First of all let there be no doubt that the world needs saving as a habitat for human beings – and much sooner than many of us realize. There are a number of inter-related threats to civilized life on this planet all coming to the fore at the same time, the most serious of which is climate change. But please read on as we believe there can still be a happy ending…
A world sleepwalking towards disaster
Extreme weather events are now being experienced all around the world with an unusual level of intensity and frequency.
But these unusually severe weather events could be just harbingers of much worse to come if urgent steps are not taken to curb the carbon dioxide emissions which are driving climate change. The existing measures proposed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (which represents the overwhelming consensus of scientific opinion on this matter) are designed to keep emissions within a limit producing no more than a two degrees Centigrade rise in global temperatures.
Unfortunately, a report produced by the International Energy Agency indicates that we are already generating a level of carbon emissions that is taking us close to the two degree safety limit. It goes on to warn that if we continue to build fossil fuelled power stations and other infrastructure as we have been doing up till now the level of carbon emissions for creating the two degree increase will be reached as early as 2017 and continuing CO2 production will inevitably take us beyond the safety limit, leading to catastrophic climate scenarios in the decades to come.
Can happiness help to save the world?
So what has all this to do with happiness you may well ask? The simple answer is that if enough people switch to being truly happy in the way described elsewhere on this site the gloom and doom scenarios outlined above can potentially be avoided. This is because being truly happy does not require the sort of hyper consumption that is the driving force behind the escalation in CO2 levels and the depletion of the world’s resources at an unsustainable rate.
The new science of happiness has also revealed that above a certain level of material comfort you do not need more to be happier. Indeed the pursuit of wealth beyond this point can be at the expense of things that really matter in your life, like good relationships, caring for loved ones, indulging in creative activities and enjoying the simpler things in life, not to mention one’s responsibilities to the rest of the community.
In the richer countries, like the United States of America and the United Kingdom, measures of happiness show that levels of life satisfaction have not increased despite very significant growth in income per capita. There is therefore ample scope for redistributing some of this additional wealth to help lift people out of poverty, for enhancing the quality of living (as opposed to the standard of living) and for reducing the pressures on the planet’s finite resources and life-support system. The major change that is required is for the goal of modern society to be switched from just maximizing material prosperity to instead maximizing people’s overall well-being, as is now being advocated by the United Nations and the OECD, among others.
Action for Happiness is playing its part in making the change by showing that happiness does not lie in the race for riches and pressing for a cultural shift to a less materialistic way of life. However we need many more supporters if we are to have the desired impact in the relatively short period of time in which the shift needs to be made. In my view raising our numbers to the required levels can only be done by introducing a sense of urgency into joining the movement. And this urgency can be best achieved by presenting what we are doing not only as a way of finding true happiness and creating a happier society but also as a means of helping to solve the enormous environmental problems that confront us.
If this wider dimension were to be explicitly included in our message then our rallying cry would surely become… Be Happy AND Save the World!
You can read more about this here.