Last week, I was at the Santa Fe farmers’ market at the launch of the Charter for Happiness, a document that spells out the hope and need for a new bottom line in America, one that is based on happiness and wellbeing for all – for people, animals and the planet, now and in the future.
The idea is that if we start to measure what really matters to people, and measure it with economic , social, and environmental indicators that reflect equality and broad wellbeing, we will begin to track and improve those things through better policies that allow people, animals and the planet to thrive over time.
What does this have to do with animals and IFAWs priorities? A lot!
As we reduce the demand for wildlife products and raise awareness to save individual species and we strengthen enforcement for anti-poaching and anti-trafficking efforts, we must also look at the whole system that drives us. What makes us want to consume more things and to own more stuff—even if that means buying the body parts of the creatures that inhabit this earth with us, and that cannot be replaced once we drive them to extinction?
IFAW also works hard on common sense solutions for protecting whales by reducing shipping noise and ship strikes. There are ways to make quieter ships and move shipping lanes away from important whale migratory breeding and nursing areas. But shipping traffic increases daily on our global oceans and it shows no signs of slowing.
The reason? Global demand for everything is increasing.
Could we begin to slow that demand down by being satisfied with what we have? Can we create a new global system that looks at replacing a push for short-term growth of economic activity with a long term sustainable growth in wellbeing for people, animals and the planet? This is important for the health of our oceans, our whales, and ultimately for us.
Just a few of the many ways that animals contribute to human wellbeing (above and beyond their own intrinsic value) include their value to us culturally including as symbols of freedom and power (think of our own American eagle, or a lion running on the African plain), their value to the ecosystems as pollinators (almost all fruit and grain crops depend on pollination from bees, bats and other pollinators), and their value as dispersers of seeds and nutrients. They also have tremendous value for ecotourism.
In just one example, it has been estimated that the value of one live elephant in viewing camps is as much as $1.6 million US dollars in its 70-year lifespan. Not to mention the mental and physical benefits of companion animals that studies have shown include reducing symptoms from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and providing calming effects in patients with Alzheimer’s disease and autism-spectrum disorders.
Ultimately though, we don’t support what we don’t measure, and right now, we measure short-term economic activity (with Gross Domestic Product) and pursue policies that increase this measure.
Until we begin to take into consideration measures that include longer term impacts wellbeing indicators that put people and the planet at the center, we will get what we measure – short term economic growth and long-term degradation of the planet, its resources and its inhabitants.
Learn more by taking a look at the Charter for Happiness.
And perhaps let us know what makes you happy