Friday, November 30, 2007

GPI, GNH, GCH: True Indicators of Progress

Gross domestic product (GDP) is often used as an indicator to measure progress in the economy and society. Everyone usually welcomes GDP growth, and when we think it's not growing enough, we try to find effective measures to raise it. But is it really better when GDP continues to get larger and larger? Can GDP really indicate true progress, including happiness?

GDP goes up when money flows for whatever reason. It adds up any economic activity, that is, the total market value of all final goods and services produced, regardless of whether or not they contribute to people's happiness. It doesn't take into account the aim for which the money flows. In other words, besides goods and services we want, the more traffic accidents, environmental damage, or domestic violence we have, the higher GDP rises. That is because, as part of measuring national economic growth, the GDP also counts up the medical cost for those who suffer, for example, from asthma due to soot and smoke, and the overtime work hours of police devoted to investigating heinous crimes.

We shouldn't be simply delighted when GDP increases. We should very carefully examine the details of any increase in GDP. Let's think about other kinds of activities not accounted for by GDP, but they create happiness, such as housekeeping, child rearing, and so on. When parents read their children some picture books, for example, everyone would agree that they're making their children happy, but since there is no money flow, their activities don't influence GDP. And no matter how hard someone works as a volunteer, the work doesn't affect GDP either, unless a financial transaction occurs.

Because GDP includes what makes us unhappy, and excludes what makes us happy, it cannot be a true indicator to measure social progress. It only measures the amount of money flowing in the economy.

To remedy this, Redefining Progress, a sustainability think tank, created the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) as an alternative to GDP, insisting that relying on GDP as a shorthand indicator of progress is not good for either the Earth or humanity.

The new GPI starts with the same personal consumption data that GDP is based on, but then it makes some crucial distinctions. It adds factors such as the value of household and volunteer work, which are excluded from GDP, as the value equivalent to the cost that would be paid for
workers doing the same job. Furthermore, it subtracts factors such as the costs arising from crime, pollution, resource depletion, family breakdown, and the estimated cost of damage to human health and the environment.

In a comparison of the two indicators over time, the GPI increased in parallel with the growth of the GDP per capita in both Japan and the United States until somewhere between the 1960s and 1970s. After that, however, while the GDP steadily increased, the GPI stopped rising or
even fell. In other words, despite the GDP increases per capita, our level of happiness may not be bigger, or it may even be fading. If so, is it right to continue advocating economic and national policies that seek ever-higher GDP?

Today's media and government officials alike still insist that we must boost the GDP growth rate, or that no growth is no good. Consider thought, that if the economy grew by three percent per year for 24 years, the GDP would be doubled, something beyond our imagination, given the
human and natural resources, and production and financial capital required for this to happen. In today's social economy, however, shortsighted people, or those who have to take the short-term view, keep investing on a short-term basis, parroting that "at least three percent
of growth" is crucial.

Unlike our GDP-oriented society, there is another country that takes a unique and fundamental approach: Bhutan. The country is attracting increasing attention because the Bhutanese consider Gross National Happiness (GNH), instead of GNP, as the indicator to measure national

GNH attempts to measure national power and growth by happiness instead of production. The term is said to have been used first by Bhutan's King Jigme Singye Wangchuck (then 21 years old) in 1976, when he stated at the Fifth Conference of the Non-Aligned Countries that GNH is more important than GNP. He thought that simultaneous improvement of material and spiritual wealth is vital.

From the 1960s to the early 1970s, Bhutan studied the experiences and models of developed countries. King Wangchuck eventually concluded that economic development -- often causing North-South confrontation, poverty, environmental destruction, and cultural loss -- does not always lead to happiness. So he decided not to use the GNP enlargement policy but the
idea of GNH instead, which seeks people's happiness. "Progress should be people-oriented." That is the basic philosophy for progress as well as the final goal of progress, according to GNH.

Bhutan is now directing its development based on the four pillars of the GNH: (1) economic growth and development; (2) preservation of cultural assets, and transmission and promotion of traditional cultures; (3) preservation and sustainable use of the environment; and (4) good

As happiness is subjective and can't be internationally measured using a unified scale, GNH has been thought of as a conceptual idea. Nevertheless, it became popular, and many people wondered if GNH could be expressed as a quantitative indicator like GNP, which prompted the
establishment of the Center for Bhutan Studies in 1999 to start targeted research.

