Economic of Happiness


I don’t think I need. Well, I’m very happy to come after Christy walk because what I have to say is very similar. I, as we all know everything from global warming to the global financial crisis is telling us that we need fundamental change in society and I’m going to be arguing that for all of us around the world, the highest parity, the most urgent issue is fundamental change to the economy. And from my point of view, the change that we need to make is shifting away from globalising to localising economic activity. Localization is a solution multiplier that offers a systemic far reaching alternative to corporate capitalism as well as communism. It’s a way of dramatically reducing CO2 emissions. Energy consumption of all kind and waste. At the same time as adapting economic activity, localising economic activity can restore biodiversity as well as cultural diversity. It’s a way of creating meaningful and secure jobs for the entire global population. And perhaps most importantly of all, because it’s about rebuilding the fabric of connexion, the fabric of community between people, and between people and their local environment. It’s the economics of happiness. I first had my eyes open to this. I was forced to see these Connexions

between the economy out there and our inner wellbeing, happiness and I was thrown into a situation on the Tibetan Plateau in Ladakh or little Tibet about 35 years ago. This area had been sealed off from the outside world and it was suddenly thrown open to the outside world to the outside economy and I saw with my own eyes how subsidised food coming in on subsidised roads running on subsidised fuel, how that food and other goods brought in from thousands of miles away destroyed the local market. And almost overnight, this led to unemployment. This in turn led to friction between people who had lived peacefully side by side for generations. After a decade Buddhists and Muslims in Ladakh were literally killing each other. I also worked in butan between 84 and 89 and I saw exactly the same pattern there. There it was Buddhists and Hindus who were killing each other. So I became very motivated to try to bring this message out to the rest of the world. I started speaking and writing about it, and in the process I’ve come in contact with economists, environmentalists, anthropologists, people from every continent who are basically saying the story of our culture of our place is very similar to the story of Ladakh. What we have seen is that worldwide there is a trend towards a split between government and the interests of their people and that governments are pursuing an economic model that is simply outdated. That has been carried far too far. It’s a model that says more trade, more production for export and more foreign investment. That’s the formula for creating. Prosperity this formula is not working. Why are governments worldwide so impoverished that they have to cut, cut, cut for our needs while spending billions and trillions for a global infrastructure in transport, trade and weapons? Why is this happening? From my point of view, it’s fundamentally about that distancing the globalising of economic activity. It’s led to what I call a drone economy. You must have heard about the drones, the unmanned aircraft that are now being manipulated from Las Vegas as people are bombed in Afghanistan. We can now carry on warfare without ever seeing the people we kill without hearing the screams without being there and risking our lives.. That long distance creates a blindness, a heartlessness. And basically an impossibility in terms of ethics, it’s

very similar to the ability for someone to sit in New York and speculate on the value of wheat and not see what’s happening to those farmers on the other side of the world. How can we be ethical? How can we be kind and compassionate when we don’t even see our impact? It’s as though our arms have grown so long, but we don’t even see what our hands are doing. Whether as a CEO or as a consumer. We really need to open our eyes to what’s happening. And when we do. What we will see is that around the world there is a movement towards localization that is about shortening those distances, and that movement is demonstrating the multiple benefits. The most powerful and the most inspiring and heartening of all is the local food movement, which consists of literally thousands, if not millions of initiatives around the world, from permaculture to edible. School guns to more. Urban farms to farmers markets. It’s all about shortening distances and you talk to farmers as I have because we’ve helped to stimulate and catalyse these initiatives on many continents. And you’ve been talked to farmers that were previously going bankrupt that were depressed. And as one farmer said to me in Australia, I’ve been a farmer all my life and I felt like a serf constant pressure. To reduce the cost and to standardise the products and he was producing only two things. Now he says after.

