The Second Annual Conference on Gross National Happiness The Second International Conference on Gross National Happiness
Local Pathways to Global Wellbeing
St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada
June 20 to June 24, 2005

June 21, 10:30 am

Pursuing Gross National Happiness, What’s Working

Introductory Remarks
Dr. Constance Freeman, Director of the International Development Research Centre’s Regional Office for Eastern and Southern Africa. (IDRC ESARO)
Critique of international development based on “aid” and promotion of market mechanisms as harbingers of progress.

Mary Coyle, Conference co-chair, Director of the Coady International Institute.

Chair: Keith Stoodley, Director of Marketing and Sales for Lotek Wireless, Member National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE)

Sustainable and Equitable Economic Development
Joel Salatin, organic farmer, author
Discussion of the guiding principles of Polyface farm in contrast to mainstream agricultural practice in the USA (and much of the rest of the world). Demonstration of the ways in which these axioms mirror nature and how this is essential to ensure their sustainability.

Sustainable and Equitable Economic Development
Farouk Jiwa, Director of Honey Care Africa.
Analysis of perceived shortcomings of past development strategies in Africa. Promotion of small and medium scale, for-profit enterprise as the continent’s best hope of achieving sustainable development.

Cultural Promotion
Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada
Discussion of importance, in First Nations’ traditions, of multi-generational planning as the basis for achieving harmonious existence. Reflections on how racist treatment of indigenous people in Canada has devastated First Nations communities and, left unaddressed, will vitiate efforts to build a truly sustainable society in Canada.

Karma Ura, Director of the Centre for Bhutan Studies

Environmental Preservation
Holly Dressel, co-author of Good News for a Change: Hope for a Troubled Planet.
Summary of findings on model conservation and community development projects from around the world. Common elements essential to the success of such initiatives are provided, backed by illustrative examples.

Environmental Preservation
Sanjit Bunker Roy, Director of India’s Barefoot College.
Brief account of the history, philosophy and methods of the Barefoot College. Discussion of the fundamental importance of according underprivileged people the unimpeded right to be at the centre of their communities’ development.

Good Governance and Engaged Citizenship
Elizabeth May, Executive Director of the Sierra Club of Canada
Thoughts on the relationship of democratic governance and sustainable development. Emphasis on the centrality of concern about and sharing with others over against industrialized countries’ current obsession with private gain.

Good Governance and Engaged Citizenship
Krishna Kumar, former Director of the Total Literacy Program in Kerala, India.
Reflections on community organizing with examples drawn from personal experience in Kerala. The importance of cooperation and the need to give pride of place to ordinary people rather than to authority figures are points cited as crucial to the success of such work.


Tuesday Morning Plenary: Pursuing Gross National Happiness, What’s Working
Dr. Constance Freeman
Dr. Freeman Today I am launching a speaking tour of Canada. I’m going to give many speeches on the theme of “The Erosion of African Dependency.” And I think this too is a part of GNH because it is talking about responsibility, it is talking about leadership, and it is talking about community ownership of a process.

In Africa there has been a serious dependency syndrome.Since independence, Africans have had a strong tendency to look to the rest of the world to solve their problems. The flip side of that is that the North, on a subliminal level, has really believed that it is often responsible for solving Africa’s problems, and we go further: sometimes we feel that Africans aren’t capable of solving their own problems—that they must be taken care of—and thus that they don’t have to be held to the same levels or standards. Now these things are rooted in slavery; rooted in colonialism; they are even rooted in some of the African socialism where the government said it was its responsibility to take care of the people. And this tended to undermine the community efforts that historically had gone on, where people were able to take initiatives on their own.

And so, Africans have concentrated much more on aid than on trade. The law of comparative advantages made it look like that was the way to go. And yet aid is, “You take care of me, please give me.” Trade, on the other hand, is insuring fairness on all sides.

This syndrome has also led to donor fatigue: “It never seems to work, why should we keep doing it?” and attempts to control, as with children: “If you don’t do, then we won’t give.” And that furthermore undermines people’s sense that they in their communities are responsible for what happens around them.

The fact is that no real sustainable development has happened anywhere in the world where people have not taken responsibility for it themselves. What I have seen—and I have worked on Africa for almost 40 years—is an erosion of this dependency. Not an elimination but an erosion. The New Economic Plan for African Development is a declaration of African responsibility and African leadership for African development. It has been broadly criticized for not being a development program. But it didn’t set out to be a development program; it is a process, it is an attitude, and it is a guidance. And it has stuck, since 2002. It hasn’t gone away. People thought that it would. It is becoming more and more entrenched.

