservation of the environment, preservation and promotion of culture, sustainable and equitable socio-economic development and good governance. The pillars are further refined into nine domains and a weighted index of 33 indicators.
Please go here to continue this article: 
 Julie Richardson is a senior lecturer in economics for transition, a postgraduate programme run in partnership between Schumacher College and Plymouth University

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Joanna Macy: Passionate Love For Our World

You're always asked to sort of stretch a little bit more, and actually we're made for that. But in any case, there's absolutely no excuse for making our passionate love for our world dependent on what we think of its degree of health, whether we think it's going to go on forever. This moment, you're alive. 

– Joanna Macy

Satish Kumar: The Link Between Soil, Soul and Society

We are losing connection with the soil. Satish Kumar wants us to understand the connection between soil, soul and society and drop ego in favour of eco 

Warming worry over soil microbes

 Soil is the source of life but we are losing connection with it. Photograph: Julien Behal/PA

Many historical movements in the world have three key words that express their spirit. During the French Revolution the words were "liberté, égalité, fraternité", in the American Declaration of Independence they were "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness".
The implication of both phrases is very similar. It is human life, human liberty, human equality and human happiness. Even the words adopted by the New Age movement - "mind, body, spirit" - refer to the human mind, human body and human spirit. It's an anthropocentric worldview - the view that human beings are at the centre of the universe.
This worldview is no longer valid - we are utterly dependent on other species and we have to take care of them. We are members of one Earth community and need a new trinity that is holistic and inclusive, that embraces the entire planet and all species upon it. So I propose a new trinity of soil, soul, society. Soil represents the entire natural world. Without soil there is no food and without food there is no life, trees, forests, animals or people.
In our education systems, we have come to think that soil simply means dirt and that dirt means dirty. But dirt is not dirty; it is the source of life. Without it there is no life.
We are related to and dependent on the soil. If somebody grows food, we think: "Oh poor man, peasant, labourer - he is not educated so he has to grow food." If you are educated you don't grow food - you manufacture cars, televisions, computers or work in a bank or office. We sit at our computers and our food comes from somewhere.
The word peasant itself has become a term of an insult. I want to change that. I want to reinstate a respect for soil. We must touch the soil. How many times do we touch our mobile phone every day? Maybe 100 times. How many times do we touch the soil? Hardly ever. We must give dignity to peasants, farmers and gardeners.
We are all part of this healthy web of life maintained by soil. The Latin word humus means soil. The words human, humility and humus all come from the same root. When humans lose contact with soil, they are no longer humans.
Trees, animals, plants, rocks, mountains, rivers, worms, butterflies, honeybees – all have intrinsic value. They have the right to be as they are. We talk about human rights, and that's fine. But nature also has rights. The trees have a right to exist. We have no right to cut them down without proper purpose. When we recognise the rights of nature, then we have understood the meaning of the word soil.
The second word in my new trinity is soul. Soul is something we cannot see. The human body we can touch, hug, kiss and admire, but in order to touch soul I have to close my eyes. Everything – trees, animals, worms and humans – has a soul. Soil is the outer landscape and soul, the inner landscape.
We need to take care of the soul, as we take care of the soil. But we can only take care of the soul when we slow down. Take time for ourselves. Meditate on the fact that you represent the totality of the universe. There is nothing in the universe that is not in you, and there is nothing in you that is not in the universe. The universe is the macrocosm and you are the microcosm. You are earth, air, fire, water, imagination, creativity, consciousness, time and space – you have all this in your soul, in your genes and in your cells. You are billions of years old.
Please continue this article here: 
Satish Kumar is the editor-in-chief of Resurgence & Ecologist. His new book Soil, Soul, Society is published by Leaping Hare Press.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Interdependence of All Living Beings

We need to embrace all of society. We need to solve social problems of poverty and wars with imagination, compassion, creativity and forgiveness. All problems can be solved by negotiation, friendship, giving in, letting go of ego and going into eco. Let us make a shift from from self-interest to mutual-interest of whole human society. If we can have a holistic view of soil, soul and society, if we can understand the interdependence of all living beings, and understand that all living creatures – from trees to worms to humans – depend on each other, then we can live in harmony with ourselves, with other people and with nature.

- Satish Kumar 

Dr. Tho Ha Vinh: True Abiding Happiness

"We have now clearly distinguished the 'happiness'… in GNH - Gross National Happiness - from the fleeting, pleasurable, 'feel good' moods so often associated with that term. We know that true abiding happiness cannot exist while others suffer, and comes only from serving others, living in harmony with nature, and realising our innate wisdom and the true and brilliant nature of our own minds."

Dr Tho Ha Vinh, programme director 

Satish Kumar: A Mind of Caring, Sharing, Sustainability

If humanity is genuinely to pursue the path of peace then we have to change the way we do business. There is always some room for moderate profit but the purpose of business and the motivation of those involved in business has to arise from a mind of caring, sharing and sustainability.

Such motivation cannot be imposed by government, it has to emerge from within each and every person and it has to be an integral part of social and political culture. The seeds of greed, consumerism and materialism are there in every human mind. In order to establish peace in the world we have to start by making peace within ourselves. A greedy mind cannot be a peaceful mind. A peaceful mind is a mind of contentment and fulfillment.
- Satish Kumar 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

David Richo: The Human Heart

Enlightenment can only be embodied in the world by people who love one another. So relationships are not about how two people can survive each other but about how the whole world becomes more capable of love, with all its dim anguish and glowing rapture...

The human heart holds much more love than it can ever disburse in one lifetime.

