Less is more in “The Economics of happiness”

Go ahead. It’s official! You can relax and enjoy the simple pleasures of life – friends, family, physical exercise. Research shows that once basic needs are met, more money does not make people happier. In fact, North Americans reached their peak happiness in 1956 and it has been downhill ever since.  Perhaps Sooke should follow the example of the little kingdom of Bhutan (and France and Saskatchewan) and introduce a Happiness Index to measure how well off our residents really are.

The Gross National Happiness index features in The Economics of Happiness, a lush, visually stunning 2010 documentary that will screen May 11. Co-sponsored by Awareness Film Night and Sooke Transition Town, this family-friendly film offers a refreshing take on the importance of local communities in shaping happy, healthy futures. Speakers featured in the film are from six continents and include: Vandana Shiva, Bill McKibben, David Korten, Michael Shuman, Juliet Schor, Richard Heinberg, Rob Hopkins, Andrew Simms, Zac Goldsmith and Samdhong Rinpoche.

A deep and pervasive positive outlook is what makes The Economics of Happiness so effective. The film does survey the grave problems that threaten globalized capitalism and make even its success seem like a failure:  income inequality, pollution, resource depletion and of course, depression and anomie. But from start to finish, this film presents a credible vision of a better future beyond economic growth. This is a vision on an eco-friendly future that is desirable, where life is more about people than stuff and where the pace is slower and the intangible rewards – the only ones that contribute much to happiness – are great.  The Economics of Happiness makes this vision believable by drawing on host Helena Norberg-Hodge’s lifelong love affair with the mountainous region of Ladakh, a tiny, semi-autonomous kingdom in Nepal known as “Little Tibet” that, until recently, was largely isolated from industrial society.  The price that the Ladakhis are paying for joining the global economy highlights the costs that affect us all.

Is it possible to live a long, happy life with much less environmental impact? Yes, says this film and the Transition Town movement, which includes Sooke and Victoria as well as hundreds of other communities around the world. Transitioning away from reliance on fossil fuels and globalized economies and toward local resilience, including food security, can be more satisfying that the quest for endless growth.

The Economics of Happiness offers a fresh, inspiring look at how increased reliance on local economies can bring prosperity not only to Sooke, but to every community on earth.  In Helena Norberg-Hodge’s words, “When people start connecting the dots between climate change, global economic instability and their own personal suffering – stress, loneliness, depression – there is the potential for a movement that will truly change the world.”  Connecting those dots is exactly what the Transition Town movement tries to do.

Frederique Philip, co-owner of the Sooke Harbour House will join Sooke Transition Town initiators Michael Tacon and Andrew Moore for a panel discussion after the screening to explore issues and opportunities that can make Sooke a happier place for everyone.

The film, which is the season finale for Awareness Film Night, will be screened at 7 p.m. on May 11 in the Edward Milne Community School theatre, 6218 Sooke Road.

Panel discussion will follow at 8:15.

Admission is by donation.

More information on Sooke Transition Town can be found at sooketransition.org.

Awareness Film Night will resume in the fall.