Another example I will be talking about in more detail, when there is time, is the transition that is going on in Kenya, where I live. In 2002 the people rose up and they threw out a corrupt autocracy that had reigned for over 25 years. And they did it by the ballot and not by the bullet. So this isn’t easy. We all hoped and believed that this new government would cancel corruption. But you know what? Elections don’t solve corruption. It is a much longer, more difficult process. That is what we are finding.

Finally, we see the erosion in trade relations. Africans and Third World people are standing up and playing a much more assertive role. So as we go forward into these discussions about “How do you look after alternative models? What is it that you can do?” I would like to urge you to keep in mind that people in the communities that it affects need to be responsible. They need to take leadership. And those of us who are working in this area need to follow their lead.

Thank you for letting me make some introductory remarks. Now I’ll turn it over to the panel.

Mary Coyle Thank you very much, Connie. I think Dr. Freeman has raised some very important points that we will all be reflecting on over the next few days, particularly the issue of ownership by the people of their own development; and that development is not aid. I think that is something very critical for us. Not just those of us working internationally but also those of us living in a region of Canada that has very often been considered a recipient of aid. So that is a very helpful beginning.

I would like to now introduce the chair for our session this morning, Keith Stoodley. He is the director for marketing and sales with an award-winning company, Lotek Wireless. It is an environmental company as well. Here today he is representing the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, of which he is a member. The Round Table is also a supporter of this conference. We thank Keith and we thank the Round Table for supporting us.
Keith Stoodley I would like to say a very quick word on the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. As Mary pointed out, I am one of 25 members of this multi-stakeholder group, consisting of individuals across the country—from business, the environmental sector, labour, and so on and so forth. The National Round Table advises the Prime Minister’s Office on issues at the interface of the environment and the economy. We try to be a catalyst, we try to take an advocacy role and, as I said earlier, we do so through a multi-stakeholder process. I stress that because it is that same multi-stakeholder process that I see here today, which I believe to be particularly enriching and a very profitable process.

On the theme of sustainable and equitable economic development, I am pleased to introduce Joel Salatin. Mr. Salatin is one of America’s most dynamic and innovative farmers, combining science, art and ideals from nature to create a farm that is highly profitable but produces zero waste. He has been featured in the Smithsonian magazine, National Geographic, and many other times in print and on radio and television.

Tuesday Morning Plenary: Pursuing Gross National Happiness, What’s Working
Sustainable and Equitable Economic Development
Joel Salatin
Joel Salatin Thank you. I’m going to share with you the overriding principles at Polyface Farm, which is in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Just so you know my pigeonhole—I can be very upfront and honest and transparent with you—I am a Christian, libertarian, capitalist environmentalist.

Here are the overriding principles of our farm:

Food production should be aromatically and aesthetically pleasing. If you cannot enjoy bringing a kindergarten class out and partaking of any part in the production, processing or marketing of food, it is not acceptable. Our senses have been given to us for a reason. How do we know we have infection in a wound? It smells bad. If our food production system stinks, it doesn’t bring much happiness.

Animals are healthiest when they ingest copious amounts of green material. Every animal from carnivores to herbivores to omnivores desires a certain amount of salad bar in their diet. So on our farm we move animals to fresh forage every day or two so that they can ingest copious amounts. This is the secret for polyunsaturated fats; conjugated linoleic acid; B-vitamins to go 300% higher than what is in the supermarket stores; and that sort of thing. There is no wonder we have obesity and cholesterol problems when we take away the exercise, fresh air, sunshine, high vitamins and minerals; and feed animals a high starch diet in a stressful environment in a fecal factory, inhumane, concentration camp farm.

The soil is a complex living organism, nourished by decomposing biomass. It runs on solar energy. Therefore we do a lot of large-scale composting, letting pigs do the work. We don’t use big, heavy, metal machines to make windrow compost piles. We inject corn and let pigs do the work. Increasing organic matter is our aim. If we increased organic matter by just one percent in North America it would capture all of the carbonaceous greenhouse gas emissions since the industrial age began. On our farm, 45 years ago, our average organic matter was less than one percent; today it averages almost eight percent organic.

Nature’s design is the pattern for all domestic production. What we want to do is look at nature and take it as a pattern, as a template, and cut it out, and lay that on the landscape as our domestic commercial production. For example, in nature, herbivores exhibit three patterns: movement, mobbing and no grain. Yet we now have an apoplectic world dealing with bovine spongiform encephalopathy—“mad cow” disease. And suddenly the world has discovered that maybe we shouldn’t have been feeding herbivores dead chickens and dead cows. Why do we need a bunch of high-powered PhD scientists in a big high-tech, techno-glitzy laboratory to tell us that maybe we shouldn’t be feeding chicken manure to cows? We use nature as a template to create that pattern.