To begin with, the center is aiming to develop an indicator that can be used within Bhutan that measures the concept of happiness using the following nine elements (in random order): living standard, cultural diversity, emotional well being, health, education, time use, ecosystem
health, community vitality, and good governance.

So, how are people spending their time? How vital is the community? These factors would seldom influence GDP. Actually, in the GDP-oriented world, if you're relaxing (not consuming) or spend your time on community activities without being paid, you would be considered to be
"unproductive" and creating a drag on GDP.

But what truly measures national progress? When your children or grandchildren are grown up, which do you think, when looking back, was good? Was it that your country's GDP continued to grow, or was it growth of GNH?

Defined in terms of GDP, Bhutan is a developing country with a low GDP per capita. The country, however, is blessed with an abundant natural environment; 26 percent of its land is nature reserves, and 72 percent is covered by forest. There are no homeless people or beggars on the street. According to a survey, 97 percent of the Bhutanese people answered yes to the question "Are you happy?" What percentage of people would say, "Yes, I'm happy," if the same question was asked in your country?

Does the pursuit of money and economic growth really make us happy? Isn't there anything that might be undermined by seeking them? Bhutan's GNH concept prompts us to reconsider our true purpose in life.

Mukouyama Painting, a company in Japan inspired by the GNH concept, is doing business based on its own idea of measuring the company's success. With about 20 employees, it is located in Kofu City, Yamanashi Prefecture, and deals with a wide range of paint products for industrial
and home use.

See also:
The End of Growth: Efforts in Japanese Society and Business to Slow Down

Its corporate philosophy is represented by the following mottos: "The purpose of our work is to make the Earth clean" and "Our business will provide satisfaction to customers as well as to the
environment of Mother Earth." The management of the company thinks that it would be no use making profits if we ruined the Earth and turned it into a deserted planet.

Mukouyama Painting, however, had a different business policy until about a decade ago. In those days, the company was making every effort to go public, with the primary focus on sales figures. Setting an ambitious goal, such as a 20 percent increase in sales annually, the company urged employees to meet the goal by finding new customers. But this didn't work. Many workers quit their jobs, and it was difficult to recruit replacements. Then-president Kunifumi Mukouyama (now senior advisor) had a tough time in dealing with these situations, and felt depressed. He seriously asked himself, --"What am I? What is a company? What should I

When struggling to get out of the depression, he was influenced by various people. Now, he is sure that he wants to live in a world full of love, peace, harmony, cooperation, and self-sufficiency, although he is actually in a capitalist society where individuals tend to be motivated by self-interest. When Mr. Mukouyama heard about Bhutan's GNH, he immediately decided to adopt a new idea, what he calls "GCH" (Gross Company Happiness), namely, the total happiness of all employees.

At that time, company-wide efforts based on ISO 14001 resulted in an annual cost reduction of 15 million yen (about U.S.$130,000), an equivalent to the net income from the sales of 300 million yen (about $2.6 million). "If we have such gains, some reduction in sales won't hurt the company," Mr. Mukouyama thought. In 1995, he started making a business plan with a reduced amount of sales, say 92 percent of the previous year's sales. The company is aiming at "negative growth" rather than becoming a listed company.

Meanwhile, Mukouyama Painting has been successfully enhancing its corporate values by improving its services to the current customers. The company also has established positive relationships with people in the community by inviting them as citizens' ombudsmen for its internal auditing based on ISO 14001.

In response to the question, "Are your sales decreasing as planned?" Mr. Mukouyama replied, "No, I'm afraid not. Because of unexpected circumstances such as the closedown of a competitive company, the sales are not decreasing. But we are not involved in the activities to get new
customers, and no sales quotas are assigned. This allows employees to have pressure-free work life. It is not my intention to run a company at the cost of employees' humanity. I'd like to do human-centered business.

At one time, the turnover rate was so high and half of the workforce left the company in a year, but now employees rarely quit the company."

