Thursday, May 22, 2008

What Makes You Happy?

My book club decided upon Deep Economy by Bill McKibben for our June 2008 meeting. It's my first McKibben book and, 45 pages in, I'm on fire. Intelligently written without too much doomsday (yet), with a hint of hope unfolding in the form of solutions to the problem. Although the book is only 232 pages long, I can't read more than a few pages without wanting to form a set of cards of wise sayings to share with everyone I know. Not everyone I know reads this blog, but for those of you that do, here are some choice words that make you think (hopefully out of context they still wield power and contemplation of the basic question "is more better?"

"You can't get richer, at least for long, by impoverishing the world around you." This thought is inspired by economist Eban Goodstein's Economics and the Environment, where he says "Ecological economists argue that natural and created capital are fundamentally complements" that is, that you actually need to think about the planet."p.29 Deep Economy

This quote resonates so clearly in my mind, like the perfect pitch I always desired. The rate of consumption, the insane drive for more more more that inundates us day in and day out does more harm than good. You may argue that all that consumption creates jobs and keeps the economy going, and just plain makes people happy. But at what cost, and at what illusive definition of happiness?

Aha! Onto another inspiring quote from McKibben. In a passage where he discusses people's reported measures of happiness in relationship to increased wealth, he says the following: All that material progress--and all the billions of barrels of oil and millions of acres of trees that it took to create it--seems not to have moved the satisfaction meter an inch. (p.35 Deep Economy). He goes on to say that "In 1946, the United States was the happiest country among four advanced economies; thirty years later, it was eighth among eleven advanced countries; a decade after tht it ranked tenth among twenty-three nations, many of them from the third world. (Stats garnered from "Happiness" by Layard).

Okay, its too late in the evening for me. Barry, if you are reading this, know that I plan to follow the instructions in your email about your video short (very cool!) as soon as I get another block of time!

Good night, but Good luck is over rated. How about belief in happiness as something that can't be bought, but that resides in time with friends, family, meditation, contemplation, viewing of art and Happy Hour with friends? Okay, so maybe a $3.50 pint accompanying a group of friends and good conversation is a small price to pay for a lot of real happiness :)

Noelle Aguayo


lauren said...

Hey there! What makes me happy is all the wonderful, gorgeous Santa Barbara-like weather we've been having in the Northeast! And a perfect weekend ahead. I have a McKibben book - The End of Nature (optimism at its best!) that I read a long time ago. I think Deep Economy sounds VERY interesting, because like it or not, altering patterns of consumption has everything to do with the economy we live in. For me, part of happiness is not having stress, especially financial stress. I focus not so much on gathering stuff, but having the ability to have a comfortable existence in the future. If I had children, I'd want to not so much give them things, but allow for opportunities (i.e. being able to pay for studying abroad or buying a telescope if he/she is interested in astronomy). And the same goes for me...hey, if I want to study the stars at some point, I'd like to be able to get a telescope. Likewise, if I or a member of my family were facing a serious illness, I'd want to have the reserves so it would not cause financial ruin. So, in a way, money brings a certain happiness, in that it relieves stress and provides for. What I think is unnecessary is the production of so many different types of products -- I mean how many types of flavored water do we really need?? Or cereal?? -- L.
PS Let's talk soon...I won't be around this weekend though...

Trekking Left said...

"You may argue that all that consumption creates jobs and keeps the economy going, and just plain makes people happy. But at what cost, and at what illusive definition of happiness?"

It may keep the economy going in the short term, but ultimately, this is a losing proposition. There simply aren't enough resources in the world for us to keep going at this rate. Americans are going to have to learn to be happy with less stuff!

Chryss said...

Well said, Noelle. I really enjoy McKibben's approach--seems to be one of the few that feels honest about the situation we're in, without leaving me paralyzed by the enormity of the problem...