Another one is movement. We are always going to fresh ground; animals are always moving to fresh ground. It’s critical to create pathogenic cul-de-sacs through rest or multi-speciation. The world is now facing an episodic of avian influenza, especially emanating from Southeast Asia. The reason is that there are no pathogenic cul-de-sacs. People don’t clean out or put a different species in their house or in their shelter or their animal facility, wherever it is. We need to do that, and I’ll show you how we do that in our forum.

Bioregional food systems. Feed your own community first. The average food morsel travels 1,500 miles from producer to plate. The government accounting office in the US actually did something right. They did a safe food study and they determined that the vulnerabilities of the food system were centralized production, centralized processing and long transportation. You would think that the government policy would say, “Let’s de-centralize the production and have small farms. Let’s de-centralize processing and have on-farm processing, community-based canneries and abattoirs and things like that. And let’s have local community-based food systems.” You would think they would do that. Instead they just pass more rules that get in the way of local food systems.

Technology is used to enhance the biological happiness on the farm. We want to marry the techno-glitzy with heritage wisdom. We can assemble a bunch of scientists in this room to study the space shuttle—a pretty sophisticated machine, wouldn’t you say? They can tell us why every single button and gadget in that space shuttle works. But all the scientists in the world can’t come in here to tell us why an earthworm turns left instead of right. I don’t know about you, but I’m betting that the earthworm is going to be around for a long time and it has as much information that is necessary to transmit life as a space shuttle. So what we want to do is use technology like electro-fencing and things like that and allow it to create synergistic, symbiotic relationships between the plants and animals on the farm.

Balance. Ecological, emotional, and economic—all these elements have to be balanced. Part of the problem with organic certification around the world right now is that it allows empires to be built. We now know the commodification of what was a movement. Now they call themselves “an organic industry.”

Folks, an empire by any other name is still an empire. Just because we can, should we? Just because we can, should we ship salad greens from San Francisco to Washington DC on an overnight airfreight express? We humans are clever enough to create things that we cannot morally or ethically metabolize or assimilate. That is why on our farm we are desperately trying to combine the eastern and the western, the parts and the wholes, to create the balance in symbiosis. You know, if the goals in our regular production system of “grow it cheaper, faster and higher” were the noblest goals of mankind, we would all aspire to be the fattest person in the room.

In conclusion, we want to create a habitat that allows for each plant and animal to fully express its physiological distinctiveness. When you and I achieve our greatest potential, our greatest happiness, it is when we are fully expressing our Mary-ness, Jim-ness, Tanya-ness.

I would like to sit down on the Today Show with Don Tyson and ask the simple question, “Does it matter if a chicken can express her chicken-ness?” I would like to sit down with Murphy, head of Murphy Farms Smithfield, and ask, “Does it matter if a pig can express its pig-ness?” Because when we view life and biology with no more respect and no more honour than if it were just so much inanimate, protoplasmic, molecular structure of electrons, protons and neutrons, that creates our perception of life that we then transmit to every other life form, including our spouse, our children, people in this room—cross-tribally and cross-culturally. The foundation of respecting and honouring one another as a world is how we treat and respect and honour the least of these.

Thank you very much. Come to see us sometime.

Keith Stoodley Thank you very much. Our next speaker is Farouk Jiwa. Mr. Jiwa is the co-founder and Director of Honey Care Africa, which is a small private sector organization that has been working to promote sustainable community-based bee keeping initiatives across Canada. He has received the prestigious Equator Prize that recognizes outstanding achievement in sustainable development and sustainable community livelihoods.

Tuesday Morning Plenary: Pursuing Gross National Happiness, What’s Working
Sustainable and Equitable Economic Development
Farouk Jiwa
Farouk Jiwa The first question is, “What isn’t working today? Why is mainstream development not working?”

Farouk Jiwa For the last 50 years we have had community-based agriculture being driven by governments and it hasn’t worked particularly well in Africa. We have had a lot of problems with corruption, undemocratic governments, political interference, mismanagement, overbearing bureaucracy. We have parastatals and marketing boards. We have a centralized and top-down approach to pushing development through. There are frequent changes in power which, although good from the democratic perspective, from a policy perspective does not always work very well. We have a very poorly motivated, poorly remunerated civil service. For all these reasons, community-based agriculture in my part of Africa hasn’t worked particularly well.

