Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Talks on TED: Johan Rockstrom and Nic Marks

Statistician Nic Marks asks why we measure a nation's success by its productivity -- instead of by the happiness and well-being of its people. He introduces the Happy Planet Index, which tracks national well-being against resource use (because a happy life doesn't have to cost the earth). Which countries rank highest in the HPI? You might be surprised.

Speakers Nic Marks: Happiness researcher

Nic Marks gathers evidence about what makes us happy, and uses it to promote policy that puts the well-being of people and the planet first. He's the founder of the Centre for Well-Being at the UK think tank New Economics Foundation (NEF).
Why you should listen to him:

Nic Marks thinks quality of life is measurable, and that true contentment comes not from the accumulation of material wealth but from our connections with others, engagement with the world, and a sense of autonomy. This isn't just theory: a pioneer in the field of well-being research, Marks creates statistical methods to measure happiness, analyzing and interpreting the evidence so that it can be applied to such policy fields as education, sustainable development, healthcare, and economics.

The founder of the Centre for Well-Being, an independent think tank at the New Economics Foundation (NEF), in London, Marks is particularly keen to promote a balance between sustainable development and quality of life. To investigate this, he devised the Happy Planet Index, a global index of human well-being and environmental impact. The results made headlines: People in the world's wealthiest countries, who consume the most of the planet's resources, don't come out on top in terms of well-being. Which raises the question: What purpose does unfettered economic growth serve?

To measure (and possibly improve) your own HPI, visit two useful sites from NEF: 5 Ways to Well-Being and Well-Being at Work.

"Marks urged politicians to pay more attention to life satisfaction over GDP. 'The big message of [the HPI] rankings is that we have to produce a system that makes people happier without costing the Earth,' he said."

Louise Gray, Telegraph

Johan Rockstrom: Let the environment guide our development

About this talk

Human growth has strained the Earth's resources, but as Johan Rockstrom reminds us, our advances also give us the science to recognize this and change behavior. His research has found nine "planetary boundaries" that can guide us in protecting our planet's many overlapping ecosystems.

Speakers Johan Rockstrom: Sustainability expert

If Earth is a self-regulating system, it's clear that human activity is capable of disrupting it. Johan Rockstrom has led a team of scientists to define the nine Earth systems that need to be kept within bounds for Earth to keep itself in balance.
Why you should listen to him:

Johan Rockstrom is a leader of a new approach to sustainability: planetary boundaries. Working with a team of 29 leading scientists across disciplines, Rockstrom and the Stockholm Resilience Centre identified nine key Earth processes or systems -- and marked the upper limit beyond which each system could touch off a major system crash. Climate change is certainly in the mix -- but so are other human-made threats such as ocean acidification, loss of biodiversity, chemical pollution.

Rockstrom teaches natural resource management at Stockholm University, and is the Executive Director of the Stockholm Environment Institute and the Stockholm Resilience Centre. He's a leading voice on global water, studying strategies to build resilience in water-scarce regions of the world. Fokus magazine named him "Swede of the Year" in 2009 for his work on bridging the science of climate change to policy and society.

"Rockstrom has managed in an easy, yet always scientifically based way, to convey our dependence of the planet's resources, the risk of transgressing planetary boundaries and what changes are needed in order to allow humanity to continue to develop."
Anna Ritter, Fokus magazine