05 Jun The pursuit of happiness
Several important studies have shown how there is, above a certain point of economic wealth, no longer a strong relationship between income and happiness. This is a very important finding, given how Western societies are built on a process of endlessly seeking to increase citizens’ material consumption.
This is an ecological issue of great importance, because increased growth has historically shown a broad correlation between the consumption of more resources and the release of more greenhouse gases.
Although most Western countries have, as they have become wealthier, enacted various environmental regulations, for example to clean up air and water, the overall degradation of ecosystem services caused by these societies has increased.
One reason we have not changed our ways is it has been widely assumed there is a choice between enhanced human welfare and economic growth. However, recent studies demonstrate this is not necessarily the case.
For example, and contrary to what might be expected if we assume that economic growth and the material wealth it creates are the best measures of wellbeing, a recent study found the happiest people in the world live in Nigeria, with the next happiest countries being Mexico, Venezuela, El Salvador and Puerto Rico.
The researchers at the World Values Survey who reached this conclusion described the desire for material goods (which environmentalists say helps to deplete resources, cause pollution and drive climate change) as a happiness suppressor.
They confirmed the findings of other researchers who found that happiness levels have remained virtually the same in industrialised countries since World War II, although incomes have in real terms risen considerably.
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