Over the last little while we have seen the donors coming in with their own specific agendas. They have worked over a very similar timeframe. They have had good successes in some areas and these have been fantastic while the funding lasted. When the money disappears things begin to deteriorate very quickly. There are some interesting models emerging but I haven’t seen anything that makes me want to jump up and shout out in joy. It is going to take a while before we get to that stage.

They are primarily driven by donor cycles and that is the biggest weakness in the way things are working forward. With respect to market linkages, I can walk you through projects across East Africa where donors have come in and set up projects for communities—but they haven’t figured out that if you can’t turn it into money, the communities aren’t going to move further any more quickly.

The transfer of projects to communities has also been very poorly handled. It has been incredibly clumsy and things have not done particularly well once the donors have exited.

The private sector, on the other hand, hasn’t had a very good reputation of pushing forward community-based agriculture either. Their focus has always been on large-scale production. Working with small-scale farmers has always been deemed inefficient; it wasn’t seen to be profitable for business in the long run.

Still, I think the private sector is always being given the black eye. I come from the private sector, by the way, so I have a different perspective on all of this. There seems to be a lot of suspicion by the non-governmental organizations, various government agencies, and I think it is about time to begin distinguishing what private sector actually means. There are multi-national corporations; there are indigenous and national businesses—I represent an indigenous business from Kenya. There are local medium, small and micro enterprises as well. I think we need to start talking about those businesses and what they have to contribute.

So what is the alternative vision? I think we have to look at social enterprise models as a key driver for sustainable, community-based agriculture, both in terms of biodiversity conservation and poverty reduction.

What are these social enterprises? Right now it is sort of a basket that is used to categorize anything that defies conventional compartmentalization. Any organization that doesn’t make any sense to anybody is referred to as a social enterprise. They call us “social entrepreneurs” because they can’t figure out what else to call us.

These organizations are emerging because there is a need for them. The traditional models aren’t working, so these odd little organizations are emerging all over the place because there is a need for them. They defy the traditional compartmentalization between development sector and private sector. At some point a line was drawn that indicated: “You are either this or that.” The question we are asking is, “Why can’t we be both?”

Most of these social enterprises use a triple bottom line approach. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, it is basically trying to generate environmental, social and economic values simultaneously. It is possible to do this and this is what we are trying to do in many of our own special kinds of ways. They are profit driven; at least in my case it is profit driven. So the incentive to always find and drive efficiencies; and to move things forward in a way that makes sense is of paramount importance to me. And, of course, making linkages to market is my number one priority.

I’ll give you some examples. You can write them down and think about them; maybe you can find information about them. There is Irupana in Bolivia, there is Hagar in Cambodia, Streetwires in South Africa, Gone Rural in Swaziland, Chef in Kenya, VegCARE in Kenya, Cemex in Mexico and, of course, there is Honey Care in Africa.

Social enterprises are emerging from a convergence of formerly separate models. On the left hand is the traditional non-governmental organization, receiving 100 percent of its funding from development agencies. For whatever reason, donor priorities are changing—Iraq is more important than Africa, that sort of thing—so funding is not what it used to be. And now these NGOs sometimes resort to very simple fundraising activities—the “bake-sale” approach. You know, “Buy some cookies and we can try to build a well in Africa,” or whatever the case may be. More and more, they have to look for more ways in which they can raise their own funds. This is causing a certain commercialization within the NGOs in my part of the world. The International Finance Corporation at the World Bank recently acknowledged this and has decided to call these entities “grass-roots business organizations.”

From the right hand side you also see the transition in terms of how businesses have been operated. They have moved away from being compliant, basically following the laws and regulations—paying your taxes and keeping your head down. They are moving toward being a little more responsive. They listen to what the stakeholders have to say and they try to do as much as they can within reasonable expectations. Then you have the businesses that are a little more engaged. They actually offer quite a lot more than simple corporate responsibility.

Honey Care Africa was established in 2000. It is a private sector organization with an explicit sustainability agenda. Our objective is very simple: use better beekeeping technology to improve rural incomes, to empower women and youth, and to promote bio-diversity conservation. We are a fair trade organization—we are members of the International Fair Trade Association—and we are committed to triple bottom line value generation. I think we are probably best described as a social enterprise. We try to combine the best of the NGO world and the private sector at the same time. We are profitable and viable. We are currently operating in Kenya and Tanzania and hope to move the operation into Uganda by December of 2005.

