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  1. TopTop #1
    tashabeauchamp's Avatar

    Article: Is There An Economics Of Happiness?

    by Tasha Beauchamp
    Co-Chair, Cittaslow Sebastopol

    Thinking about the Sebastopol General Plan and the up-coming meeting on Economic Vitality (January 10) and Community Health (Jan 14), I wonder if there isn't a way to bring in some of the more elusive dimensions of community and spirit. Money for its own sake is not really the goal.

    For instance, they say money doesn't buy happiness. Although research is showing that it may—sort of.

    Certainly, if we don't have enough food or we're homeless in the rain, it's harder to sport a jolly smile. Studies from Princeton demonstrate that overall happiness does increase as income rises—but only to a point. After $75,000 a year, more coins in the pocket do not mean more smiles on the face. Once a certain level of security and a financial buffer are in place (think Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs), happiness seems to level off and becomes more a matter of individual temperament and worldview.

    So when is enough money enough? And how does that economic well-being translate at the national level, or the level of our state or city?

    Standard measures of economic vitality involve the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which indicates the raw amount of money that changes hands for goods and services. This has led to a "more is better" approach where growth in GDP is equated with progress and improvement.

    But an increase in the quantity of exchange does not necessarily indicate an overall benefit to society. For instance, GDP goes up in times of crisis (e.g., war, or natural disaster). After a crime spree, gun sales typically rise as do installations of alarm systems, all of which creates a rise in GDP. These are hardly positive developments!

    And with Hurricane Sandy reminding us that "Nature bats last," it's clear that we cannot continue to grow economically at the expense of the environment. We must look at our economic health through the lens of sustainable development.

    The State of Maryland is doing just that. To measure the success of its prosperity program, "Smart, Green and Growing," Maryland has adopted a "Genuine Progress Index" (GPI). Its 26 indicators include such standards as personal consumption and capital investments. Added to this are indicators that subtract for environmental degradation, such as the cost of air pollution, the cost of water pollution, loss of wetlands, and loss of farmlands. See:

    But is this the true measure of progress: That enough money is changing hands and we don't soil our nest too badly?

    In recent years, the tiny country of Bhutan turned economic development on its ear by creating a Gross Happiness Index (GHI) for measuring the well-being of the nation. After all, a contented populace is really the intent of good government and a robust economy.

    Bhutan suggested that beneficial prosperity depended on eight factors: physical, mental and spiritual health; time-balance; social and community vitality; cultural vitality; education; living standards; good governance; and ecological vitality.

    Acknowledging the importance of the social fabric, Maryland's GPI also includes indicators for the positive such as the number of citizens receiving higher education. Community engagement is measured by the number of volunteer hours contributed in their state.

    What does this have to do with Sebastopol?

    We are currently participating in an SSU research project to gather community perceptions that may be used to inform the update of our General Plan. Meetings are scheduled in January for the community to talk about sustainable development and economic vitality, community health and housing, conservation, open space and community identity. One doesn't have to stretch too far to see how these relate to the GPI metrics in Maryland or the GHI in Bhutan.

    Suppose, for instance, that you want to see more bike trails. In the Bhutanese framework, this relates to ecological awareness, but also physical and mental health.

    Or maybe you are thinking that it would be great for the city to buy the quarry that's for sale across Morris St. from the Barlow and, taking a page from the Core Project, erect a zorchy Bilbao Gugenheim-type building that becomes a Wetlands Museum. That would contribute on environmental, educational and economic levels (think eco-tourist dollars).

    Get the idea? What's your dream for Sebastopol?

    If you have suggestions that might help us to become "Smart, Green and Growing," redefining economic vitality within a larger context of happiness and sustainability, consider attending one or all of these meetings to be held from 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. in the Dining Room of the Veterans Building at 282 S. High Street in Sebastopol:

    Economic Vitality: Thursday, Jan. 10
    Community Health: Monday, Jan. 14
    Housing: Thursday, Jan. 17
    Conservation: Thursday, Jan 24
    Parks & Open Space: Monday, Jan. 28
    Community Identity: Thursday, Jan. 31

    Tasha Beauchamp is a research scientist and Web educator for family caregivers of the elderly. She creates educational web sites and e-newsletters for hospices around the country through her business: Elder Pages Online, LLC. In her personal life, she is the Co-Chair of Cittaslow Sebastopol, an ad hoc committee of the city of Sebastopol dedicated to keeping Sebastopol green, local, friendly and artistic. Although Cittaslow Sebastopol supports the community meetings, the opinions expressed in this article are Tasha's personally and do not necessarily reflect those of Cittaslow Sebastopol.
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  3. TopTop #2
    Barry's Avatar
    Founder & Moderator

    Re: Article: Is There An Economics Of Happiness?

