Friday, January 29, 2010

Gross National Happiness

When the world leaders gathered at the last session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, they were struck by a multiplicity of crises as never before. Each of us shared our sense of deep concern and helplessness even as the devastating consequences of climate change, escalating conflicts, and deepening poverty begged our attention. Most leaders chose to address each of these as separate challenges and offered separate solutions. I submitted that Bhutan did not look at these unfortunate developments as disconnected events. Rather, we saw them as directly interconnected symptoms of a larger and deeper malaise that threatens our collective well-being and survival. And that disease has to do with our way of life that is just not rational and sustainable!

As far back as the early 1970s, there were signs of some of these seismic events on the horizon. It was obvious that natural resources will become scarcer and competition for their control fiercer. In their eagerness to taste the fruit of modernization, developing and newly independent nations were compromising their identity, culture, and their soul. Material enrichment was being pursued at the cost of spiritual impoverishment. People were forgetting how to be happy and eagerly becoming slaves of greed. Natural resources were being callously exploited by outsiders and the first signs of environmental stress were becoming visible. Even development assistance was guided by motives that were far less pure than they are now.

These were the concerns and realities that disturbed our king, who at a very young age, suddenly found himself on the throne of a medieval feudal state in a modern world divided between two superpowers. Dissatisfied with the development models in vogue, he articulated what was the desire of every citizen, i.e., happiness. He declared collective happiness the goal of our country and facilitating its pursuit the raison d'être for his rule. Not even once [did I hear] him use the phrase, 'economic growth.' It was within the human dimension that he conceptualized his national development plans.

Now more than ever, during these difficult and uncertain times, when dreams of a more secure future cross our mind, Gross National Happiness (GNH) has become relevant. While it was dismissed as utopian idealism in the past, it is now attracting growing interest under different nomenclatures and signatures. Four international conferences have been held. The OECD, comprising the developed countries, has held a series of regional and global conferences in its search for a noneconomic-based model for true human progress. The Australians, British, Canadians, Chinese, Dutch, and the Thais are taking the pursuit of happiness or human well-being seriously in their public policies. GNH indicators are to be adopted by Fiji and the Melanesian countries. In Brazil, there is an amazing GNH following, community-by-community, city-by-city, with children in the lead.

GNH is not a dogma that espouses asceticism. It is about finding durable happiness, of the kind that does not come at the cost of the well-being of others. It is about making human life more meaningful, fulfilling, and sustainable. It is about finding ways to build harmonious societies on mutually supportive human relationships as opposed to competition being the basis for all success. It is about having to be consciously aware of the truth that happiness, not only material wealth, is the purpose of life and that it is achievable.

Here it is important to understand why happiness and not contentment is the end that is pursued. The way we see it, contentment is a passive state of mind that accepts any state of being. Happiness, on the other hand, is a state of being that can be realized only from the happiness of others. It is a state of mind that will act to alter unhappy conditions. It is a product of sharing and giving and is not fleeting like the pleasure that the Canadian thinker John Ralston Saul calls the "Disney World" happiness. Pursuit of happiness makes an individual socially, economically, and politically responsible. It contributes to the making of a safer and equitable world.

GNH in Bhutan is pursued through goals known popularly as the four pillars. All socio-economic programs, including political development of our young democracy, must subscribe to the strengthening of these pillars. These are:

* Sustainable and equitable socio-economic development
* Environmental conservation
* Promotion of culture
* Enhancement of good governance

While these are the purposes that form the core of our development programs since the late 1970s, the growing interest in GNH worldwide, and the quantitative world we live in have compelled us to develop a GNH index so that it can find greater acceptance and application against the powerful ethics of consumerism. This includes the need to enthuse academics into conducting deeper research and promoting GNH values to guide true societal development; to convince economists to define, promote, and measure these values as true wealth to aspire for; to create an enlightened society that will want to pursue these values; and to cause policy makers to realize that there are no greater goods and services for the people than those that facilitate their pursuit of happiness.

