The Happy Planet Index
With the 300,000-person strong People’s Climate March taking place in New York this past Sunday and the UN Climate Summit convening yesterday, the topic of climate solutions is on everyone's mind. How do we turn the corner at a time when the bad news about the environment seems to only be accelerating?
Speaking at the TEDGlobal conference in 2010, statistician Nic Marks argues that it's possible to reduce our strain on the environment and improve our quality of life by simply changing how we measure progress.
Since the early 20th century Western nations have been benchmarking progress in terms of production. What is our Gross National Product? Can we get it higher? Is our economy in the dumps? Well, then produce more. Is the economy booming? Then produce even more.
The problem is that no one is really convinced that producing more stuff is always a good thing. As Marks says on the TED stage, “C’mon, in the Western world we have enough.”
So Marks and his organization, the new economics foundation (nef), tried coming up with a better way to measure progress -- the Happy Planet Index. The Happy Planet Index starts with the question, “What does progress look like if we measure our ability to produce happy and healthy human beings?”
The results are eye-opening, especially for those of us in a world where the Dow Jones Industrial Index and the S&P 500 are ceremoniously announced every evening — as if they're actually tied to the things that make life worthwhile.
Perhaps the most important revelation from Marks' talk -- the takeaway for you and I -- is what he calls the the Five Ways to Well-Being. They're the five things he's found that lead to greater happiness, and they're hard to argue with:
- Connect: Social relationships are the most important cornerstone of our lives. Fostering these connections pays off in greater happiness over time.
- Be Active: Exercise and a healthy lifestyle have a direct, positive impact on mood and happiness.
- Take Notice: How aware are you of the things that are going on around you? What about your own feelings and emotions?
- Keep Learning: Always stay curious.
- Give: We feel good when we give.
And as Marks says, these Five Ways -- these pillars of well-being -- don't have to cost the Earth. Isn't that a sign of progress?