In the days following the UNFCCC Climate talks in Cancun I have been looking for something to celebrate after being somewhat underwhelmed with the incremental outcome. The urgency of climate action resides in my awareness daily. I make active choices to reduce my green house gas emissions and ecological footprint like so many other passionately concerned folks. Yet there is always more that I can do. So I am complicit in how our nation states continue to defer bold and binding action to circumvent the pending impacts of climate change. With a little bit of window dressing and political posturing, we have business as usual.
I have long thought that the short term interests of elected representatives, governed by election cycles and a populous that is modestly engaged at best, does not function well for long term concerns. It comes down to the current state of the economy, which is based on quarterly growth rates. In the developed world we gauge our happiness by our ability to consume tonnes of stuff we don’t really need, thinking that it will lead to a sense of meaning and fulfillment. Meanwhile we self medicate or get a legitimate prescription to numb the lingering emptiness.
Thankfully, I am radically happy. I have meaningful relationships and manage to balance consistent challenges and learn new skills, the magic formula for flow states of awareness according to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. This is truly an extension of privilege since I am able to access basic needs for myself and my family in a country with abundant resources and opportunities. I have a strong sense of belonging in a loving family and dynamic community that I love. I also have the privilege of consciously moderating my consumption and lifestyle to reduce my footprint. There is still room to improve, which is a wonderful challenge to carry in my awareness from moment to moment.
It is with great joy that I discovered the Happy Planet Index, an economic model that factors both the planet and your quality of life to create a more accurate metric for wellbeing that pure growth and the accumulation of more plastic crap. According to the online survey that I conducted, my footprint still requires 1.49 planets, which is about .49 more than I live on. Room to improve.
Less privileged regions of the planet will be impacted more abruptly by climate change, and thus have been requesting a $100 billion annual fund to support adaptation initiatives. Developed nations are built on lifestyles that require 3-4 planets to sustain, which is more than a little daunting considering that we only have one to live on.
So after Cancun, where there was some progress but no inspirational breakthroughs from the politicos that we entrust to look out for our future interests, I am happy to have found the Happy Planet Index and measure my complicity. The choices that are required by each us to manage the complexities of climate change are difficult ones to make. I am still living a lifestyle that exceeds the carrying capacity of the planet that I inhabit. I have work to do and I will do so happily, with a relentless vision for worldbliss.