Our planet is dying, but yet can be saved. The reasons are self-evident to those in touch with scientific reality. An overload of pollutants and excessive deforestation are causing climate change. The uneven distribution of resources and rising underemployment are causing social unrest. The result is gross inequality in life quality experienced by the world's people.
We have the technical and material resources to reverse this downward trend. But human nature, which has served our evolution so well, now threatens our resolve. Our biology tells us, more is better, and speaks to those with resources not to share with strangers. Such instruction is suited to tribal survival. It must be countermanded to achieve a global community, sharing resources to achieve a universal life quality.
To achieve such sharing at a global level, we need a special band of leaders. People with the wisdom to rise above populist opinion and to courageously legislate for universal, rather than sectorial, survival.
Such people exist among us. They hold positions of international influence, they see the dangers of unfettered economic growth, and they offer positive solutions to our dilemma. From this exalted group two have been chosen as exemplars, both with specific reference to the global economic crisis of 2008-2009.
Jigme Thinley served as Prime Minister of Bhutan twice, from 1998 to 1999, and from 2003 to 2004. He blames the crisis on 'insatiable human greed' and proselytises the Bhutanese notion of gross national happiness.
"The present GDP-based system ... now threatens the survival of humans and other species. At the same time ... we have the ability, for example, to feed everyone on earth healthily and sustainably. No one need go hungry!"
Thinley, 2012, pp. 10-11
Joseph Eugene Stiglitz
Joseph Eugene Stiglitz served as chief economist of the World Bank and chairman of the US president's Council of Economic Advisors. In response to the crisis, President Sarkozy of France appointed Stiglitz to chair the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress.
"... the time is ripe for our measurement system to shift emphasis from measuring economic production to measuring people's well-being"
Stiglitz, Sen, & Fitoussi, 2010, p. 12
To shift the focus of human development, from economic progress to universal life quality, requires a fundamental change in what governments strive to achieve. Essential to such change is a scientific understanding of human wellbeing. Facilitating such understanding is the purpose of the Australian Centre on Quality of Life.
Stiglitz, K., Sen, A., & Fitoussi, J.-P. (2010). Report by the commission on the measurement of economic performance and social progress. Paris: Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress http://www.stiglitz-sen-fitoussi.fr/documents.rapport_anglais.pdf
Thinley, J. Y. (2012). Foreword. In Royal Government of Bhutan (Ed.), The report of the High-level meeting on wellbeing and happiness. Defining a new economic paradigm (pp. 10-11). New York: The Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Bhutan to the United Nations. Thimphu: Office of the Prime Minister.