Today is International Happiness Day. Since 2013, the United Nations has celebrated the International Day of Happiness as a way to recognize the importance of happiness in the lives of people around the world. In 2015 the UN launched 17 Sustainable Development Goals that seek to end poverty, reduce inequality, and protect our planet – three key aspects that lead to wellbeing and happiness.
This has me thinking about the work I’ve done in Bhutan regarding their Gross National Happiness Index. Bhutan is one of the world’s newest democracies and it is running a really important experiment. Instead of just measuring economic success based on overall growth and the size of the economy (e.g. Gross Domestic Product), Bhutan is being much more intentional and considering what kind of growth it wants. Of course they are working to grow jobs and income, but not at the cost of destroying their culture and natural environment.
Some cynics scoff at the idea and brush it off as quaint and trivial, but that is a mistake. The Gross National Happiness Index is actually a robust set of metrics that are used to make real world economic and societal decisions. Governmental infrastructure and budget decisions are run through four overarching criteria:
Sustainable and equitable socio-economic development
Preservation and promotion of culture
The values of wellbeing, environmental protection, and cultural promotion are imbedded into early learning programs and schools as well as governmental processes. For example, I was amazed when I learned that young children in schools in Bhutan do a regular mindfulness practice. The teachers help them to get quiet and meditative for a few minutes each day. They call it “Mental Flossing” as in the mental hygeine equivalent of dental flossing. In other words getting yucky stuff out of our minds is just as important as getting yucky stuff out of our mouths!
In a fun twist this year the Smurfs teemed up with the U.N. to put their blue enthusiasm into International Happiness Day. Here is a Smurfy video about it.
I am delighted that there will be several representatives for the Gross National Happiness Center in Bhutan at the New Economy for Social Innovation Forum that I will be speaking at in Spain next month. And I just learned that at the forum there will be an unveiling of a new GNH Center for Spain and Latin America. Outstanding!
Here’s to spreading a little more happiness in our world today and all days.
Most of us have cut our teeth and careers on the notion of business competition, survival of the fittest and dog eating dog. Turns out that’s very narrow view.
More and more companies and social entrepreneurs are moving toward collaborative, mutually-supportive, network-building business models.
Premium Cola is just one of myriad examples of successful businesses that are taking a more collaborative, ecosystem approach. Details can be found here.
Collaborative economies and business models is just one of the exciting New Economy trends and possibilities that will be explored at the upcoming New Economy for Social Innovation (NESI) Forum. 3EStrategies’ CEO, Cylvia Hayes, will be a speaker and media partner at the NESI forum.
We would love to hear about your collaborative business experiences and examples.
I’m struggling. And I know I’m not alone. As a person who likes, and works at, being informed on the major issues facing our country, I am having a really hard time knowing what to believe from the news we are getting. I’ve heard this same concern from so many people – Trump supporters and definitely not Trump supporters alike.
I know from first-hand experience that for-profit, corporate media outlets are not objective and “Breaking News”, which is intentionally designed to trigger us emotionally, is rarely purely factual reporting. And yet, bad as these news outlets can be, they’re still not the true “fake news” sources that have been created to undermine our democracy and make a lot of money generating clicks by coming across as real news with a totally made up claim imbedded in the story. And now, on top of all of that, we have a White House team that has been the source of major false reports – from the significantly wrong and repeated statement that there had been a terrorist attack in Bowling Green (never happened) to the less significant but still blatantly false claim that Trump had won more electoral college votes than any president in recent history (not true).
As people who want to be informed and engaged one of our biggest challenges just now is staying genuinely informed without getting sucked down the vortex of sensationalized, crazy-making media coverage. Here are a few tips for staying informed and somewhat sane in the process.
1) Limit your fixes and fixations
Take the news in doses. It’s something of a universal principle that what we focus on expands. For example Trump’s “War on the Media” has actually driven up cable news ratings. Most importantly, be very wary of “Breaking News”. I mean, really, don’t we all have something better to do until the actual facts surface?
2) Educate yourself about biases
Network news like ABC, NBC and CBS are not usually terribly biased in their reporting. However cable news like CNN, FOX and MSNBC have very definite liberal or conservative slants. Watching FOX and MSNBC is like seeing the same events but from two different planets.