While designing Honey Care we tried to figure out why things weren’t working. The donors have been working with rural communities for a very long time with very little to show for it. The private sector has been engaged with the rural communities for a very long time and it can always turn into an exploitative relationship. So I thought to myself, “Why can’t we bring the three together to see what happens?”

This is really what Honey Care is all about. It is a synergistic win-win partnership, so that everyone gets out of it what they want. There are very specific rules about what each party’s responsibility is to the other two parties, governed by a memorandum of understanding. There is a system of checks and balances, provided by the donor of the micro-finance institution, to ensure that we as a company don’t get greedy and at the same time that the farmers actually live up to their commitments.

We have worked with about 20 different international organizations. None of these people actually fund my organization. They don’t subsidize my expenses. Their sole responsibility is to provide loans and micro finance to the communities we work with. We also work with about 250 community groups—women’s groups or youth groups, and whatever else they may be—and of course with the governments of Kenya and Tanzania.

So what does Honey Care actually do? What we do is manufacture Langstroth hives. We go out and conduct demonstrations at the village level to show people how they works. We conduct agro-ecological assessments to make sure the place is viable for beekeeping. And then we try to do the most important thing, which is linking the small-scale farmers to where the money is. So we write proposals and try to get funding to them. We also provide three days of training; extension service and technical support at the community level; extraction and collection of honey; cash payment on the spot to the farmers; and make deductions from farmers to repay their loans to donors. Of course, we also process, pack and market the honey for a profit.

Honey Care has 48 full-time staff. We have disseminated information about our company to 15,237 people. We have placed 19,000 hives. Forty-two percent of our beekeepers are women. Over 7,500 households are now involved with honey production, earning approximately $200–250 a year from this. And so on and so forth.

I think that obtaining start-up capital was probably the biggest problem that we’ve had to face. We had to do what everyone else does—go out and borrow money from friends and family to find ways to start our business. In 2004 we were able to work with the grassroots business organizations and they provided a loan of $500,000 to build up our operations in Tanzania.

Of course, getting the staff was a big challenge: we had to do a lot of intensive training. Project modelling and designing has always been a big challenge. We would go out to try different things and find out what actually works. Government interference was a big issue initially: the government preferred the Kenya Top Bar Hive over the technology we tried to introduce.

I’ll skip through some other things, but there are two points I can’t skip. The first is the transition from entrepreneurship to administration. I think that after a while you just need to get out of the way—beyond a particular point, you need to hand your organization over to the people who can actually run it and move things forward.

The second thing, and probably the biggest challenge for us, is balancing the commercial with the social. Every single day I make decisions that make no commercial sense. If I wanted to be a large-scale commercial honey producer I wouldn’t be working with small-scale farmers with less than two acres of land, who live far away from any road, and have no communication and no infrastructure. It is a decision we have taken because we believe that is the only way things will move forward. I have been incredibly fortunate because I have two partners who just believe that it’s the right thing to do.

You have to ask yourself, “How are you going to move from the fringe to the mainstream?” First you have to prove that what you are doing is scaleable and that it is replicable. If you can’t go out and prove it, as we have done in Tanzania and are hoping to do in Uganda, you don’t have much of a case to fight. You still look like this little niche organization. So my priority is to get this done over and over again in other countries.

The second thing, and most important, is to start engaging the mainstream private sector. You have to show them that this makes a lot of sense. If they see the viability of it they will start listening to you a lot more carefully. You have to have clear numbers: social, environmental and economic indicators; financial operation parameters. I think that, for me, is of paramount importance.

Keith Stoodley Thank you Farouk. We are moving now to the cultural promotion theme. The next speaker is Cindy Blackstock. She is the Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada. She is one of Canada’s leading, most eloquent spokespersons for the promotion of First Nations cultures and knowledge.

Tuesday Morning Plenary: Pursuing Gross National Happiness, What’s Working
Cultural Promotion
Cindy Blackstock
Cindy Blackstock Ten days from now, on July 1st, Canada will celebrate its 138th birthday. Today, on National Aboriginal Day, 633 First Nations, the Metis and Inuit communities, speaking 50 different languages, will reach back through time immemorial to celebrate the lessons passed from one generation to another. Welcome to the ancient lands of Canada.

One of the teachings common amongst our diverse traditions is that, in our planning, we didn’t think just about the generation in front of us. Not even the generation to follow. Because as our elders said, there were essences of ourselves that always became the interest point in making those decisions. When we truly wanted to think of what cultural aspects we wanted to pass to the next society, we had to care about the generations that we will never know.