In developing a GNH index, the four pillars have been elaborated into a total of nine domains, which represent all the dimensions of an individual's life. All are considered crucial to the holistic development of the individual and society:

* Living standard, health, and education form the first pillar
* Ecological integrity constitutes the second pillar
* Culture, psychological well-being, time use, and community vitality comprise the third pillar
* Good governance (democracy, equity and justice) is the substance of the fourth pillar

Each of these nine domains, which are equally weighted, is then divided into 72 variables or indicators. The level needed to be achieved to make a difference to happiness level is specified in such ways as the minimum income level, health condition, educational achievement, environmental diversity, voluntarism, time spent with family, etc. The aggregation of all these, qualified further by a measure of breadth (coverage) and depth (intensity), form the basis for quantitative assessment of an individual's, a community's, or the country's level of happiness at any given time.

It is not a simple process by which we can arrive at a GNH aggregate number like GDP. Seventy-two variables do not make it easy for any respondent in a survey. But as the GNH discourse goes on, better and more accurate indicators can be developed. My confidence in this comes from the expanding circle of GNH enthusiasts among all walks of life.

Change from the GDP-inspired consumer or market-centric macroeconomic model to the GNH paradigm calls for a fundamental departure from the way we are used to living our lives. It must arise from acknowledging mankind's astonishing material achievements and accepting that more will not necessarily further human advancement. It requires breaking out of the mold of consumerism to pursue not so much the unknown but the less-trodden path. It is not so much the adoption of new values as reprioritizing them. The biggest challenge is in redefining wealth and prosperity and making these the continued objects of common desire.

GNH calls for social, cultural, and technological reorientation, including re-examining the rationale for the structural basis of our laws and politics. It must result in stronger environmental ethics and a new kind of economics. The good thing is that much is already happening in this direction, off and on the main street.

What do these mean for the corporate/business world? What will happen to our factories, our banks, and businesses as we know them? How should our education system be changed in form and content? Should the fundamentals of governance, even of the democratic kind, change? How will GNH "markets" function and be regulated? How should the financial and trading systems be restructured? These are questions that we need to devote our thoughts and attention to.

This essay is adapted from the keynote address at the conference of the Junior Chamber of Conference of Japan, August 29, 2009.

No Impact Curriculum

No Impact Man, Colin Beavan, and his family have inspired a nation to swap their old consumer habits for new environmentally-friendly ones.  Thousands of people have tried the No Impact Experiment, a one week carbon-cleansing, as a first step in changing their everyday behavior.

The recently launched No Impact Curriculum brings the lessons learned from this year-long journey to your classroom. Five stand-alone, 50-minute lessons on consumption, energy, transportation, water, and food capture are a terrific combination of compelling information and positive action. Each lesson explores the effects your students’ everyday behavior has on the environment, their health, and their well-being. The curriculum will also challenge them to think about how the systems in our present society influence our lifestyle choices in ways that often are not good for the environment.

To download the free complete lessons, you will need to register. Registration is free, and please be assured that your email will not be shared. It is not required to purchase the DVD and book to use the lesson plans.
Please note that YES! Magazine does its best to provide educators with easily accessible teaching tools. Email login is becoming more common practice. We will recommend you register to log in only when we believe the materials are worth your time and effort.

No Impact Project: Lesson Plans for Grades 6-12

Time: 50 minutes, with some lessons requiring outside time for data collection
All five lesson plans feature the film and book from the project, No Impact Man, which follows Colin's in New York City as they examine how they live, exchange old habits for more environmentally-friendly ones, and discover in the process that such changes actually make them happier and healthier. The lessons also incorporate web site resources that build on themes that emerge from the family’s experiences.