Research shows that the majority of news-watching Americans only watch the stations that align with their pre-existing beliefs. This just increases ideological and political polarization, lack of understanding and empathy and our culture of “othering”. It’s important, even if uncomfortable, to make a conscious effort to get out of our own echo chambers and listen to different perspectives.
3) Pay attention to independent news sources – Since bias and spin is currently rampant in mainstream for-profit media outlets, independent, public and subscriber supported news outlets are more important than ever before. Some of my favorites and most trusted include NPR, BBC, Reuters, Nation, Guardian and The Week.
4) Remember the Purpose of “News”
I think this one is really important and really helpful. News after all is about pointing out the unusual, the “newsworthy”. Everyday goings on are not usually deemed newsworthy. This means the news is sensationalized and all about “If it bleeds it leads” shock value.
The truth is there are massive positive, beautiful, loving developments going on in our country and world. But those everyday “mundane” stories are rarely given any airtime because they do not count as newsworthy.
If you really think about this it means under the current corporate media model we should be really concerned if they start covering only positive stuff, because that would mean the positive stuff was unusual!
Just think about how many good things you’ve done that never received any media coverage? And if you really can’t think of anything you should consider therapy! Seriously, what’s your typical daily experience? Is it the ugliness we see on TV or is it mostly kind, positive (or at least benign) interactions with other people?
I think it’s really important to balance out staying informed about challenging issues, politics, catastrophes and tragedies with a healthy dose of positive news. Some of my favorite sources include Positive News, Yes! Magazine and NBC Nightly News’ Inspiring America segments.
5) Unplug and actually connect
Resist the temptation of the 24 hour news cycle and ceaseless social media. Go outside, take a hike, play with the dog and don’t take a screened device with you! Hang out with positive people. Volunteer in your community. Helping others is such good food for the soul.
These are some strategies for staying well-informed and sane! I hope they’re helpful because we need all the well-informed and healthy citizens we can get right now.
How’s this economy working for you? What’s the economy for anyway?
These are hugely important questions — and I’d LOVE to hear your answers!
My mission for my entire adult life has been to do whatever I can to help us move toward an economy that heals and takes care of the planet and one another.
So I am thrilled to be part of the upcoming New Economy for Social Innovation forum (NESI), which brings together the main actors of change and opinion leaders to think, and work to lay the foundations of a new economy – more sustainable, social, based on values and aimed at the common good. It will gather 900 speakers, opinion leaders and change-makers from all over the world in Malaga, Spain, on 19th-22th April, 2016.
Over years of work on green jobs trends, policies and development strategies we’ve collected a fair bit of info on green and environmental jobs’ boards. I thought I’d pass this along to those of you who might be looking to find work healing the planet! After all, we need all hands on deck right now for our lovely ol’ Earth.
Here are some useful Green Jobs’ boards:
http://www.sustainablebusiness.com. For this site click Green Dream Jobs on top navigation bar. They have a really good mix of jobs from solar installers to advocacy positions.
http://www.conservationjobboard.com. This is a really interesting site for jobs all over the world directly related to environmental conservation. For example, I once saw a posting for Director of Sloths! No, they weren’t talking about directing a bunch of lazy co-workers!
And the B Lab jobs Board is also very useful. It includes jobs with registered B Corporations. Note you need to scroll to the bottom of the page and find the jobs board link.
It’s worth noting that several of these jobs boards provide free regular email notices of new and current job listings.
Another great environmental and green jobs resource is the Green Jobs Network group on Linked In.
That’s about it for now. I’d love to hear if you have feedback on any of these sites or if you have information on other green jobs’ listing resources. We’ll keep building and sharing this resource list.
Thanks so much!
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I’m conflicted. On the one hand I’m excited about the new year and what may unfold. On the other I dread the fact that in just a couple of weeks Donald Trump will take the helm of our nation.
In the weeks that followed the election I participated in numerous strategy calls and webinars with fellow travelers in the clean energy, climate action and sustainability fields as our movement tried to grapple with what had happened. There is such a sense of loss, a feeling that just as we had really begun making progress on climate action, the rug has been yanked out from under us. Yeah, it hurts.