Mukouyama Painting believes that it can provide better services to customers and society when its employees are satisfied with the company, and that the happiness of the company depends on the total happiness of all employees. We are pleased to introduce this Japanese company that
measures its success not by the amount of sales, but by GCH that's Gross Company Happiness.

Perhaps it's time to take this discussion into the corridors of power in big businesses and governments worldwide. Shouldn't we all have a say in how to measure progress and plan for the future? Which indicator would you vote for: GDP, GPI, GNH, GCH, or a combination?

Written by Junko Edahiro


Book report "Mining and the environment"

Recently I have read a book concerning Corporate Social Responsibility which is named as “Mining and the environment”. In that book, which is consisted of 8 chapters, 237 pages; there were widely discussed issues of mining mineral resources and its influence on ecology, problems it brings such as air contamination, water pollution, air pollution, ecological degradation; and all environmental costs which occur. And also the book suggests that new regulatory principle, which is named “pollution-prevention pays” should be implemented, as it aims to promote competitive and environmentally sustainable industrial development. The requirement that pollution be reduced at source implies a requirement for technical or organizational change, or both, in the production process. This, in turn, requires that firms develop new technological and managerial capabilities, technological alliances with equipment suppliers, and collaboration with R&D organizations. Also there must be used environmental innovation, mining companies must create new ways of extraction, implement new technologies with the help of which miners can extract several mineral resources at the same time. In order to be better environmental managers for mining companies given below approaches can be used:

  1. Stimulate and reward innovation in pollution prevention with tax breaks for R&D and technology investment;
  2. Require mandatory pollution-prevention and reclamation plans in project development, and stipulate bonds for that purpose;
  3. Stimulate profitable innovation in waste management, such as re-mining, reagent and metals recovery, and biotechnological waste treatment, and remove legislative barriers to re-mining and waste treatment;
  4. Reward firms for innovations in clean technology;
  5. Use mechanisms such as credit conditionality to facilitate the commercialization and diffusion of pollution-prevention technology and work practices across the boundaries of firms and nations;
  6. Promote new approaches to technology transfer, such as interfirm collaboration to develop the technological and managerial capabilities to innovate, in-depth training to manage technical and organizational change, and information-dissemination programs.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Summary of Climate change

Book review from Benjamin

“Climate Change is an issue of intergenerational justice. If we know how our actions affect our planet, it would be criminal to keep acting like we are now, knowing that it jeopardizes future generations.”Greenhouse gases’ is the main contributor to climate change. This is because the earth’satmosphere acts much like a giant greenhouse. The gases allow solar radiation (heat) to pass through the atmosphere but, after it is absorbed and re-radiated by the earth, the gases prevent this heat from escaping back into space. Under natural circumstances this is what keeps the earth warm enough to support life. But current conditions are far from natural. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, when humans began burning fossil fuels on an unprecedented scale, greenhouse gases have steadily been piling up in the atmosphere. Many of these gases last far longer than a century. As a result, current carbon dioxide (CO2)concentrations are now 35.4% higher than pre-industrial levels and growing rapidly. They are now far above any level in the past 650,000 years. Likewise, methane (CH4) concentrations have more than doubled to far above anything seen in the past 650,000 years. Global emissions of all greenhouse gases have increased by 70% between 1970 and 2004. The consequence of all this is that more and more heat is being trapped in our atmosphere, leading to an ‘enhancedgreenhouse effect.’

The world is warming incredibly fast. Global temperatures have risen by 0.76˚C since 1850, with the rate of warming for the past 50 years double that for the past century. Eleven ofthe past twelve years rank among the twelve warmest years since records began in 1850.

There are many different greenhouse gases responsible for climate change, but just three – CO2 (carbon dioxide), CH4 (methane) and N2O (nitrous oxide) – account for almost 99% of the total.Nitrous Oxide – N2O• Nitrous oxide is 275 times more potent than CO2 Sources:• Agriculture and land-use change – Natural emissions from the soil are greatly increased with the application of fertilisers and other materials, which are commonly used today in intensive agriculture. Deforested and degraded land also releases higher emissions• Combustion of fossil fuels, in cars as well as in industrial processes. Hydrofl uorocarbons, perfl uorocarbons, sulphur hexafl uoride – HFC, PFC, SF6 These three gases are extremely powerful and often have very long lifespans. Sulphur hexafl uoride, for example, is over 22,000 timesmore potent than CO2 and lasts for 3200 years!! Fortunately, these gases are emitted in very small quantities that are generally easy to reduce. Their main sources include semi-conductor manufacturing, the production of aluminium (PFCs) and magnesium (SF6), electricaltransmission (SF6), and the replacement of ozone-depleting substances with HFCs.Carbon Dioxide – CO2• By far the most prevalent greenhouse gas, currently accounting for about 77% of total concentrations. Since it is so common, CO2 (or simply “carbon”) is often used as shorthand for all greenhouse gases.