Photo courtesy of whitecat singapore
Lesson One: Consumption

DOWNLOAD: Consumption
Educators can use this lesson to help students examine their consumption habits and consider strategies for acquiring necessities in ways that do less harm to the environment.
More on this topic:

Photo courtesy of Storm Crypt
Lesson Two: Energy

Educators can use this lesson to help students explore how they can reduce their daily energy consumption and speak out on the need to have long-term, sustainable energy solutions.
More on this topic:

Photo courtesy of Liz West
Lesson Three: Food

Educators can use this lesson to help students explore how their food choices affect the environment and our quality of life.
More on this topic:

Photo courtesy of Bern@t
Lesson Four: Transportation

DOWNLOAD: Transportation
Educators can use this lesson to help students explore how improved street design could encourage more of their classmates to use active forms of transportation to get to school.
More on this topic:

Photo courtesy of Alias Rex
Lesson Five: Water

Educators can use this lesson to help students learn how to save water and keep harmful chemicals out of drains.
More on this topic:

No Impact Experiment

Think about this experiment as what you get, not what you give up: a happier you that will make a happier planet. For one week, beginning and ending on a Sunday, your eco-conscience will be heightened by altering your energy usage, water usage, and food habits. It’s not about feeling guilty or deprived, but about making change your way, no matter how big or small.
Sign up for No Impact updates to find out when the  next No Impact Experiment will start. Read the user-friendly How-To Manual and frequently asked questions for more information and inspiration.
READ: Fight Climate Change, Live the Good Life
LEARN: 10 Ways to Change Your Life
WATCH: No Impact Man Movie Trailer
DO: Try Colin Beavan's experiment yourself, for a week

The No Impact Project (NIP) was established in Spring 2009 to harness the success of No Impact Man, Colin Beavan’s blog, book, and film, which chronicle his family’s year-long experiment to adopt a zero-waste lifestyle. NIP believes that deep-seated behavioral change leads to both cultural change and political engagement. It organizes and encourages "no impact weeks" that challenge participants to unplug, make no trash, and resist the urge to buy. Success for NIP means engaging people who are not already “tree-hugging, bicycle-riding, canvas bag-toting eco-warriors” to adopt lifestyle changes that have a positive impact on the planet and simply make them happier and more satisfied.

Jan 2010 newsletter snapshotThe above resources accompany the January 2010 YES! Education Connection Newsletter

Environmental Education Curriculum for Middle and High School Teachers

Environmental Education Curriculum for Middle and High School Teachers

When Colin Beavan (aka “No Impact Man”) and his family decided to try living for a year in New York City without doing any harm to the environment (the “No Impact Experiment”), it attracted worldwide media attention. Why all the fuss? Because the Beavans traded their old habits for more environmentally-friendly ones – and figured out that doing so actually made their lives happier, healthier, and more abundant. People started talking about these discoveries, and thousands have tried their own No Impact Experiment.

All this discussion and action made it clear that the No Impact film and book, which document the Experiment, could be powerful tools for environmental education.

This curriculum uses these tools to help middle and high school students explore the effects their everyday behavior has on the environment, their health, and their well-being. It will also challenge students to think about how the systems in our present society influence our lifestyle choices in ways that often are not good for environment. Finally, it will guide students to take action both individually and with others to bring about positive change.

Lesson Plan Features

Each lesson plan:
  • Is FREE.
  • Can be used on its own or with the other plans.
  • Is grounded in curriculum standards for Social Studies, English/Language Arts, and other subject areas.
  • Can be taught in one 50-minute class period.
  • Is designed for use in grades 6-12, but is easily adapted for older and younger students.
  • Provides the popular No Impact Man media resources to engage students and stimulate discussion. Note: It is not required to purchase the DVD and book to use the lesson plans.

Lesson Plan Summary

The five lesson plans in our environmental education curriculum address the following topics:
Consumption: Examine how advertising affects our consumption habits and consider how we can get what we need in ways that do less harm to the environment. Create an alternative gift registry with items that are non-material, secondhand, homemade, service-oriented (such as “fix my bike”), experiential (such as “take me to a concert”), or that come from companies that are socially and environmentally responsible.
Energy: Take a look at our current system for supplying energy to our homes. Find out how to reduce our daily energy consumption and speak out on the need to have long-term, sustainable energy solutions.
Food: Explore how food choices affect the environment and our quality of life. Develop a plan for one meal that includes only food that is seasonal, local, and unpackaged.
Transportation: Study how improved street design could encourage more students to use active forms of transportation like walking or biking to get to school.
Water: Learn ways to conserve water and minimize the amount of chemicals that we put in our drains.