Five hundred years ago, John Cabot arrived on the shores of what is now Newfoundland. He saw the indigenous people there and he said, “We have a new way of caring for your children.” These are the results. For the first 100 years of Canadian confederation, children were forcibly removed from indigenous societies and placed in residential schools run by five Christian denominations.

People in Canada know a little bit about this but it is not something we really talk about in our history books. But what is most important to understand is that at its essence it was about children. It was about removing and trying to cleanse a culture from a generation to follow.

Two young boys from the Cooper Island Residential School in British Columbia were taken by force from their community by the Indian Agent. They were met at the door by a nun. And when one of the boys tried to escape because he couldn’t understand what she was saying, but he knew that she was angry with them, she grabbed them with a big bear hug. The boys were sent upstairs. One of the little boys said, “What if they squeeze all the Indian out of us. What will be left, Howard? We are Indians. That’s what we are, that’s it.”

The last residential school in this country only closed in 1996—48 years after Canada signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and five years after it signed theUN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Yet the lessons about what was essentially true about being human—passed down in our communities for thousands of generations—were so strong that they survived the residential school era.

So how are we doing today? Is it really a renewed time? Have we really learned anything from colonization? Have we really heard Howard’s voice and thought, “We don’t want to do this to the generation before us.”

There are now three times as many aboriginal children in Canada living away from their homes than there were at the height of residential schools in 1940. Taken together, the First Nations children living on reserve who have been removed into child welfare care will spend two million nights away from their homes, away from their communities, away from their culture.

Some people say, “That’s because of all the physical and sexual abuse in our aboriginal communities.” But we know from research that that is not true. It is the children who come to the attention of child welfare because of neglect. And when we think about neglect, and unpack it in research, we find it is to do with housing, it is to do with poverty and it is to do with substance abuse. Parents have very little control over two of these three things. Can you imagine me removing your child from you, and you couldn’t even influence the factors on which I based that decision? It is not surprising that many of these children never go home.

So what has been the problem? The problem has been that we separated our judgment from the real source of risk. We go into families and we judge them as having failed; we judge them as not being capable. But the real drivers of risk are at a structural level. They are ones that only we together can change. They are the inequitable access to resources: it is a fact that 53 percent of aboriginal children in this country are in poverty. It is a fact that 30 percent of aboriginal children will never graduate from high school. It is a fact that we as a society have not embraced social justice as much as we have social judgment.

What is the way forward? Number one is recalling that time when John Cabot arrived on our shores. And instead of seeing savages, what Canadians now need to see is the brilliance of indigenous cultures and meanings and traditions, which have survived in these ancient lands known as Canada for thousands of years. Most essentially, it means that we have the ability to care for our own children in our own way. It means equal access to resources. We have to confront together the stereotype that aboriginal children are the preferred beneficiaries of Canadian society—that they get the basics plus all the perks of being aboriginal. As you’ll see in our workshops a little later, that simply isn’t true. And we need to focus on broad-based activism, social activism, together. As one of my great mentors, Trine Ready [spelling uncertain] said, “Apartheid didn’t end in South Africa for reasons of internal activism. It changed because the world cared.”

The world hasn’t really cared about indigenous peoples in Canada or their stories or contributions. So iwe need to understand that reconciliation is not behind us, it is before us. It is a job that we have yet to do. It is a job that the generation that we will never know is depending on us to do well. And it is a job that these children, from the indigenous societies across Canada, are insisting that we do.

See also:
Caring for the Generation we will never know and always love (2.9MB PDF presentation)

Keith Stoodley Our next speaker, on the next theme of environmental preservation, is Ms. Holly Dressel. Holly is a journalist and co-author, with David Suzuki, of The Naked Ape: The Super Species, and Good News for a Change: Help for a Troubled Planet.

Tuesday Morning Plenary: Pursuing Gross National Happiness, What’s Working
Environmental Preservation
Holly Dressel
Holly Dressel Hi. I think my job has always been to look at all the wonderful, hopeful ideas about what is going to work, and what is going to make our lives better, and tears them to shreds. So when I wrote Good News for a Change, I went out with incredible suspicion. I looked into Joel Salatin, and several other people who are here today. I subjected them to an amazing amount of scrutiny because, as we all know, one of the reasons we are in this fix is that we keep thinking we have a great idea to make the world better—like CFCs or nuclear power—and it doesn’t work out. So we have got to develop some way to tell whether what we are doing is going to be sustainable over the long term.

What does “sustainable” mean? For one thing it means growing food in such a way that it doesn’t harm anything that is dependent on it, and that this can be done indefinitely. Not for a while, but indefinitely: for generations and generations to come.