But along with our pain, anger and fear there is also strong resolve. And that’s not surprising. Our movement isn’t made up of quitters. We’ve been pushing boulders uphill against heavy opposition for decades. We’ve made real progress and in the process we’ve built strong Resiliency Muscles.
There’s no question we’re headed into a time of uncertainty and potential danger ….. but this is no time to duck for cover and hunker down. This is the time to flex our Resiliency Muscles to turn Trump-trauma into opportunities.
Here are some opportunities I see in the New Year and new political reality:
Grow and Unify Our Movement:
In the twenty years I’ve been doing this work I have never seen such solidarity between environmentalists, progressive business owners, racial injustice activists, low-income advocates and faith leaders from all walks. The U.S. sustainability movement has always been less influential than it could be because the various segments have not integrated. In contrast, in Europe, environmental and social justice advocates have been much more aligned and the results have been stronger.
Now, faced with the most blatantly anti-environment, pro-big oil, racist, elitist president and administration in modern history, the opportunity (and call) is to bring our progressive movement together and become more powerful than the sum of our individuated parts.
Clear out Anesthetizing Illusions
One thing this election clearly showed us is that huge numbers of Americans are tired of status quo politics. Trump’s win and the massive movement that Bernie Sanders built are both evidence of the desire for deep change. That’s a good thing. We need it. To be blunt, our entrenched two-party system is failing us and it is illusion to believe the solution is just to return to Democratic Party establishment, pro-corporation status quo.
We are living under an economic system that is wiping out wildlife, strip-mining our oceans, and saturating our atmosphere with pollutants that are super-heating the planet with catastrophic effect all the while hugely increasing income inequality. The Big-Oil, Wall Street driven policy ideas put forward by the Trump administration aren’t going to address these challenges but neither would the Democratic Party’s corporate-friendly policies. The opportunity before us is to
nurture the seeds of real change that began to germinate in 2016.
Reinvent Our Relationship with Media
If there’s one thing I agree with Trump on it’s that the current mainstream media model is dishonest and ineffective. I would go further and say it’s destructive, both to individual lives and to democracy. I have seen this first hand when I and my fiancé, the Governor of Oregon, were targeted by agenda-driven, sensationalist media assault.
Corporate media’s business model relies on triggering our emotions to get us to watch and click on things on their websites. As I’ve written about numerous times, “Breaking News” is not really news, it’s infotainment, whether you’re watching FOX or MSNBC. This is a media business model in which traffic-trumps-ethics and accuracy.
Do I think a Twitterin’ Chief is a healthy alternative? No! But one of the most important actions we can take as sustainability professionals, activists and people who care about the future we’re leaving to our children is to be very disciplined in where and how we interact with media. We must question all “news” we are being fed and more than ever before we must support independent journalism. Some of the sources I find most credible and useful include:
BBC, PBS and NPR
Another aspect of being media savvy is to get out of our own echo chambers and see what other echo chambers are talking about. Every so often I dial in to FOX news or Patriot radio. Does it often make my blood boil? Yes. But here’s the deal. Most progressives missed the mark with this election. Most just scoffed at Trump. I didn’t. Given what I knew other echo chambers were focused on I knew he was going to hit a nerve and I knew he was going to be able to manipulate the sensationalist corporate media industry. Making real change isn’t for wimps. It’s time to suck it up and step outside of our comfort zones and personal bubbles.
Let Your Values Shine and Sell!
It’s almost certain that we are entering an era in which the federal government will severely weaken environmental protections and sustainability policies. And yet, poll after poll shows that a large majority of Americans favor strong action to protect the environment and address climate change. In addition, global consumer demand for sustainable and socially conscious products continues to grow at a rapid clip.
This is a critical time for social/eco entrepreneurs to lead, to take a stand and set an example. It’s a chance for companies committed to the common good to provide critical leadership to protect our planet and our children. And it’s a huge opportunity to distinguish ourselves and grow customers and loyalty as we decide to hold the High Watch and adhere to higher standards in these tumultuous times.