What is Sustainable Agriculture?

The Green Gurus

The Green Gurus

The collected wisdom of some of the world′s most influential environmental movers and shakers is brought together in this one book. The chosen gurus consists both of thinkers those who have set the agenda, and of doers those business people who made the green cause their mission long before it became so prominent.
The book covers a broad range of environmental issues as they apply to business, including the economic viability of choosing green routes. Interviewees include energy guru Amory Lovins, former Friends of the Earth Vice Chair Tony Juniper, diplomat Sir Crispin Tickell and business leader Ray Anderson, among others. The cutting edge thinking of the books contributors provides businesses with the information they need when considering how to change in a green direction. The end result is an illuminating insight into both general views on sustainability as well as good and bad business decisions made in the search for sustainability.

The full list of green gurus include:

Ray Anderson, founder and chairman of Interface Inc, one of TIME Magazines Heroes of the Environment

James Cameron, founder of Executive Director and ViceChairman of Climate Change Capital (CCC)

Paul Dickinson, CEO of the Carbon Disclosure Project

John Elkington, founding partner and director of Volans, cofounder of SustainAbility, world authority of sustainable development, author of The Green Consumer Guide

John Grant, author of The Green Marketing Manifesto, frequent conference speaker and prolific blogger

Denis Hayes, President and CEO of The Bullitt Foundation, Chair of the International Earth Day Network

Gary Hirshberg, President and Chief Executive Officer of Stonyfield Farm, the world′s largest producer of organic yogurt

Tony Juniper, former Executive Director of Friends of the Earth (FoE), environmental campaigner, author and commentator

Professor Sir David King, Director of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at the University of Oxford

Amory B. Lovins, environmentalist, Chairman and Chief Scientist of Rocky Mountain Institute

Professor Wangari Maathai, environmental and political activist, Nobel Peace Prize Winner

Ricardo Navarro, founder and director of the Salvadoran Centre for Appropriate Technology (CESTA), winner of the prestigious Goldman prize

Dr Vandana Shiva, physicist, environmental activist and author

Jeffrey Swartz , CEO of Timberland Worldwide

Sir Crispin Tickell, diplomat, academic, environmentalist, author

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Decision makers in local government face the ongoing challenge of how to provide services to the residents with limited resources. Whether drilling a new well to provide drinking water, renewing a road surface, buying new buses or issuing driving licences, municipal services require resources.

Next to skilled human resources, municipal services also require financial and natural resources. New trucks cost clean air in that their operation burns oxygen, emits carbon dioxide, creates dust, and has negative impact on human health. A new road costs biodiversity in that green space is converted into asphalt and natural habitats are split and separated. At the same time, a new road produces noise, i.e. it costs tranquillity.

Similarly, new housing areas impose costs in terms of biodiversity, clean air, agricultural soil, and fresh water since the additional inhabitants will convert more fresh water into sewage. Clearly, municipal action always has both fi nancial and natural cost implications.

DOWNLOAD: (2,012 Kb)

ISBN Series Number: - Not available -
ISBN: - Not available -
HS Number: HS 992/08 E
Series Title: - Not available -
Pages: 28
Year: 2009
Publisher: UN-HABITAT
Co-Publisher : - Not available -
Languages: English
Themes: Urban Development and Management, Environment
Branch/Office: Environment

Building Prosperity - Housing and Economic Development

Press Kit 

Order Publication Now
Foreword by Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General United Nations
Press Releases
Housing Provision Vital to Economic Growth
Developing World Urged to use Intermediate Building Techniques
Investment in Housing Rising Worldwide
Housing Finance and Development
Case Studies
Housing in Chile
Housing in China
Housing in Egypt
Housing in Ghana
Housing in Singapore
Housing in Sweden
Role of Housing in Achieving Millennium Development Goals
Historical shifts in ideas about housing and economic development

Friday, January 22, 2010

Smart by Nature

Smart by Nature is based on four guiding principles: Nature is our teacher; Sustainability is a community practice; The real world is the optimal learning environment; Sustainable living is rooted in a deep knowledge of place.

