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Happy Environments: Bhutan, Interdependence and the West

Departments of General Education and English, Mount Royal University, 4825 Mount Royal Gate SW, Calgary, AB T3E 6K6, Canada
International Development Institute, Humber College, 3199 Lake Shore Blvd. West, Toronto, ON M8V 1K8, Canada
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2014, 6(6), 3521-3533;
Received: 28 March 2014 / Revised: 21 May 2014 / Accepted: 23 May 2014 / Published: 30 May 2014
PDF [500 KB, uploaded 24 February 2015]


There is a growing trend to understand economic and environmental policies in terms of multiple dimensions and “interdependence.” Bhutan is increasingly seen as an operational model with its Gross National Happiness (GNH) strategy. GNH, which is rooted in Mahayana Buddhism, is a framework and set of policy tools that conceptualizes sustainability as interdependent ecological, economic, social, cultural and good governance concerns. Bhutan’s practical GNH experience illustrates a significant ability to positively couple economic growth with a healthy environment. Can the “West”—with its legacy of either/or economics—learn anything from Bhutan’s multidimensional policy experiment? At first, it would seem not. It is questionable whether the West can replicate Bhutan’s unorthodox policy tools as we do not have a balancing set of Buddhist values rooted in mainstream culture. We are not equipped to respond to the many unintended consequences of interdependent policy because we do not yet understand what “interdependence” actually entails. There is hope, but much of it exists in the grey literature of ecological economics. This literature is in urgent need of greater exposure if we are to imagine and enact sustainability policy tools that are truly sensitive to interdependence, and thus follow Bhutan on its perilous but necessary journey. View Full-Text
Keywords: Bhutan; Buddhism; environmental and economic interdependence; Gross National Happiness; sustainability policy Bhutan; Buddhism; environmental and economic interdependence; Gross National Happiness; sustainability policy
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Schroeder, R.; Schroeder, K. Happy Environments: Bhutan, Interdependence and the West. Sustainability 2014, 6, 3521-3533.

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