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13 Feb 2009

Nine Tools for a Happier Society

I attended a great event yesterday at the Royal Agricultural College near Cirencester, organised by South West Rural Update looking at rural responses to peak oil and climate change. One of the first speakers was Nigel Curry (Director of the Countryside and Community Research Institute), who was asked, in 5 minutes, to respond to the question “can we live better and consume less?” His response was that consuming less is in fact the only way to live better, and to illustrate his point, he set out 9 tips for societal and individual happiness. Given that part of the purpose of Transition is “building resiIience and happiness”, I thought they were really useful, so I scrawled them down and offer them to you here this morning (I hope I’ve got them right, he did speak very fast).

The first three at Nigel’s own, the next three are Richard Layard’s (from his book ‘Happiness’) and the final three come from the Dalai Lama’s Millenium message.

1. Economics should be about more than just pursuing GDP
2. The focus needs to move from maximising wealth to redistributing it
3. We need to move from the wealth and satisfaction of individuals to the wealth and satisfaction of communities
4. Don’t promote the search for status
5. Limit dysfunctional advertising
6. Give mental health a higher priority in public health
7. Remember that sometimes not getting what you want can be a blessing
8. Judge success by what you gave up in order to get it
9. Approach love and cooking with a reckless abandon

There you are. Feeling happier already….

Categories: General

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Graham Burnett
13 Feb 8:36am

>1. Economics should be about more than just pursuing GDP

When teaching the ‘economics’ section of the Permaculture Design Course I make a point of applying the permaculture ethics of Earthcare, Peoplecare and Fair Shares to human scale economic systems. The only ethic in the ‘conventional’ economic model is maximising profit; this is the only form of accounting that matters.

Human scale, permacultural economic systems will give equal weight to environmental/ecological accounting and human wellbeing.

Obvious really but does no harm to spell it out!

Graham Burnett
13 Feb 8:39am

> 9. Approach love and cooking with a reckless abandon

Cheers Rob, I’m supposed to be writing a new cookbook but have been suffering a bit of a writers block when putting together the introduction/summarising the approach of the book – I think you might just have encapsulated it in 8 words!

[…] more here: Nine Tools for a Happier Society » Transition Culture Share and […]

13 Feb 6:17pm

Approaching cooking with reckless abandon is easy and results in some very hot chilli’s!!!

Bart Anderson
14 Feb 8:51am

Love the 9 points.

One suggestion on
>> 4. Don’t promote the search for status

The problem is that “status” is an intrinsic part of human societies. We can’t get away from it.

HOWEVER, what we can do is try to arrange our lives and communities so that “status” goes to people who are making things better.

Instead of awarding status to those with big cars, fancy clothes, aggressive/selfish attitudes, we can recognize those people who contribute to the community.

If you’ve worked in a volunteer group, you’ve seen how natural leaders emerge – those who are fair, hard-working, far-sighted.

So, I think I would point 4 to read:

>> 4. Give status and recognition to people who embody positive values, who contribute to the group.

Energy Bulletin

15 Feb 11:27am

great notes, thanks!

herman daly (UK ecologist-economist) writes extensively on biophysical economics. indigenous australians lived an agro-ecological existence for 40,000 years – so many models for permanent culture!

pj (garden of self defence)

Allen Fuller
18 Feb 12:18pm

Given that the phrase “redistributing wealth” is politically poisonous to many, it may be better to rephrase it as ensuring equal access, leveling the playing field, etc.

Allen Fuller
18 Feb 12:29pm

– “The focus needs to move from maximising individual wealth to maximising community prosperity”
– “The focus needs to move from maximising wealth to promoting equal access to opportunity”
– “The focus needs to move from maximising wealth to building healthy, equitable communities”

At any rate, maximizing wealth is not a bad goal in and of itself, provided it is the right kind of wealth (intellectual, environmental, health, relational, etc.) instead of mere monetary wealth. Monetary wealth should be a tool to aid in all these if used properly, but has become an end to itself. We should refocus our metrics of success from mere monetary wealth to all the other dimensions, which takes us back to point 1 (economics should be about more than just pursuing GDP). Provided we have the right metrics of success (including some that measure equitability, impact on environment, etc.), there is no problem in attempting to maximize them.

steph bradley
18 Feb 1:18pm

Last week we asked classes of year 7 children (11-12 year olds) the question of what makes us happy and they came up with:

good relationships & communications (family, friends, pets)
health & well being
time for fun and enjoyment with others
freedom of choice and equality
saftety, food, water & shelter

interestingly very few mentioned money and those who did said it in a way – “financial security” that sounded a little like that might have been parent speak rather than their own ideas…

Robert Miles
18 Feb 4:57pm

I’m reading “Atlas Shrugged” now, and these ideas are identical to the ones proposed by Jim Taggart and all the other statist characters. What a load of rot!

Ben Brangwyn
18 Feb 11:25pm

A quick message to Robert Miles.

I’m not finding the “lot of rot” comment particularly insightful. It would be very helpful if you could give us a couple of points that you’d endorse so that we could look through your eyes at this problem.

Thanks. Ben.

19 Feb 12:21am

Sampled from David Graeber’s Possibilities (AK Press):

“…in an age when anarchism is rapidly replacing statist ideologies as the standard-bearer of revolutionary struggle (p91)…there’s a reason why so many workers in modern capitalist countries have chosen to refer to themselves as “wage-slave”(p93). The ideological biases become clearest when one considers not just what’s being argued, but the arguments it never occurs to anyone to make (p94).

dana miller
19 Feb 7:21pm

I DO feel better!!!!

19 Feb 8:42pm

To Allen Fuller
Why is it that you want to deceive people about the idea of ‘redistributing wealth’? Are you a politician?

