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On common happiness hunting

Happiness was the theme when the 10 anniversary of the Arne Ness symposium was celebrated in Oslo. 


Bhutanese experts, a Bhutanese minister and I were among several present during the big celebration in the university's old ballroom in October. It was a great and rich anniversary program, and I was especially inspired by the conversation "Doing the Impossible" between presenter Nina Witoszek and Julia Kim who is a senior program consultant at the Gross National Happiness Center in Bhutan.

Gross national happiness. I think Bhutan and their idea of ​​gross national happiness is exciting. I once encouraged then Minister of Development Heikki Holmås to enter into a binding cooperation between our two countries, with mutual learning.

In a chapter of the book Gold or green forests (2016) Eivind Hoff-Elimari speaks with both high and low during a stay in Bhutan. He clarifies myths and utopias, but with both respect, a watchful eye and sufficient intellectual distance. We understand that Bhutan is not at all a Shangri-la of happiness, but that we can still bring useful lessons from it.

New Zealand is working on a growth concept that includes financial, physical, social, human and natural capital.

The main problem with Bhutan is of course the forced relocation of the Nepalese minority. It gives a bad taste in the mouth and is somewhat similar to another Buddhist country's handling of its own minority (Myanmar and the Rohiyngaen). Both are human tragedies.

Different growth concepts. We can also learn from other countries, which are closer to our own human rights ideals. Hoff-Elimari mentions New Zealand, which has worked with a growth concept that includes both financial and physical capital, natural capital, social capital and human capital. Growth is being sought, but a policy that increases one form of capital while breaking down another is considered wrong.

All communities (except Bhutan and some indigenous peoples) are exposed to advertising – organized production of non-satisfaction. Advertising and social media drive the dissatisfaction to new heights and is partly responsible for our oversized ecological footprint. But surely we as a society can do something about it?

Ask questions! Maybe we should introduce citizen pay for everyone? And shouldn't we require every Norwegian company to have a three-part bottom line – economically, socially and ecologically – that they are obliged to report on?

We have to think and ask in new ways in the transition to the geological era we are now entering. There is a lot of ecological happiness in a good question!

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Andrew P. Kroglund
Kroglund is a critic and writer. Also Secretary General of BKA (Grandparents' Climate Action).

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