Previously going bankrupt, they were depressed and as one farmer said to me in Australia, I’ve been a farmer all my life and I felt like a surf constant pressure to reduce the cost and to standardise the products and he was producing only two things. Now he says after we started a farmer’s market he said it’s like entering a new Galaxy and he beams as he says that he is now producing about 20 different things. And he has contact weekly contact with the consumers. This shortening of distances is far, far more fundamental than we realise, and it’s absolutely essential in terms of all our basic needs. The need for food, clothing and shelter. When we realise that in the modern economy this pressure to produce for export this pressure to encourage foreign investment. When we realise that this means that worldwide farmers are being pressured to produce more and more standard products, larger and larger monocultures. In the long distances you can’t say well, you know today some of my basil is ready to be harvested, but I’ll have some more tomorrow and I’ll also have some. Black currants or some apples and some milk from my cows. Impossible larger and larger scale monocultures. And not only the same product, but the same size. The size that fits the machinery. The harvesting machinery. The machinery that washes the machinery that loads it onto supermarket shelves. In the process, tonnes of food is being thrown away because there’s not the right sides but far worse than that. In the process we are eradicating biodiversity, not just agricultural biodiversity, but wild biodiversity as well. As you shorten the distances you’re suddenly creating a market where it’s in the interest of the farmer and producer to diversify. He can actually make more money and do better if he starts building up the more diversified farm. And this is what’s happening. This is what’s happening. As a consequence of the diversification, what we can see is that you can produce more food per unit of land. This is perhaps the most important thing about understanding that if we want to make change to the economy, if we want to make change to the world today, we have got to start looking at food production at the interface with the natural world, which is our real economy, and I’m afraid that I find that most economists are simply. Ecologically illiterate, they don’t

distinguish between growing potatoes and apples, and creating rubber balls or plastic toys. There is a certain economy of scale when you’re producing standard petrochemical industrial products, but when it comes to the natural world, the adaptation to the diversity that the nurturing of diversity is how we can get more out of each unit of land. Many studies show. 10 times more food from small diversified farms providing plenty of jobs. We can see this in traditional systems and we can see it in the new farmers movement of young people, many, many of whom have studied architecture, law, medicine or actually deciding that they prefer farming as part of the local food movement. They have access to a local market. They’re earning a very good salary because when you shorten the distances, we cut out all that waste of the energy, the packaging. Refrigeration, the irradiation, the advertising, and above all, all those preservatives and ways of making food appear fresh when it isn’t. When you cut out all of that so-called value added activity, what you find is an economic system, a free market. Where the farmer earns vastly more and the consumer pays less for fresh, healthy food. In the long distance supermarket economy, generally speaking, the farmer gets 10% of what we pay or less. In the farmers market they get 100% in the local food coop in the local shop they can get 5060 percent, 40% significantly more. This is like a magic wand. We’re talking here about increasing productivity while reducing the ecological footprint. Because as you restore diversity, you’re starting to reduce the dependence on imported, expensive toxic chemicals, and you’re starting to create more space for wildlife as well. So it’s a magical thing that we can increase productivity and increase profits simultaneously to the farmer. What I’m saying here applies to fisheries applies to forestry applies to the production of our basic primary needs for food, clothing,

shelter. When we adapt to the local climate to the local area, we are actually going to be increasing prosperity while reducing our ecological impact. This is as far as I’m concerned, the real elephant in the room that the global economy with the long distances is responsible. For poverty, for a widening gap between rich and poor in every single country, you will not be able to find a single country, including my native country of Sweden. Where the gap between rich and poor isn’t widening in an unacceptable way, you won’t find a single country in the world where people are not more and more frustrated with their governments swinging back and forth from left to right and beginning to realise that left and right is not the issue. The issue is global versus local. I want to make it very clear that localisation economic localization is about a shift in direction. Particularly for primary production and basic needs, it’s not about ending international trade. It’s not about some kind of isolationism, but we don’t care about what’s going on on the other side of the world. On the contrary, today, because of our global problems, we need global collaboration.

By Helena Norberg Hodge.