In addition to reducing our environmental footprint, social/eco entrepreneurs can also help reduce hate and “othering”. The Mainstreet Alliance has produced a wonderful “Hate Has No Business Here” poster, available for free download, for businesses that want to express their support and acceptance of people with diverse ethnicities, faith paths and sexual preferences. 3EStrategies proudly displays the poster on our front door and I am seeing them all over the place now.
Put Your Oxygen Mask on First — Then Help Others with Theirs
It’s likely to be a bumpy ride for our nation and the environmental and sustainability movements in particular. It will be important to take good care of ourselves, and one another, in the months ahead.
Establish/ Prioritize an “Inner Life Workout Program”. I have found that there is never a better time to prioritize our spiritual practices and inner work than when things are really challenging in the outer aspects of our lives. In fact, this inner work is essential to developing really strong Resiliency Muscles. Whatever this means for you – meditation, prayer, church, study – it will be important to carve regular time for it even as things happening around us feel urgent and uncertain.
Prioritize time in Nature. I hear so often from people (including me!) who are fully engaged trying to protect the environment that they rarely make time to get out into it. There are few things more restorative.
Celebrate successes. When we’re working toward big changes to big systems it’s easy to always be pushing for more without taking a moment to celebrate the victories along the way. However, celebrating those stepping stone victories builds momentum for the movement and staves off burn-out for each of us.
Gather with, support and offer kindness to fellow travelers. This will be a time to shore ourselves up by getting together with people who share our loves and hurts about what is happening to our planet. Toward that end, 3EStrategies will be offering programs over this coming year to provide healing, coping and inspiration tools to environmentalists and social/eco entrepreneurs (more to come).
Remember how big and powerful our movement really is. The movement toward clean energy and climate action is now hugely global. It is going to keep rolling no matter what the U.S. government does. And not only is demand for socially-responsible products on the rise, recent polls suggest that a majority of global online consumers say they are willing to pay a bit more for those types of products and business practices.
Finally, be sure to maintain hope and humor. Remember the words of Captain Dylan Hunt, a post-apocalyptic character created by Gene Roddenberry, “Pessimism is not a survival trait.” A little levity is going to be key as we move forward together, going boldly where no one has gone before.
Here’s to hoping for positively surprising outcomes in this New Year!
God bless good science fiction. It often seems, in retrospect, to forewarn of what will one day become reality. Take Battlestar Gallactica. It was definitely prescient. I don’t mean by predicting that our smart technology will get out of control or that we’ll trash our planet. Nope. The most absolutely prophetic aspect of Battlestar G is that they use the word FRACK as their most obscene swear word! As in dude, we’re fracked, or, man what a fracking mess.
And now, right now today, we are living in fracked up times.
To continue to feed our addiction to fossil fuels we are drilling, pumping, blasting and fracturing land all over this country – a process known as hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” – to get to oil and natural gas we couldn’t get to before.
And it gets fracking worse. Just recently the U.S. Geological Survey announced it had found the largest continuous oil and gas deposit ever discovered in the United States. It is only accessible via fracking. Accessing the oil will damage or destroy some of Texas’ most treasured natural places. And it comes at a time when scientists are saying we must keep much of newly discovered oil and gas in the ground if we are to avoid catastrophic impacts from climate changes.
And now we have Trump, who has vowed to deregulate, boost and expand the fossil fuel industry. The election that got him into the presidency was a fracking fiasco due to media and political party shenanigans. Further evidence that our democracy too, is fractured.
Yep, things are pretty fracked up. Old ways, old systems and familiar institutions are all in flux.
It could lead to general destruction or it could be an opening for creative destruction and eventual progress. Evolution doesn’t happen until a species, or a nation, faces great pressure and life-threatening circumstances that they must adapt to or risk being eliminated. There is a chance this could prove to be just such a pressure point.
What do you think?
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“We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.”
— Martin Luther King Jr.
This has certainly been one of the ugliest and most disturbing campaign cycles we have ever experienced. A tectonic shift. So many are reeling with disbelief, grief and despair. My heart goes out to all the people – people of color, Muslims, LGBT, disabled, for God’s sake women in general — fearing what this means for us and our children.
And my heart aches for Mother Earth and what may be in store for her. Like many deep environmentalists I have a loving, living connection with our planet and I worry about what’s in store for my loved one.