Sources:• Burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas (eg. for electricity generation and transportation)•

Land-use change: Through photosynthesis, plants absorb CO2, thereby acting as a ‘sink’ and balancing emissions. When forests are destroyed and supplanted by other land uses, such as farms or cities, these important sinks are removed, leading to a net increase in emissions.

Current concentrations of CO2 are at 379 ppm (IPCC, 2007), while total concentrations of all greenhouse gases are at 430ppm CO2e.

Methane – CH4• Though shorter lived, it is 62 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than CO2Sources:• Agriculture, especially livestock – high emissions from cattle/ sheep. In some livestock-intensive countries, such as New Zealand, methane is often the number one greenhouse gas.• The retrieval, processing and distribution of fossil fuels - coal mining and the use of natural gas account for the second-largest portion of methane emissions• Waste – methane is emitted as a ‘landfill gas’ from decomposing waste in anaerobic (oxygen-free) conditions.

What we can do to reducing emissions:

1. Power Stations- Use less power (and save money) by increasing energy efficiency in your home and workplace- Switch from dirty power to clean, renewable energy like wind and solar, regulate emissions, research new technologies like carbon capture and storage (CCS).

2. Waste Disposal and Treatment- Reduce your waste, re-use, recycle and compost!- Better waste diversion, landfi ll gas recovery, packaging directives Land Use and Biomass Burning- Avoid unsustainably-harvested wood products and paper with a low recycled content- Provide clean energy alternatives to biomass burning, provide incentives for forest conservation Residential, Commercial, and Other Sources- Improve energy effi ciency of buildings by improving insulation, favouring natural light and air circulation, moreeffi cient lighting, appliances, etc.- Introduce greener building standards, better town planning Fossil Fuel Retrieval, Processing, and Distribution- Use fewer fossil fuels by driving less, switching to renewable energy- Regulation and emissions limits for extraction, refi ning and distribution processes, implementation of new technologies Agricutural Byproducts- Support organic agriculture, eat less meat- Regulate intensive agriculture, promote alternatives and lowerimpact farming Transportation Fuels- Drive less by using alternative forms of transport, eat local- Improve vehicle efficiency standards, promote lower-emission technologies.

3. Industrial Processes- Consume less, consume wisely (choose products manufactured in an environmentally-friendlyway)- Government regulation of industrial emissions.


Friday, November 23, 2007

Buy Nothing Day Nov 24th 2007

Hi friends!

The 24th of November is Buy Nothing Day. To take a rest from consumption and think about the ways we are ruining the planet and other people's lives by buying things.
Find more information here:

The Adbusters Buy Nothing Day (BND) page:

UK BND page with links to what's happening in other (maybe your?) country:

Wikipedia entry:

and a TV spot that MTV rejected:

best wishes from Germany and Happy Buy Nothing Day!


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Climate Change - Youth Guide to Action

Download the Climate Change Guide to Action
In English (PDF, 2.2 MB)

Link source - Taking IT global

Climate change is any shift in weather patterns lasting at least 30 years. The term “climate” is often confused with weather, which is the short term measurement of atmospheric conditions such as temperature and precipitation patterns. Therefore, while a single hot year might not indicate climate change, a trend toward higher temperatures over many years would.

Most scientists agree, climate change is happening today in the form of manmade global warming. This warming largely began with the Industrial Revolution, which dramatically increased fossil fuel consumption and the release into the atmosphere of greenhouse gases (GHGs), most notably carbon dioxide (CO2). GHGs increase global temperatures by preventing heat from the sun from escaping into outer space. As GHGs accumulate in the atmosphere, so does this solar energy, resulting in steadily rising temperatures in recent decades.

