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Finland -the world's happiest country

So is GDP a real indicator of progress and success?

There are three key questions which GDP overlooks:

is growth fair,
is it green,
and is it improving our lives?

The 2018 UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network ‘World Happiness Report’ named Finland as the happiest country in the world, followed by three of its Nordic cousins, Norway, Denmark and Iceland.

How can this be? It certainly can’t be the weather, often 10 or more degrees below freezing, and the high taxes. Many Finns identify their culture, and their way of living close to nature, as what makes Finland such a happy country. People respect each other and are happy with what they have and don’t think about what they could have.

“We enjoy simple things like nature, saunas, family, and silence. We help others when they need it. We don’t have serious terrorism, gun violence, pollution or homeless people living on the streets. Our country is safe and you can trust the police and the law. We have complete access to the internet and every citizen is equal; we have free healthcare, and free education from elementary to university”

And the others? Well the US came 13th, the UK 23rd and China 83rd. Surely this is telling us something.

February Reflection

Measuring GDP - putting a price on the future

‘Progress is measured by the speed at which we destroy the conditions that sustain life’
So writes the Guardian columnist George Mombiot. And he goes on to say - ‘If everyone wants everything – how is that going to work?
The promise of economic growth is that the poor can live like the rich and the rich can live like the oligarchs. But already we are bursting through
the physical limits of the planet that sustains us. Climate breakdown, soil loss, the collapse of habitats and species, the sea of plastic: all are driven by rising consumption. The promise of private luxury for everyone cannot be met: neither the physical nor the ecological space exists’.

But the political imperative is that growth must go on. With every generation, the baseline of normalised consumption shifts. Take Black Friday or Cyber Monday – both heavily promoted US imported buying bonanzas which are and fast becoming an integral part of Britain’s biggest shopping phenomenon. It’s a race against time to clinch the best possible deal, before the offer closes, for something we don’t really need, but must buy because it’s a bargain. Isn't it time for GDP (gross domestic product) – the estimate of the total value of goods and services a country produces – came up for review.

The reality is we’ve stretched the planet beyond its limits – and without a bold re-imagining of our economy, it will take us into unchartered waters. We’ve pushed our society to breaking point, and revolutionising how we live is the only way to end inequality, and restore ourselves and our environment back to health. It’s an enormous task, but our lives depend on it. In a recent report, WWF blames "exploding consumption" for wiping out 60% of wildlife populations worldwide in just 50 years. COP24 – the recent United Nations Climate Conference, tells us we have just 12 years left to sort ourselves out if we are to avoid serious climate breakdown and all that will mean. So how can we change this and prevent this inexorable loss of nature, and further damage to the fragile ecosystems on which we depend on for life?

The answer has been staring us in the face so long we can no longer see it. Giant billboards and endless TV promotions persuade us that we need all this ‘stuff”, we need to shop in new York for the week-end or visit the Great Barrier Reef (before it is gone?). It is not easy: it means questioning the whole essence of capitalism, of consumption, of planned obsolescence, of buying stuff we don’t need (but must have because it’s cheaper than it was yesterday, or will be tomorrow). It means rejecting the huge corporations that put lining their pockets, before supporting and promoting human, animal and planetary well-being. It means rejecting the message that’s been fed to us for years – that the more ‘stuff ‘ we accumulate, the happier we will be. ‘Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding’ says the writer of the Book of Proverbs;for her proceeds are better than the profits of silver, and her gain than fine gold.

Have a Happy New year.

Mark Boulton

Meth church

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