But while I am hurting I am not completely surprised. When Trump first announced his candidacy and so many of my progressive friends and colleagues scoffed I had a different reaction. I was deeply concerned. I suspected he was going to last a long, long time in the campaign. Between the real tensions and fears he was triggering, the current sensationalist clickbait-driven media culture and America’s celebrity worship I knew Trump was going to be a serious and lasting threat. But even so I couldn’t actually envision a “President Trump” and it is surreal, scary and painful to watch him and his team getting ready to take over our government. It literally knots my stomach.
And yet …
There is also opportunity here. This campaign has scratched the scabs off the festering wounds of racism, sexism and xenophobia in our society, America’s dark and dangerous shadow. Psychiatrist Carl Jung pointed out decades ago that our shadow is the dark side of ourselves, that part that, “Is hidden, repressed, for the most part inferior and guilt-laden.” When we try to bury and ignore that aspect it often bursts out in destructive ways.
There are so many ways this shadow-side of our culture has been bubbling up through our denial but now, it has burst fully into the light, here at home and around the world. There will be no going back, no more ignoring it. As painful as owning and facing this shadow is going to be it is absolutely necessary for our country to heal and evolve.
Hope in Unity
This past week I have listened and participated in calls, webinars and gatherings as various communities work to digest and respond to Trump’s election.
I am witnessing climate action activists standing up and calling for unity in protecting those most vulnerable to persecution – immigrants, low-income people of color, LGBT people. I am seeing environmental direct action activists expressing their commitment to engaging in direct action if necessary to protect these vulnerable populations. More than any time before in my twenty-year career as an environmentalist our movement is embracing diversity.
Evolution in nature doesn’t happen unless a species, or population faces great pressure, a period where it must adapt or die. It is possible that the increased pressure of America’s unleashed shadow-side will drive our environmental and social justice movements to new heights of caring, sharing and working together. I believe this needs to be a central focus in how we respond.
Instead of Fighting Against, let’s Work Toward.
Fear is a causal reason we are at this point. And, to be frank, our environmental movement is and always has been rife with fear. I get it — I feel it myself. We care deeply about this planet and our fellow beings and we’ve seen so much being lost. I share the sense of urgency to protect the sacred diversity of life on our small, magnificent blue planet. I have friends and loved ones who are in very vulnerable circumstances now. But, it is human nature that what we focus on increases. We will be stronger and more effective if we move from a place of love and hope instead of fear.
I hope we will choose to move away from the meme of war, of fighting, of hatred for the “other” and instead stand strong and tough, taking a higher road of working toward, rather than fighting against, of acting from love rather than from anger and fear. It will take discipline and commitment to release the fear and move from a place of strength through peace.
Be Smart in Our Media Choices
One encouraging development just now is that so many more people are becoming aware of our disastrous media model. People on both sides of the election and even numerous media outlets are raging against the horrendous sensationalist media coverage that delivered this outcome. Trump is a master of media manipulation and they played right into his hands. As I have said many, many times before, if you are watching “Breaking News” you are not being informed, you are being entertained and misled in order to drive up ratings and website hits. That goes for FOX news but also for CNN, MSNBC and even public broadcasting to a certain degree.
This campaign cycle was particularly painful for me because I have personally experienced the destructive power of our current clickbait-driven media model and the reckless power hunger of political parties. At a much smaller scale what my fiancé, Governor Kitzhaber, and I experienced paralleled and foreshadowed what we are now living through at the national level. Agenda-driven media, sensationalism and partisan politics overtook the truth and derailed a lot of good work. This Grist article describes some of what happened.
Trump will continue to dominate and manipulate corporate media. It has never been more important to get our news from and support independent media outlets like ProPublica, Mother Jones, the Center for Investigative Journalism, Nation, Guardian, Climate Nexus, EcoWatch, etc.
Stay the Course, We are Important
We are in for a bumpy and emotional ride. Inauguration itself is going to be hard. The blatant display of ego will be difficult to stomach. But as activists we know something about resiliency and staying in it for the long haul. Our environmental and climate action movements are now global in scope, bigger than any one of us or even any one country. Our Earth trumps ego and our cause trumps fear. As historian Howard Zinn pointed out:
“Whatever progress has been made in this country, whatever human rights have been gained, have not been gained through the calm deliberations of Congress or the wisdom of Presidents.
