Last night the writer tried to play a DVD, The Economics of Happiness, sent by its co-producer Helena Norberg-Hodge. For the first time, the machine malfunctioned: it would not play this or any other DVD.

Helena emailed: “In Seattle and New York, more than a thousand people showed up despite severe snowstorms. In Berkeley, we had to turn 500 people away. Worldwide, we’ve been met with full houses of enthusiastic audiences. We have also had numerous community screenings and we are very heartened by the fact that we’re getting many requests from church groups in the US and from Buddhist leaders in Japan. Although we launched the film only 2 months ago, it’s already going into seven different languages.

However, a review by Sean Dagan Wood, writer, song-writer and now editor of Positive News, will be of interest.

Cherry-picking:

The film offers a message of hope, showing there is a strategic way to address environmental, economic and social crises, simultaneously – economic localisation.

The Economics of Happiness isn’t proposing we go backwards to a previous existence, rather it calls for a change in the economic system in order to bring about a replenishment of what really creates quality of life.

Featuring interviews with thinkers and activists from every continent – including Zac Goldsmith, Vandana Shiva, Andrew Simms of the New Economics Foundation and oil depletion expert, Richard Heinberg – the film suggests that by shifting towards localised economies, we can reduce our ecological footprint while increasing human well-being.

Localisation is presented as a path that transcends what most people believe are the only options: communism, socialism or capitalism.

As Helena Norberg-Hodge the co-producer says. “The system we have today is a political choice. There hasn’t been enough discussion about the importance of the human-scale, instead of giant, top-down structures, whether they’re political or economic.”

The importance of sustainable agriculture is a key focus in the documentary. Removing people from the land is the root of all unemployment it argues, while local food systems increase self-reliance and reduce poverty, and biodiverse farms are capable of producing 3-5 times more food than industrial monocultures.

There is now a local food movement. Projects that started 20 years ago with no help from the media or government and no funding are growing.

Changes such as re-regulation of trade and finance, producing what we need closer to home and shortening supply chains, creating a decentralised energy system based on renewables, will create more jobs, reduce environmental impact and strengthen community life.

The government can play its part through regulation, tax and subsidisation that favours the local, Helena believes, but she emphasises that just being disgruntled with government is missing the true picture; the real problem is huge corporations. “The wealth and the power lies with these de-regulated, mobile banks,” she says. “The people inside them are being pressured by speculation and investment, so it’s a sort of blind system, where the escalation is disastrous.”

Our current economic model, based on pursuing endless growth in GDP (gross domestic product), is now being put under scrutiny as the stresses it creates for people increase. “It’s leading to drug and alcohol abuse and to depression,” Helena believes, “it’s really destroying human relationships and people are having to become harder so it’s a very sad thing to see. It’s so unnecessary.”

The Economics of Happiness spells out these connections, clarifying the links between speculative investment and large-scale corporate concentration that lie behind global warming and waste and toxic pollution, unemployment, loneliness and so on.

Helena concludes: 

“I think we should be demanding meaningful policy change.

“We need to be talking about why government is so poor – why is there no money when we know that there are billions for all kinds of technological expansion and we see the billions concentrated in the hands of multinationals?”

She sees hope in local initiatives now being linked to business alliances, people beginning to move money into local banks, and the transition town movement … bottom-up people power.

A clarion call for community building:

Community heals. Community creates happiness. Localisation is a path that can bring about these benefits very quickly if people understand and turn towards others.”

More information: to buy the film or organise a community screening, visit: www.theeconomicsofhappiness.org