Nature is our teacher

To envision sustainable communities, we look to design principles evolved since the advent of life on Earth. We can pattern human societies and institutions after the patterns found in sustainable ecosystems. We can learn from traditional and indigenous societies that have thrived for centuries following these same patterns. Accepting nature as our teacher helps educators focus on basic ecological principles, think from the perspective of systems, practice solving for pattern, and support.
Ecological Principles
Core ecological knowledge for creating communities whose practices are compatible with nature's processes.
Systems Thinking
Ecological understanding requires shifting to a new way of thinking.

Sustainability is a community practice

The sustainability of a community depends on the health and inclusiveness of the network of relationships within it. Successful schools act as "apprentice communities" for learning the art of living in an interdependent world. Schools also teach by how they act in the world, use resources, and relate to the larger communities of which they are a part.
Creating Communities of Caring
In a thriving school community, students feel cared for and learn to care for others.
Collaborative Decision-Making
Collaborative decision-making teaches skills needed for living in communities.

The real world is the optimal learning environment

Sustainability is best learned in the real world. Students experience nature's patterns and processes as they occur. They become engaged in activities that matter and participate with people where they live and work. They observe and try out skills needed by change agents, and discover that their contributions can make a difference. School buildings and campuses provide opportunities to explore and demonstrate sustainable practices in action.
Immersion in the Natural World
Children should encounter nature's processes in the rich ways they actually occur.
Campuses and Buildings That Teach
The campus becomes both the classroom and the lesson.

Sustainable living is rooted in a deep knowledge of place

Places known and loved deeply have the best chance to be protected and preserved, so that they will be cherished and cared for by future generations. Studying a place in depth helps create a sense of kinship. It allows students to see through the eyes of the people who call that place home. It helps them imagine and contribute to locally based solutions to problems.
Knowing Your Place
Loving a place often begins with knowing it well.
Locally Based Solutions
Solving problems locally promotes sustainability and community self-sufficiency.

The schooling for sustainability movement recognizes that young people in school today will inherit a host of pressing (and often escalating) issues.

The Center for Ecoliteracy has identified a number of these that seem particularly germane to schooling for sustainability. A systems perspective reveals that many of these issues are connected. Responding to them will require understanding them in themselves as well as the patterns of relationship that connect them. In addition to addressing these issues in the curriculum, schools "teach" students about them through their institutional actions (e.g., how and where they procure food for school meals, whether their buildings and transportation systems conserve or waste energy, how they purchase supplies and manage waste).  

Richard Levins - Looking at the Whole: Toward a Social Ecology of Health
Richard Levins
Solutions designed to solve isolated problems can exacerbate or give rise to new ones.
Three Sisters: An Ancient Garden Trio
Sara Marcellino
The "Three Sisters" — corn, beans, and squash — provide a meaningful context for school garden education.
John C. Mohawk - Wild and Slow: Nourished by Tradition
John C. Mohawk
Degenerative diseases like diabetes can be reduced by shifting from refined carbohydrate diets to traditional wild foods.
Lisa Bennett - River Crossing Environmental Charter School
Lisa Bennett
This excerpt from our book Smart by Nature tells the story of a teacher who knew that progress starts with "not knowing" all the answers.
Kenny Ausubel - Farming the Future
Kenny Ausubel
Future food security will require new crops of farmers with a diversity of approaches adapted to local conditions.
The Art of a Watershed: "Tenderness of Cranes"
Sara Marcellino
Hands-on classroom and field activities that produce dramatic and beautiful nature-based poetry and art.
Alan Greene - Brain Food for Kids
Alan Greene
Children's behavior, intelligence, and performance are significantly affected by the quantity and quality of what they eat.
Margaret Adamek - Hooked on Sugar
Margaret Adamek
Sugar and other refined carbohydrates are linked to diabetes, depression, and addictions in our children.
Sandra Steingraber - But I Am a Child Who Does
Sandra Steingraber
The author’s children, growing up with locally grown food and without television, prefer fresh vegetables to junk food.
Vandana Shiva - Bringing People Back into the Economy
Vandana Shiva
The renewable energy of ecology, sharing, solidarity, and compassion must counter the destructive energy of greed creating scarcity at every level.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Consuming Kids (Documentary)

