In an increasingly industrialized and globalized world, it is very difficult for small developing countries such as Bhutan to stay true to their own cultural identity. Bhutan, a small landlocked country located between India and China uses the concept of Gross National Happiness as a tool to ensure that their country is not over influenced by globalization. Gross National Happiness ensures that the economic development of Bhutan is in harmony with the culture, spirituality and environment.
This strategy consists of four pillars relating to economics, the environment, culture and government which all must be in balance to create ‘happiness’ within the society. The Bhutanese people put much less emphasis on economic prosperity than we do in Western Society, and because of this, the four pillar strategy would not work in the West. The values of Western culture are unbalanced, as material goods and prosperity are of higher priority than the other factors of happiness such as the environment, therefore the concept of Gross National Happiness as measured by the Bhutanese could not apply.
The strategy of Gross National Happiness is also referred to as the Middle Path Strategy, and addresses four main pillars. These pillars consist of Economic Development, Ecological Protection, Cultural Preservation and Good Governance. (Larmer, B. 2008) This policy strongly brings in to play the ‘Buddhist Way of Life’ in respect to sustaining the environment and being one with nature. (Herrera, S. 2005) This way of thinking pertains to three things: human beings, society, and the natural environment. Buddhists believe that by harming nature you are disturbing the spirits and gods.
Bhutanese Peoples’ values are less emphasized on money and profit, and more focused on spiritual well being and protecting their pristine environment. (Rice, M. 2004) Bhutan may be on the right track to happiness, as a new wave of world leaders and progressive economists suggest that countries are too focused on Gross Domestic Product. They claim that there is too much stress being put on markets and bottom line numbers while overlooking the ‘softer’ qualities of life such as the environment and leisure time. (Beehner, L. 009) In an increasingly globalized and industrialized world, it would appear to be difficult for Bhutan to keep its own values and priorities. This is where the government of Bhutan comes into play. The governor of Mongar, a province in Bhutan said, “What we have done is show people that if we don’t support our customs, our institutions will also go very fast. We must stay in touch with our values. This is our top priority. ” (Andelman, D. A. 2010) Tshoki Zangmo, another Government official in Bhutan said, “We cannot just let our people be led by the illusion that money is everything.
Our government has to try to broaden the definition of happiness. ” The government of Bhutan stresses these ideas through the Four Pillar Strategy. The Four Pillar Strategy works to balance the values of Bhutan to increase their overall Gross National Happiness. The first pillar, which is Economic Development, is important to Bhutan because a strong economic system is crucial to the well being of the people. However, Bhutan does not look at economic prosperity as the most important thing.
Most of Bhutan’s economy revolves around their agricultural production. (Uddin, S. N. , Taplin, R. , ; Yu, X. 2007) This is very different from Western countries where economic markets are central to daily life, and industrialized factory farms are taking over the business of local farming. The second pillar, ecological protection, is very eminent to the Bhutanese people as it is a significant aspect of the Buddhist way of life. The Bhutanese interpret nature as a living system rather than just a resource base to be exploited for material gain.
The conservation of natural resources has been given high priority in the national development plans of Bhutan. (Uddin, S. N. , Taplin, R. , ; Yu, X. 2007) Bhutan has many policies in place focusing on the conservation of natural resources including forests and water resources and the protection of wildlife an their habitats. (Uddin, S. N. , Taplin, R. , ; Yu, X. 2007) To ensure that these conservation programs would be effective, Bhutan initiated an environmental trust fund in 1991 called the Bhutan Trust Fund for Environmental Conservation (BTFEC) (Uddin, S. N. , Taplin, R. , ; Yu, X. 2007) Bhutan’s total forest area is estimated to account for about 72. 5% of the total land area of the nation. The preservation of these forests is extremely important to Bhutan, and one of their policies includes maintaining a minimum of 60% of these forests for all time. (Uddin, S. N. , Taplin, R. , ; Yu, X. 2007) The Bhutanese people have very close ties with nature and see it as a source of spiritual well being. The third pillar, Cultural Preservation is also very important to the people of Bhutan.
The world today is very globalized, and it is easy for the influences of Western culture to be imposed on small developing countries such as Bhutan. Situating the preservation of culture as one of the four pillars to Gross National Happiness shows Bhutan’s desire to hold onto their own unique culture. It is a difficult task for Bhutan to hold onto their cultural identity while developing as a society at the same time. According to a Buddhist priest in Bhutan, technology and tradition can blend.
He said, “If we only had the old, we’d still be cocooned here, left out of the wider world, but if we only had the modern, we would have lost our culture. We need both to survive. ” (Beehner, L. 2009) The fourth pillar, Good Governance is critical to Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness because the government is who implements this system and is in charge of doing what is best for the people. As the happiness of the people is very important to Bhutan, the Government must run the country in a way that allows for economic growth, while conserving the natural environment and preserving Bhutanese culture.
In looking at how Bhutan’s concept of GNH works, I feel this strategy would not be effective in Western countries such as Canada and the U. S. We are too far removed from nature and too dependant on global economics to sacrifice economic development for the conservation of nature. Bhutan is able to conserve all of their forests because they are willing to put priority on this over industrial development. Industrial development is a priority in America, and we value wealth and material possessions too much to sacrifice any of this.
Western society places too high a value on economic well being to implement a system such as Bhutan’s, and unless a total change in mindset and lifestyle occurs in the West, the concept of Gross National Happiness as it is in Bhutan could not possibly apply. The idea of Gross National Happiness is very different in Bhutan than it is in other parts of the world. Because of this difference in mind set, I do not believe this development strategy would work in places such as America or Europe, however a place like Bhutan is perfect for it.
They clearly have different priorities when it comes to what makes them happy, and preserving natural resources is a major one. If preserving the natural environment by sustainable development is what giving the people of Bhutan ‘Gross National Happiness’, then I believe this is a very effective concept. In our world today that keeps becoming more and more industrial, it is beneficial to have a place that respects nature and wants to preserve it.