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Avoiding the Limits to Growth: Gross National Happiness in Bhutan as a Model for Sustainable Development
School of Environment and Natural Resources, The Ohio State University, 210 Kottman Hall, 2021 Coffey Rd. Columbus, OH 43210, USA
Received: 2 July 2013; in revised form: 2 August 2013 / Accepted: 12 August 2013 / Published: 26 August 2013
Abstract: In their 30-year update to Limits to Growth, Meadows et al. call for a vision of sustainable development that includes systemic change brought on by new perspectives on the purpose of development, new ways of measuring progress, and changes in social norms. Here, I discuss Meadows et al.’s work in the context of the literature on sustainable development and well-being as well as the development trajectory of Bhutan. I suggest that Bhutan’s development approach mirrors Meadows et al.’s recommendations and provides one model for sustainable development. The ideal of maximizing Gross National Happiness (GNH) exemplifies Bhutan’s commitment to holistic development and dovetails with arguments about the shortcomings of approaches that emphasize economic growth. I provide examples of how GNH has been put into practice, describe how happiness is being measured, and discuss the emergence of social norms and a shared Bhutanese identity that may contribute to sustainable development. Bhutan’s development success suggests that an alternative to growth-centric development is viable. However, while Bhutan’s standard of living has increased, the country faces challenges, the most important of which may be their ability to manage rising consumption levels. Importantly, other nations have begun measuring well-being and considering similar development approaches.
Keywords: limits to growth; sustainability; sustainable development; Buddhism; social norms; well-being; sustainability indicators; economic growth
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Brooks, J.S. Avoiding the Limits to Growth: Gross National Happiness in Bhutan as a Model for Sustainable Development. Sustainability 2013, 5, 3640-3664.
Brooks JS. Avoiding the Limits to Growth: Gross National Happiness in Bhutan as a Model for Sustainable Development. Sustainability. 2013; 5(9):3640-3664.
Brooks, Jeremy S. 2013. "Avoiding the Limits to Growth: Gross National Happiness in Bhutan as a Model for Sustainable Development." Sustainability 5, no. 9: 3640-3664.