    The voting results of the January 7th meeting of The General Plan Update Report process on "Sustainability" are located here:

    and here:
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  5. TopTop #3

    Re: Article: Is There An Economics Of Happiness?
    Quote tashabeauchamp wrote: View Post
    Bhutan suggested that beneficial prosperity depended on eight factors: physical, mental and spiritual health; time-balance; social and community vitality; cultural vitality; education; living standards; good governance; and ecological vitality...
    Quote tashabeauchamp wrote: View Post
    What does this have to do with Sebastopol?

    Everything. Sebastopol has the capacity in it's: citizens, businesses, groups, & local government; to design a place for optimal: living, working & playing; while it works to foster a healthy watershed. -CF

    Get the idea? What's your dream for Sebastopol?
    That what it is to be our best, finds one tent for all points of view, in refining our ideal outcomes. I hope we all can all rally in support of Community Watershed CARE.

    I'm sorry I missed the last 2 GP update meetings. Here's my input.

    Solutions for our water security have been grossly left out of the General Plan update, as well as, all of the last city council candidates' platforms, accept for mine.

    No one but me has been consistently publicly raising concerns about quantity and quality for the last decade. The findings on some these concerns have finally been brought to the City Council.

    How is this being addressed; on its own, and within the GP update; when the Council Members have so little understanding of the problems and potential solutions?

    The false shade of Green so many of you have bought into will be undermined by impacts to your health, and everyone's economic security, every time these risks go uncorrected.

    Sebastopol needs so many more millions of dollars than it has, it is dangerous. Without well informed folks working to get the needed funding; every resident and business is in jeopardy.

    Colleen Fernald

    Many years ago, my friend Frank Dixon authored a white paper on Bhutan's Gross Happiness Index (GHI). Here's what he's up to:

    Human ideas and systems have always changed and probably always will. In the past, we often thought our ideas and systems were correct, but were later shown to be wrong. The same is almost certainly true today.

    Economic, political and social systems place humanity at odds with reality and nature in many ways. System change is inevitable because no system violating the laws of nature can endure. The question for our generation is, will we voluntarily evolve our systems into sustainable forms or let them evolve on their own. Doing the latter will be highly disruptive.

    We have shown ourselves to be incredibly powerful and creative once we set our minds to overcoming a challenge, no matter how large. Now we face the greatest challenge and opportunity ever seen by humanity.

    The model for a sustainable world is all around us – in nature. We have the opportunity to emulate nature and build a sustainable world for our children. Let us rise to the challenge.
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  7. TopTop #4
    tashabeauchamp's Avatar

    Re: Article: Is There An Economics Of Happiness?

    Thank you, Barry. Indeed, the results have been fascinating.

    For Environmental Sustainability, the top vote-getters out of 48 ideas expressed were:

    • Extending bicycle and pedestrian options
    • Keeping smart meters out
    • Incentivizing rainwater harvesting
    • Increasing awareness of geo-engineering pollution
    • Expanding recycling options for more difficult items

    For Economic Vitality (out of 56 ideas):
    • "Park once" - central parking area with pedestrian friendly access to all parts of town
    • Beautification of the downtown corridor
    • Invest in industrial agriculture
    • Offer a grace period for some regulations so new businesses can open sooner
    • More lodging for tourists
    • Promote eco-tourism
    • Create a downtown trolley loop - a free jitney that goes from the Barlow to the Plaza and back.
    What has been really inspiring is the conversations that occur as people are milling about "voting" (placing their dots) on the ideas that have been expressed.

    Imagine, for instance, if the City bought the cement plant across from the Barlow and built an iconic building (e.g., like Frank Gehry's Guggenheim museum in Bilbao) that would be a destination in and of itself.
    Making that into a Wetlands Museum would help to promote Sebastopol as an eco-tourist destination. The building could have a creative, but significant parking structure. That way people could "Park once" and then ride an electric jitney festooned with apple memorabilia that does a continuous loop to downtown and perhaps even to the north and south.

    Eco-tourism, "Park once", downtown trolley all in one.

    I do encourage folks to come to the meetings. In particular, there is a meeting this Thursday, January 31 on the topic of Community Identity.

    What do you want Sebastopol to be like in 2034?

    Come to the Community Identity meeting Thursday, 1/31 from 6:00 - 7:30 p.m. at the Veterans Building (282 S. High St).
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