On the 15th to 17th March the International Society for Ecology and Culture (ISEC) hosted its second international conference entitled The Economics of Happiness in Byron Bay, Australia. Last year the event was held in San Francisco following the release of the feature film “The Economics of Happiness”. The conference and the film seek to promote the economic, social and environmental benefits of re-localising economies.
Attended by 450 people the conference was host to a range of international thought leaders on the activities and benefits of localization. International speakers included author and the developer of the 350.org international climate change campaign Bill McKibben, Vandana Shiva and economists James Skinner and Mark Anielski, who is an early developer of broader measures of progress which incorporate wellbeing of citizens.
Mark Anielski called for local governments to take an audit on all community assets, monetary and non-monetary, and to move a full accounting of all that is of value in a government area, such as open spaces, roads, forests, rivers and libraries and all aspects considered of “value” to the community. Then to take this inventory and to gather information on what is important to people, what is of value and what they want to utilize from the community. In this way a richer picture of the economy is developed. This description is part of a model which has been developed that is entitled Genuine Wealth.
The main streams of the plenary sessions and interactive workshops covered the themes of educating the new generation to thrive in a rapidly changing society, economics and money systems for building resilience in local communities, local food production including farming and home gardens, social cohesion including culture and heritage and methods for creating change.
The founder and director of ISEC, Helena Norberg-Hodge, was motivated to create this ISEC after spending many years in Ladakh, a peaceful rural part of northern India, and seeing first hand the impacts of new economic policies on the economic, social and environmental aspects of communities there.
One of the key benefits identified throughout the conference was the way in which choosing to invest time and resources in our local communities leads to greater resilience and mitigation of risk felt by the shocks experienced in financial markets, which have affected communities around the world. The localization movement, which the conference promoted, is offered as a counter balance to some of the negative impacts on communities which have been felt as a result of policies stemming from the globalization of trade.
Tani Shaw is a PhD Scholar with the Institute for Sustainable Futures and a member of the Global Progress Research Network (GPRNet). Tani attended the Economics of Happiness Conference held in Byron Bay, Australia on 15-17 March, 2013.