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Consuming Kids throws desperately needed light on the practices of a relentless multi-billion dollar marketing machine that now sells kids and their parents everything from junk food and violent video games to bogus educational products and the family car.

Drawing on the insights of health care professionals, children’s advocates, and industry insiders, the film focuses on the explosive growth of child marketing in the wake of deregulation, showing how youth marketers have used the latest advances in psychology, anthropology, and neuroscience to transform American children into one of the most powerful and profitable consumer demographics in the world.

Consuming Kids pushes back against the wholesale commercialization of childhood, raising urgent questions about the ethics of children’s marketing and its impact on the health and well-being of kids.

Children and Nature


C&NN Leadership Writing Series
Children & Nature Network has published four new resources for leaders, organizers, and participants at the local, national, and international levels. All are available for download free of charge.

Leadership Writing Series volume one, number 1
Shared Nature Experience as a Pathway to Strong Family Bonds
Dr. Martha Farrell Erickson’s essay on why time spent in nature is an investment in happier families.
[>] download this article [PDF]

Leadership Writing Series volume one, number 2
Reflections on Children’s Experience of Nature
A brief, urgent paper on the biological need for “connections to natural systems and processes,” by Stephen R. Kellert, Professor at the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and Executive Chairman, Bio-Logical Capital.
[>] download this article [PDF]

Leadership Writing Series volume one, number 3
Back to Nature and the Emerging Child Saving Movement: Restoring Children’s Outdoor Play
Joe Frost, Ed.D., L.H.D., Parker Centennial Professor Emeritus, University of Texas, writes on the movement and the need to restore outdoor play.
[>] download this article [PDF]

Children’s Nature Deficit:
What We Know – and Don’t Know

by Cheryl Charles, Ph.D., and Richard Louv 
September 2009
A collection of 45 reports and research studies that document a decline in participation in nature-based outdoor activities by many children and youth.
[>] download the report [PDF]

Children and Nature 2009

Children and Nature 2009 was developed to serve as a tool for those who care deeply about the importance of reconnecting children with nature. Originally published in 2008, this updated report begins with a concise history of the children and nature movement and then makes the case for the many positive benefits to children when outdoor play is part of their everyday lives. Subsequent sections look at the direction of the movement and the barriers to it; the motivating interests and values of different categories of parents; ideas for the future of the movement; and the progress of the movement around the globe.
[>] download the report [PDF]

imageC&NN Community Action Guide: Building the Children & Nature Movement from the Ground Up
C&NN Community Action Guide is a hands-on tool for organizers in the field. It describes in detail an action-oriented process for designing and implementing initiatives to reconnect children and nature. Written especially for regional leaders, the guide covers each step toward success. The first section provides a road map for engaging a community. The next section shows organizers how to create a viable strategic plan. The final section covers the process of implementation. A sample timeline for groups to follow and information on working together and achieving consensus are also included.
[>] download the action guide [PDF]

NCFF ToolkitC&NN's Nature Clubs for Families Tool Kit

Tips, Inspiration, and Resources for Starting Your Own Family Nature Club.
C&NN Nature Clubs for Families Tool Kit: Do It Yourself! Do It Now! provides inspiration, information, tips and resources for those who are—or who might be—interested in creating a Nature Club for Families. Available in English and Spanish.
Download the Tool Kit in English [>]