Rodney Davis
20 Feb 7:45am

Redistributing Wealth.
We shouldnt shy away from this issue but rather voice it aloud and with confidence. It is the most crucial issue facing the whole world and its people now.
While Allen Fullers explanatory points are all good (ie what sort of wealth, and exactly what should be done with it, and what sort of rules we need, and especially Community prosperity equality and fairness, as opposed to todays state-legislated “Individual Greed”)
We do need to put it big and loud on the political agenda.
The legalised theft of the worlds resources and the destruction of environment wildlife and people has now reached a point where Billions of lives are at risk. The costs of ruthless exploitation already dirctly cause the deaths from poverty-effects, of Millions of lives each year and it goes on year by year, a virtual Tsunami every month, or is it every second week! If this is not mass-murder I dont know what it is.
Today the effects of global warming, according to researchers, are in the first instance threatening the lives of one Billion people who are at the level of absolute poverty with no resources, and then another Billion living on marginal land in the tropical regions, and if it isnt stopped, and it is not at the moment, up to four fifths of the worlds population will die. The tropics will be fried and currently marginal land will become uninhabitable and even wider areas will become marginal. The main reason this is so catastrophic is because people have chopped down most of the worlds natural forests – something like 75% now gone – and the most active of the forests, the tropical and subtropical rainforests – are one of the main things keeping our worlds climate stable and balanced and temperate. You could say that the forests are The Lungs of the Planet, our climate and atmosphere has been created by forests and vegetation, and human beings have destroyed the only thing that can fix it and get us back a temperate world climate.
The immediate effect of cutting down forest cover is to raise the temperatures there at least 3 degrees, and then another 5 to 10 degrees as it widens and intensifies. The tropics will fry! Combined with industrial warming emmissions, the human race has trully stuffed the planet and facing us with the biggest genocidal mass murder in earths history. There will be a mass migration of literally billions of people, thus the efforts of the wealthy countries like USA Europe Australia, in fact much of the world, to beef up their border security and turn them into full fledged military forces to basically shoot them down or tow them out to sea to die.
The rate of polar warming really looks like weve reached the ‘tipping point’ to out of control world wide climate disruption.
It now looks like the earths climate is sensitive to and effected by everything, the past record of continual and repeated life wipeouts on this planet due to catastrophic climate collapses attests to that. The fact that we are currently entering a solar warming period which culminates in about 4 years and could raise world temperatures from 1 to 3 degrees, is happening at a time when …
the worlds population is increasing at hundreds of millions each generation,
the collapse of the worlds fish stocks,
the ongoing loss of arable food crop land,
the massive and unrelenting destruction of our environment and lifeforms through toxic chemical and industrial pollution,
in this last year the number of people in the world living in absolute poverty has increased for the first time in approx 10 years, wiping out all the gains made in the UNs campaign in reducing poverty (Actually most of the gains were made in China and a bit in India, poverty in most ofthe rest of the world actually got worse),this due to the ‘food crisis’ which has been suddenly forgotten about by the worlds news media since the wealthy worlds economic collapse went ‘runaway’, and the effects have not really started yet.
The worldwide economic and climate collapse is happening at a time when the numbers living in absolute poverty is the highest it has ever been and at a time when the world is the richest and the most wealthy it has ever been. It might look like there are just too many people for the planet now, outstripping the resources and environment ecology and climate, its reached breaking point. But this is not true.
It has been estimated that all the wealth of the world added up, would be more than enough to provide adequate food, healthcare, clothing, housing, education and adequately paid employment for 5 times the worlds present population. Some say more like 10 times the worlds population.
In reality we could all be living in a veritable Garden of Eden, instead the people running the show have turned it into a Vale of Tears for unimmaginable millioms of people that we cannot really comprehend. The suffering of just one person can be horrifying and distressing, that it is hundreds of millions, or 2 billion is incmprehensible and unbelievable, but this insanity is actually happening.
This is not these poor peoples fault, they have been rendered and reduced by other people and governments to this situation.
The whole problem is that there is actually more than enough, but it is it is not shared, the worlds resources and people being used and exploited by the greedy few for self enrichment while the very people producing and growing this wealth are in lifelong poverty and needless death and desease. For no good reason at all.
The only solution is that the world must fairly share the wealth and resources and on a environmentally sustainable basis.
The only solution is a humane solution.
We have reached the point in history where there is no otheralternative to a planetwide mass extermination of life as nature has always done when an organism destroys its ecology.
How we get there is a big question.

21 Feb 11:57am

go Rod! you definitely need a blog.

i agree. for the first time in human history there are more people living in urban areas than rural ones. why this is catastrophic is that more people are relying upon the importation of resources. not only is this terrible for skywards carbon generation, and hence temperature hikes, but it means more and more people are dislocated from ecologic functioning, which in turn leads to lifestyles based on mediations and abstractions while not ‘fessing up to the resource wars that rage elsewhere on their lifestyle’s behalf.

life is what we have to return to, and in order to do this we have to unveil and dismantle our lifestyles based on the production of stuff – unnecessary (non-compostable) shit mainly.

in terms of how we get there i offer three things: 1. dispersal of urban centers large enough in numbers to have to rely upon the importation of resources (see Derrick Jensen). 2. referral of traditional indigenous permacultural methods to reconstruct permanent economies and societies, and 3. the study and application of modern success stories post major crunches – eg. the recent Cuban rural/urban permacultural revolution or Geoff Lawton greening the Jordanian desert.

more madness can be found at the garden of self defence.

cheers, and thanks for providing the space..


[…] that I would have it any other way – The Delai Lama suggested that one should Judge success by what you gave up in order to get it…And he is onto something there. Losing yourself in the service of others, […]