So, that’s what I had to look for. And I’ll tell you, when I started the book, I didn’t have a lot of hope I was going to be able to recognize what was sustainable. But I found ways to do it. And I’m going to share that with you, as quickly as I can.

There are six steps to vetting sustainability. The first one is mirroring natural systems. That is, your method of gardening, or building your house, or dealing with waste, or helping your community, should tie into your local systems, mimic major methods of production. First of all they should produce no wastes that are not reusable: that can’t either biodegrade or be recycled into an industrial process, more or less indefinitely. This is something they are working towards in Europe, with biodegradable cars—totally biodegradable cars, as mandated in 2002.

You can do it. First of all, the double or triple dividend, that we heard about from Farouk, is the first thing you look for. If you are producing something or making something, that is a cost. You say, “This cuts back on the number of people who have jobs in my town,” or “This cuts down some trees.” But you reason, “That is acceptable, given the advantages I’m getting.”

Something is wrong with your model. You should be getting multiple advantages: social, environmental, whatever. And I am not being Pollyanna on this. Every single form of human management that I described in Good News for a Change can produce these double and triple dividends.

There are natural systems all over the world, and they differ and they change. You have different soil, different trees, air quality, everything. This is the same for everything. For this reason sustainable management is always locally based. Like indigenous groups, who learned how to live in their ecosystems, or the way people who live in town are learning to live in their ecosystem. We have to look at who is coming in to manage. If someone is coming in from very far away and starting a business in your neighborhood, and doesn’t have any local connection, right away that should be a warning signal that this may not work out.

I’m not saying that any of these things are ironclad. I would hate to do that because then you would get a weird society where everything is very rigid. I’m saying that it is something to look at. Local is sustainable—locally managed, especially.

Point two is that if you are going to work with people who are emotionally involved because the project is in their community, you’d better be egalitarian or democratic. Because they are all going to have ideas and they are not going to let you get away with not being reasonably open; they want a voice, in other words.

People have to have a voice in order to give it their all, and to make it ultimately sustainable. And that could be a voice in the spiritual sense, like in Bali, where they have a terrace system that has produced rice for thousands of years using the same method. It is based on a spiritual schedule of when you can plant, and when you can irrigate. And everyone has agreed on how that works. The community pulls together on it and it works.

I’m not saying it all has to be done in terms of a western democracy, where you would say, “I make a motion to the Chair.” It means that people feel they have a voice in what is going on. When that happens you get a sustainable system that can be stable for generations and generations. On the other hand if you have a hierarchical system with one person being able to tell everybody else what to do and no one having the nerve to speak up, it may not work out. There are exceptions, but by and large it doesn’t.

OK, here is my favorite part. When I first got into this I kept running into the same thing everywhere; whenever I found a sustainable system somewhere, I kept running into this. At first I thought it was a little weird, a little wet, actually but eventually I discovered that it was the heart and soul of this situation. It was a lofty, and positive, and downright idyllic, mission statement. And I would say that Gross National Happiness is a perfect example of that: “We are going to make our people happy,” right?

This is a big word, this is incredible. Many of the speakers have been saying that we want to emphasize that this is not Pollyanna, and we mean this. This is true of every single group I found—whether they were private businesses, NGOs, or simply a bunch of folks getting together. They sat down, and said, “We want all this stuff.” For example, completely landless, uneducated fisherman, who wanted to control their coastline in southern India. Or a small town in Germany that wanted to get completely off the electric grid. Or a few Oregon farmers who wanted to make a long-term living sharing their land with mountain lions and wolves and native plants.

Every single one of these groups has a crazily optimistic mission statement—and they are living their dreams right now. You can read about them in my book. There are one and a half million acres of predator-friendly ranch land in Oregon and Washington right now, producing organic beef. That village in Germany—a community of about 8,000 people—is not only off the grid, it is a major manager of solar wind power sources for the entire country. And the Indian fishermen have control of their coastline.

So what I am saying is: dream big. Elizabeth May, who will be speaking soon, taught me: “If you don’t ask, or aim, for what you want, you can pretty much guarantee that you won’t get it.” So think about what you really want and aim for it. That is the way to get what you want.

One of the key statements from Allan Savory’s wonderful book, Holistic Management, is to remain flexible and humble before the complexities of the world. These can be the complexities of natural systems or of cultural systems. Don’t go stomping in with a brand new idea, thinking that you know everything: “I’m now going to dump fertilizer on this plant. I’m going to tell these people in this community how to live.” Be humble. And when you get what you think is a really wonderful idea remember that Allan Savory’s plans for ranch management have little asterisks beside each suggestion, and if you look at the bottom, it says, “Assume Wrong.”

