How putting wellbeing first would help sustain life on Earth – a guest post from Teresa Belton, author of Happier People, healthier planet.
Happier People Healthier Planet addresses the diametrically opposed issues of personal wellbeing and ecological destruction, and brings to light how these concerns, which are normally considered to be disparate and discrete, are actually intertwined in many complex and subtle ways. Clearly, the condition of the planet’s eco-systems impacts on human health and happiness. But the relationship is not simply one-way. This book argues that carefully attending to and investing in what really matters for individual and social thriving will also protect the environment.
Most human beings are strongly attracted to material possessions, novelty and ever greater comfort and convenience. Paradoxically though, growing affluence has not resulted in increased subjective wellbeing; indeed, consumer society is witness to much unhappiness. Even worse, our unchecked appetites for ‘stuff’ are fast undermining the delicately balanced life-support system provided by the natural world, on which human and other life depends. So it is welcome to realise that it is perfectly possible to live a rewarding life without consuming much more than we really need. It is urgent that we all make this discovery if we are to preserve the hospitality of the Earth.
For those of us who have secure housing, food, warmth and some degree of choice in how we live, reducing our material expectations is much easier when we come fully to appreciate that wellbeing is not generated by money, possessions, ease and outer image but by a multitude of ‘non-material assets’ such as good relationships, a sense of belonging, a sense of meaning, contact with nature and exercising creativity.
Happier People Healthier Planet considers many factors and influences that are likely to dispose individuals to build a store of non-material assets which will enable them able to enjoy living in ways that are sustainable. In exploring questions such as the development of personality and values, and the significance of playfulness, spirituality, and secure attachment in infancy, the book shows how the intimately personal has globally ecological implications.
Informed and illustrated by insights from a wealth of sources, both academic and popular, Happier People Healthier Planet also incorporates a study of willingly modest consumers in Britain, passing on to readers the thoughts and experiences contributed by a wide variety of women and men who actively pursue all manner of fulfilling lives of relatively low material demands. These modest consumers offer challenge, inspiration and reassurance in the search for better ways of living.
- More by Teresa Belton on a common consciousness around climate change.
- What do you think – how do these ideas relate to Joy in Enough?