As I stepped on the soils of Bhutan, a place of ancient monasteries, fluttering prayer flags and staggering natural beauty, I felt this tiny Buddhist state’s mighty heart.
In a world beset with collapsing financial systems, gross inequity, burgeoning rich-poor divide and wide-scale environmental destruction, this tiny nation’s belief in national growth measurement is uniquely different.
Bhutan believes a nation’s real prosperity lies in its citizens’ happiness, a concept known gross national happiness or GNH.
The belief that well-being should take precedence over material growth is a debatable concept, though.
Well, it’s a big idea that attracts world’s attention.
Can Bhutan’s GNH be replicated across the globe?
The tiny state has placed the natural world at the heart of public policy that has led to environmental protection. The country has pledged to remain carbon neutral and ensured that 60% of its landmass will remain under forest cover.
“We don’t believe that a country can prosper without conserving its natural environment,” says Ugyen Dorjee, a high school teacher in Thimpu. “GNH is a set of principles through which we will ensure sustainable and equitable society,” he adds.
Bhutan’s principles have been set in policy through the gross national happiness index based on equitable social development, cultural preservation, conservation of environment and promotion of good governance.
As I was speaking to Mr Dorjee, I could see the school children and their emotional well-being. “Since the GNH principles have been integrated into the education system, huge changes are taking place in the students’ emotional world,” Mr Dorjee says.