Climate change also occurs naturally depending on many variables including the cyclical changes in the Earth’s position relative the sun and and volcanic activity levels. Historically, the Earth has passed through cool and warm stretches. Typically, colder glaciations last for roughly 100,000 years, while hotter interglacial periods, which is what we’re in today, last for closer to 10,000 years.

Present day warming has caused a broad range of negative consequences and is likely to create more unless stopped. The most direct effects of current climate change are on temperature and precipitation patterns. As of 2006, all eight of the hottest years ever recorded were from the last 10 years. As this warming continues, established weather systems will shift and become more extreme, resulting in both more droughts and floods. As sea surface temperature rises, weather-disturbing El Niño events will become more frequent and powerful. Meanwhile, larger, more severe hurricanes, which feed on the heat of ocean waters, will threaten coasts. This trend may already be visible: the last two decades have seen a sharp increase both in the frequency and power of hurricanes.

Shifts in temperature and precipitation will be a shock to fragile ecosystems which depend on specific climatic conditions. Many species will be unable to adapt as fast as their environment changes and face sharply reduced numbers or extinction.

Plants and animals aren’t the only ones feeling the pressure of changing ecosystems. Many regions will face severe water shortages in a warmer world, creating the potential for conflict. It is believed that the genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region is at least in part a response to water shortages resulting from global warming. In recognition of this growing danger, the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to anti-warming crusaders including the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Al Gore.

An additional threat of climate change is rising sea levels. The main causes of this are the expansion of water as it warms and the flow of melt waters from once land trapped ice to oceans. Though it’s unclear exactly how much oceans will rise, the IPCC projects increases between 9 and 88cm in the 21st century. In this range, many coastal regions including cities would be threatened, and at a time when 70% of the world’s population lives on coastal plains.

Global warming is arguably the greatest danger facing humanity in the years ahead. In many ways, its effects are already being felt and it is too late to prevent warming entirely. However, the situation is not without hope. Though urgent action is needed, through the combined efforts of governments, businesses, scientists, and individuals, it is still possible to stop even greater tragedies and protect the health of our planet for future generations.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Updates from Paddy

Hi Guys!

Just a quick update on some 'new' news on sustainability and where some things seem to be going!

The 'cutting edge' of sustainability seems to be sharpening up quick, but the bad news is that the earth's systems are just about in meltdown.

1)The Bad News


The global environment is on life support and its being tended to by a manic with a chainsaw.....
the UN just released this ground-breaking report depicting this global emergency in stark terms. It's called the 'Earth Audit' and its one of the greatest pieces of scientific collaboration in history.


Industrialism has changes the face of the earth- the technological down side! This presentation/slideshow of mindblowing pics puts the earth's plight into perspective.


The IPCC are about to realeas a new report on Saturday- a synthesis of all reasearch done up till now, and its more dire than ever.....

2)The Good News


Hans Rosling here shows global trends of improved living standards and market development in a truly revolutionary way.Prepare to be amazed!


Bright Greenism is a movement that puts the optimism back into environmentalism. 'Dark Green' or conservative environmentalsim, it is argued, has no future. Bright Greenism embraces the progressivism of technology and even capitalism to argue that we can do both: protect the environment AND have fast cars and big houses.... Check out the attachment from the Magazine 'What Is Enlightenment?' for more details- I'd love to hear your thoughts, cause I'm doing my
dissertation this year in this area!


Spiral Dynamics is a theory of human development introduced in the 1996 book Spiral Dynamics by Don Beck and Chris Cowan. It provides a potentially revolutionary framework for analysing problems through 'worldview' grading and placement.


Tools, Models and Ideas for Building a Bright Green ... An online publication covering tools, models, and ideas for building a better future.


The St Andrews Permaculture Group which I'm a part of is going strong and has just launched its website- we're settign it us as a community garden and base for arts and crafts.

OK, that's all for now...

Keep in touch!
Paddy :)

PS, If anyone wants to do a summary for one of the topics' discussions that still hasn't been covered, now's the time. is a really great mindmapping tool for that kind of thing- its online and VERY easy to use.