Gross Domestic Happiness in Bhutan

Written by Jack Thomas, ESLLC 2015-2016

24366611766_c55d73b9dc_k-900x600.jpgBhutan is not a place that many have visited. At $290 US per day, their visas are among the most expensive in the world for tourists. Ironically, the nation is one of the least capitalist nations in the world, as the government is more concerned with the nation’s Gross Domestic Happiness (GDH) than their Gross Domestic Product. In 2009 they recognized that the condition of the environment strongly factors into communities’ happiness. Thus, it seemed only logical to focus on environmental protection which materialized in the form of a series of bills and even constitutional amendments.

  • Gave affordable hydroelectric power to all citizens.
  • Made a deal with Nissan to get electric cars on the road.
  • Banned export logging.
  • Made a constitutional amendment protecting forest coverage from dropping below 60%.

All of this has done wonders for the nation’s GDH, but also made them the first nation to become carbon negative. This means that the nation as a whole is emitting less carbon than it is consuming. They were found to be producing only 1.5 million metric tons of carbon, compared to an absorption rate of 6 million metric tons per year. To compare these numbers, the United States produce over 5 billion metric tons per year and the University of Denver produces around 40,000 metric tons of carbon.

Being the world’s first carbon sink, Bhutan is now ever more important. Their central, government supported focus on the people’s happiness is curiously unique among nations of the world. The fact that this coincides with and increases their urgency for general sustainability focus, is an icing on the cake, but also a highly evidence backed reminder to the rest of the world that these two are intertwined. Modeling our society after this would be nearly impossible with our population, traditions and general abstinence, but taking small steps in the same direction could greatly help us find more happiness in life too.


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