How do you measure the wealth or well being of a country? Traditionally, economists only used the one thing they have been taught to study—money. Basically, what is a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or Gross National Income (GNI) per capita? Well, today, a popular measure is the Human Development Index (HDI) which had its foundations laid by Mahbub ul Haq in 1990 when he gathered a group of development economists to create a new measure of well-being to shift development economics from income-centered policies to people-centered policies. Though Amartya Sen was initially reluctant to join in the work for fear of the impossibility of reducing the complexity of human capabilities down to a single number or index, it was Dr. Sen’s economic work that laid the groundwork to develop the index. Today, the HDI has three dimensions—a life expectancy dimension, an education dimension, and an income dimension. That was in the 1990’s.
Backtrack to the 1970’s. Bhutan, a small Asian country bordering China, northeast of India and east of Nepal, decided that national happiness is much more important and crucial than national income. So they adopted the goal of achieving a high Gross National Happiness (GNH). Though it’s been criticized, and it’s extremely hard to measure within a country as well as comparatively with another country, it highlights the growing importance of happiness to people around the world who formerly did not consider it.
And that leads us to this.
International Day of Happiness
I know, I know. There are so many official and unofficial international days, international weeks, international years, and international decades. Why do we need another? In fact, there are people in a lot of countries who don’t even know these days happen. I don’t know if we need another, but I am glad to take time out from my day, week, month, and year and remind myself of the importance of joy (and happiness) throughout my life, my family, my community, my country, and my world. Apparently, the UN does, too, because Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the UN celebrated March 20th of 2013 as the first ever International Day of Happiness. Ban said he was “encouraged by the efforts of some governments to design policies based on comprehensive well-being indicators,” and he encouraged others to do the same. “On this first International Day of Happiness, let us reinforce our commitment to inclusive and sustainable human development and renew our pledge to help others.”
And helping others reminds me of today.
World Water Day
One way you can try to do something in your life, community, country, or world is by supporting World Water Day, the 22nd of March, this year, today. It’s hard to describe or explain how water is so important if it’s not experienced or felt. But each year we move closer and closer to water anxieties, and there are already regions in the world that are water scarce in which people suffer from dehydration and food dies due to water scarcity. Compound that with the problem of using water faster than the hydrological cycle recharges the water or the many problems of managing water rights across regions, borders, and countries, and then you see the problem is growing.
There are many ways to help. You can work on your own water footprint—all of the water that you use directly (drinking, flushing, washing, etc.) and all of the water you use indirectly through products you buy (water used to make the food you order, to take care of the animals used to provide you food, to wash equipment in the factory that produced your bag of chips, etc.). You can try to use less water and conserve water more. You can try to be more efficient with your water and waste less. You can also give back to organisations like Charity:water, Waves for Water, Water.org, etc. Or you can buy toilet paper from the social enterprise Whogivesacrap.com. Water scarcity affects over 2.7 billion people for at least 1 month each year. And you can help to decrease water insecurity for at least one person in the world.