Whatever progress has been made in this country is from the actions of ordinary people, from citizens and social movements.”
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“Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.”
— Edward Abbey
There is so much to be disturbed about in this presidential campaign. Certainly Clinton’s status quo attachments and Trump’s complete unfitness for the job are major concerns. Those aspects — the outrageous personalities, hints of scandal and smears — are the focus of the campaign coverage and that leads to a disturbing dearth of coverage of deeply important issues.
Many in the clean energy and climate action movement have expressed well-justified concern and frustration that climate change received so little mention. Other than Hillary Clinton bringing up clean energy as a major economic opportunity in the opening half hour of the first debate, there has been virtually no mention of these issues in any of the three debates. This was a huge missed opportunity. However, there is another aspect that’s even more damaging and insidious — the constant campaign drumbeat to grow, grow, grow the economy.
Both candidates and nearly all media personalities fail to recognize that an economy based on perpetual status quo growth is fundamentally broken. We live on a planet of finite natural resources and yet worship an economic model that requires continuous escalation in the consumption of natural resources! And most world leaders keep their heads in the sand on this one choosing to believe that we can defy the laws of physics without destroying the planet.
Either our presidential candidates don’t understand the physics or they’re just unwilling to talk about this issue because growing the economy has become such an untouchable third rail in politics. I call this “Ostrich Politics’ and it’s rampant.
Believe me I get it. Challenging the limitless growth model is politically risky. When my fiancé John Kitzhaber was Governor of Oregon we did talk about it, did touch that third rail. And yep, there was some big blowback. It was difficult and painful and in the end status quo and old thinking prevailed. But at least for a time there was a different, more honest and substantive conversation. Important seeds were planted during those fertile discussions.
We have never faced a time in which it has been more important for our leaders to take some political risks and address the really deep issues and the broken and dangerous systems that we continue to stick to.
Our world is already dealing with climate change refugees. Right here in the United States entire communities are already being displaced by rising sea level. Recent surveys and reports show that under our current grow, grow, grow system by 2020 we will have lost two-thirds of all wildlife compared to 1970 populations. Take a moment to wrap your mind around that one – a full three quarters of non-human life forms will have been wiped off our planet in just 50 years.
Under such conditions ostrich politics and incrementalism just aren’t good enough.
Fortunately, despite the fact that mainstream media and status quo politicians won’t touch the delusional third rail of limitless growth many forward thinking leaders are doing just that.
An outstanding report titled Life Beyond Growth by the Donella Meadows Institute, provides an overview of how we became addicted to the limitless growth model and how, beginning in the 1970s, awareness about the danger of that model began to mushroom.
The report does a great job exploring the question of what kind of growth we need and what aspects of the economy actually need to shrink in order to increase the health of the planet and well-being of its people. In other words, growth of what and for what? One excerpt from the report states:
“But what kind of ‘growth’ is necessary? …. [To] create an economy of well-being rather than an economy based on unending economic growth. On a finite planet, where all life (including human life) is dependent on finely tuned ecosystems, unending physical growth is categorically impossible. However, the quest for human development, happiness, and wellbeing presents limitless possibilities.”
In recent years various initiatives and thought leaders have coalesced into a New Economy movement, some elements of which can be seen here.
Lots of people, organizations and even countries are already making headway in replacing the cancerous limitless growth system with a muscular, healthier, saner alternative.
This movement is global in scope and gaining momentum and you can be part of it through any number of simple actions:
Read the Life Beyond Growth
Challenge the limitless growth paradigm. Have conversations about this with your family, friends and colleagues.
Support the organizations listed on the link above and/or sign up for their free newsletters.
Like and follow 3E’s new New Economy Facebook page which provides tons of information for social entrepreneurs and new economy students and advocates.
Finally, one of the most important steps you can take it to believe! The economy is not an act of God or a force of Nature. It is a human made construct. We have and do prune and shape it all the time and we can do so again. We can groom and train it in a direction that heals our planet and improves the quality of our lives.
Our natural resources are not limitless. Thank goodness this presidential campaign isn’t either! Our human creativity however, knows no bounds. We can do this.