- David Richo, How To Be An Adult In Relationships:
The Five Keys to Mindful Loving

An Interview with Satish Kumar at the New Story Summit

This is a fabulous, rich, beautiful interview. Deeply spiritual, moving, enlightening. Another world is possible. Bless all beings ~ Molly

Kosmos: Satish, what is your perspective on the New Story?
Satish Kumar: The New Story will be a story of reunion, reconnection. In the last couple of hundred years, we have come to believe that nature is separate from us and we are separate from nature. Nature is out there, and we can do what we like to it. We can cut down the rain forest. We can put animals in factory farms and slaughter them as we like. We can over-fish the oceans. We can pollute the rivers. We can pollute the water and change climate. We are somehow superior to nature. We are somehow rulers of nature. That’s the old story. The new story is that we are part of nature. Thich Nhat Hanh, the Buddhist master says, we are interbeings. Nothing is separate. The New Story is that we are all interrelated. We take care of each other. We are dependent on each other. Therefore, replenishing the soil, replenishing society and being part of one continuum—that’s the new story.
The scientific world, the materialistic world, the world of commerce, the world of business, the world of individualism, the world of capitalism, world of communism—all these worlds are the old story now. Where we think we exploit nature, we exploit people. Market rules, profit rules, money rules. We work for name, fame, power, money, profit. That’s the old story.
Kosmos: Where do you see The New Story being lived right now?
SK: The New story is emerging. It is emerging in communities, like Findhorn community, like Schumacher College, like ecovillages. The New Story is being played out through art, culture, music, and communities. And through the ecological movement and ecovillages movement. We are waking up. We are not slaves of the market. Our human life has a greater meaning than making money, making profit, and working for the market or for multinational corporations. Multinational corporations and a market economy have transformed human beings into instruments of making money. Human beings should be the end. And money should be the means to an end. Caring for nature should be the end and money should be a means to take care of nature. The New Story turns that around, and makes money into means. And nature, humanity, and human welfare, human well-being, human happiness—these are the ends. So, these are the kind of transformations that we are creating. And this is happening now.
Large numbers of young people are waking up. And they are saying, “We are not here just to work for multinational corporations and make money for them. We are here to live. We have to find the meaning of life.” The old story is a story of measurement. And the New Story is to bring measurement and meaning together. You cannot measure meaning.
Kosmos: So, an economy that serves meaning, and serves our inner being, and serves ecology, the rest of living creation. What does that really look like on the ground level?
SK: It’s an emerging story. And in this emerging story, people are are moving away from the fossil fuel-based economy, to a more renewable economy. That is what is called the ‘transition town’ movement. There are three hundred towns in Britain that are making this transition. Taking energy from solar power, from wind power, from water power—all this is part of the New Story.
Then there is the old story of food. It doesn’t matter where or how it is grown as long as it is packaged in plastic, put on the supermarket shelves, and bought as a commodity. In the New Story food is not commodity. Food is sacred. We need to be connected with soil, with animals that we take care of. So, the relationship between food and humans is the emerging story. We respect food, and we participate in growing it. Earth is a living entity. And if it’s a living organism, then we have to have a reverence for all life. Food should be local, organic rather than grown with chemical fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides. And then, we should also have natural food, rather than consuming genetically engineered food. So, New Story is a story of wholeness, relatedness, connectedness.
To continue this interview, please go here:
 This interview appears in the current Fall/Winter issue of Kosmos Journal.

Bill McKibben: We're In New Territory For Human Beings

We're in new territory for human beings--it's been millions of years since there's been this much carbon in the atmosphere. The only question now is whether the relentless rise in carbon can be matched by a relentless rise in the activism necessary to stop it.

- Bill McKibben



May such courage, integrity, wisdom, and passionate caring for life inspire us all.
May we all take steps to stand in protection of what needs protecting.
We are all related. Blessings ~ Molly
Greg Grey Cloud being escorted away Tuesday evening Capitol Police.
Greg Grey Cloud being escorted away Tuesday evening Capitol Police.

WASHINGTON — Wica Agli co-founder Greg Grey Cloud, an enrolled member of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, would like to address the media’s recent understanding surrounding the honor song (not chanting) that was sung for the senators who voted against the Keystone XL pipeline. This was not a political stunt or a protest demonstration, this is how we honor our heroes.

 “Once I heard the outcome of the vote I was overcome with joy. Our culture uses songs for everything. Before going to the Capitol I was wondering what song would be appropriate to sing. I called Pat Bad Hand Sr. of the Sicangu Oyate, he is a renowned hoka wicasa, a keeper of songs. He suggested that a song that was composed during the 1980s in opposition to coal mining would be the most appropriate. Mr. Bad Hand translated the song lyrics for me as “Grandfather look at me, I am standing here struggling, I am defending grandmother earth and I am chasing peace."
 As I was sitting there, watching and listening to the votes being counted. I started to think of all the women and children that would be affected by this pipeline, I thought of all the relatives back home. I thought about the Land and the Water. I looked to my left and I saw Rosebud Sioux Tribe President Scott sitting there waiting to hear the vote. I was filled with pride thinking about his strong words and the strong words from our tribal leaders on how the Oceti Sakowin and other indigenous relatives would stop the tarsands at all cost. I looked to my right and saw Jane Kleeb and I was filled with all the memories of this past few years of fighting this pipeline along side our Cowboy relatives.  Then I heard it, I really heard it - no. The vote was no. 
 We have time, time to keep fighting, time to make sure that Wica Wawookiye hears us, President Obama hears us and says NO to this pipeline.  I looked down and thought we need to honor these senators for having the courage to make the right decision for not only Indian country but for America as a whole. As a singer I know only one way to honor someone and that’s to sing. I didn’t mean to disrupt the Senate only to honor the conviction shown by the senators.”
English translation Grandmother Earth song: "Grandfather look at me, I am standing here struggling, I am defending grandmother earth and I am chasing peace."
Please go here for the original article: