Alejandro Adler Braun
Advised by Dr. Waheed Hussain
Wharton International Research Experience
September 24, 2009
Adler, who won the grant from the Wharton International Research Experience (WIRE), explains that Bhutan is a tiny country in the Himalayas that is pioneering the alternative approach to measuring progress called Gross National Happiness. GNH measures things like healthcare, psychological well being, education, environmental sustainability, community vitality, and governance. When he applied for the grant, his goal was to go to the source of where GNH began to see how it differs from other countries in terms of institutions and policies
As a society we care about what we measure, we use what we measure, and what we measure drives policies and society in a particular direction. We therefore need to measure progress correctly. If societies blindly accept GDP as their measure of progress, they might be trying to maximize the wrong indicator for society. In this paper I present Bhutan as a living example of a society that has opened a national dialogue about what progress means, and they have created the Gross National Happiness (GNH) index to reflect their understanding of progress. Furthermore, the political and economic architecture of Bhutan is structured around maximizing GNH rather than GDP. Institutions in Bhutan use the GNH index and a series of instruments of policy to construct policies that promote GNH. We can draw a number of lessons from the Bhutanese experiment, namely that each individual society should strive to answer the following three questions:
• What does progress mean?
• How do we develop indicators that measure progress?
• How de we use indicators to shape policies and institutions?
All societies seek to create wellbeing for individuals. The question is not whether societies desire welfare or not. The fundamental questions are: what does wellbeing mean? How do we measure it? And how do we use indicators to organize society and its institutions so as to maximize wellbeing?
Answering these complex questions is a challenging endeavor, especially given the diversity of values and worldviews around the globe. However, at the center of the essential questions of development and progress lie the indicators we use as a society to measure wellbeing and develop policies. As Hazel Henderson said, “Statistical indicators are the structural DNA codes of nations. They reflect a society’s values and goals and become the key drivers of economic and technological choices.”
To read Alejandro's papper go to: http://www.grossnationalhappiness.com/OtherArticles/GNHPaperbyAlejandro.pdf
The collective intelligence of the Web has come up with a a set of principles -an axiomatical stepping ground- by which to forma a new ecological paradigm. In 1973 the late Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess coined the term "deep ecology" in order to recognize the inherent worth of all living things, aside from their utility. This view has lead to important developments in animal rights, forest preservation, and general planetary consciousness. Before Naess, system theorist an futurist Buckminister Fuller shaped the idea of Earth as a spacechip in which every living thing is part of the crew (none is only a passenger), outlining the concept of holistic interdependency. The work of biologist James Lovelock, author of The Gaia Hypothesis, has further advanced upon this view, triggering a world wide ecological movement with a philosophical underpinning that sees Earth as a living (and perhaps intelligent) being.
This planetary consciousness is endogenous to native cultures and can be seen in different manifestations. One radical example is the new Mother Earth Law pronounced in Bolivia, which givers nature (animals, plants and minerals) and humans equal rights.
Although there has been an enormous evolution in ecological awareness in the last decades, there is still a great gap to fill. Expounding on the views on the philiosphy of Naess and Lovelock the following principles could serve as a theoretical guideline to lobby balance in the world and root deep upon ancient wisdom flashed-forward to serve the present plight of the planet.
1. Holism. Nature is seen holistically, as an integrated system, rather than as a collection of individual things. The “oneness” of nature, however, is not monistic, denying the reality of individuals and difference. Rather, the natural world consists of an organic wholeness, a dynamic field of interaction of diverse species and their habitats. In fact, that diversity is essential to the health of the natural world.
2. No ontological divide. Humans are fully a part of nature, and there is no ontological separation between our species and other ones.
3. Self. Individually, each person is not an autonomous individual but rather a self-in-Self, a distinct node in the web of nature.
4. Biocentric egalitarianism. Nature has unqualified intrinsic value, with humans having no privileged place in nature’s web. Emphasis is placed on value at holistic levels, such as populations, ecosystems, and the Earth as a whole, rather than individual entities.
5.Intuition. A sensuous, intuitive communion with the Earth is possible, and it gives us needed insight into nature and our relationship to it. Scientific knowledge is necessary and useful, but we need a holistic science that recognizes the intrinsic value of the Earth and our interdependence with it.
6.Environmental devastation. Nature is undergoing a cataclysmic degradation, an ecological holocaust, at the hands of human societies.
7. Anti-anthropocentrism. This destructiveness is rooted in anthropocentrism, an arrogant view that we are separate from and superior to nature, which exists to serve our needs.
8. An ecocentric society. The goal at a social level is a society that is based on an ecocentric view of nature and that lives in harmony with the natural tendencies and the limits of natural world.
9. Self-realization. The goal at an individual level is to fully realize one’s identification with nature. This involves neither a sense of an independent self nor the loss of the self in the oneness of nature. Self-realization is the full awareness of the self-in-Self.
10. Intuitive morality. The moral ideal, then, does not involve ethics in the traditional sense of a separate self rationally deriving principles of how we ought to behave. Rather, it is a realization of our identification with nature which yields a spontaneous, intuitive tendency to avoid harm and to flourish. As John Seed has said of his work on the rainforest, “I am the rainforest defending itself.