Keep this in mind even when you do holistic stuff, like setting up chicken tractors to kill bugs. It sounds like a great idea but if it doesn’t work don’t step back and say: “Well, I think I better get more chicken tractors”—as in more fertilizer, more pesticides. This is what we always do, in the normal paradigm of business. Instead, take a moment and think, “Maybe something is wrong with my paradigm: maybe I need to design a different kind of chicken tractor; maybe chicken tractors are inappropriate in this particular ecosystem.” The world is complicated and we aren’t smart enough to figure out every little thing. And sometimes this works very well with traditional communities, because they have worked out over generations the ways of doing things, and if you stomp in to say that you automatically know better, it is not going to be sustainable, quite frankly. So big dreams and humility, both.

We have discovered that most of the people who have developed visionary technologies and methodologies don’t know about each other. And that is one of the reasons we are here today. They don’t know how many people are doing this. When I went out to do this research I actually didn’t think I would find people who had real, sustainable methodologies worked out that weren’t going to fall apart in the crunch. What I discovered was that all these different groups were doing the same kinds of things, but they had never heard of each other. Some people had read books by people like Allan Savory while others had never heard of him, but they were doing the same kind of thing. So these are ideas that are coming from the bottom up; these are ideas whose time has come. This is how socio-cultural change happens. When everyone starts getting the same idea, you know you are on to something. This is what keeps me going: how many people are doing this, but in a lonely way, cut off and not knowing how many other people are doing it.  
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  What I really emphasize is to look at where these ideas are coming from. They should be coming from the bottom up, not the top down. Bottom up means not from governments, not from universities, and—I’m sorry to say—in most cases, not even from environmental NGOs. They come from regular people, local people who are motivated to figure out new ways to do things because they had to. In some cases these are people who are living on the edges of economic stability. I found these solutions in communities of poor or struggling American or Canadian farmers, or just regular people who felt disgusted by eating what typically goes through our food supply, and had figured out ways to not do that. Or people who were opposed to using fossil fuels and devised some way to get off the grid. If the ideas are coming from the bottom up, they are going to last.

This involves working by consensus, not by majority vote. You must wait until your community really understands the issues and really feels good about them, and that means the whole process is going to take time. For example, the city of Freiberg wanted to have a traffic-free core. It took them 10 years to get it. It took them 10 years because they wanted everyone to feel comfortable with the idea. So you have to be patient. I want to remind everybody, what is the hurry? The other problem we have in our society is thinking, “We have to build this factory, or this road, right away.” What is the hurry? Are we going anywhere? Are our children going anywhere on this planet? We have time to think about this stuff; we have time to decide whether it is a good idea or not. We have to stop being in such a hurry to do things.

Finally, always compare short-term gains with long-term effects. I’d like to give one example, the last one; they make the dangers and the advantages clear. Say a small town is being approached to develop its little woodland, and the logging industry wants to chop down the trees to provide, say, a few local jobs, over maybe 20 or 30 years. The town typically will vote to do that: “Oh boy: jobs! Oh boy: bigger tax base!” But if the town has a vision of its future as a clean and happy community, where people can stay for a long time and where kids have places to play, they are going to know right away that that woodland is important. They are going to have a totally different kind of discussion. I have looked at situations where this was true and they have found it quite easy to turn down an industry with a few jobs, when they know who they are and what they want. And that is what we all have to do. We have to do it on a municipal level and get involved with our local government. We have to make sure that they have a vision of the future that matches ours.

See also: Speaking Notes: What is Sustainable and What is Not

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Tuesday Morning Plenary: Pursuing Gross National Happiness, What’s Working
Environmental Preservation
Sanjit Bunker Roy
Sanjit Bunker Roy Ladies and gentlemen: now it can be told. My family saw to it that I received a very expensive education. I went to a very expensive public school called the Dune School. I also went to a college, St. Stephen’s College. I was all set to become a doctor or ambassador or minister or some such thing. Then I decided to go to a village for the first time, in 1965. It changed my life because it was the first time I ever saw poverty face to face.

The education I got was very exclusive, very arrogant—just not in touch with reality. I told my mother one day: “I’d like to go to a village, and I’d like to dig wells, go 100 feet below the ground to try to find water.” That was in 1967. My mother was horrified; she wouldn’t speak to me for six months. She said, “What will the family say? You get the best education in the world and you go dig wells for five years.”

But that is when my education started: living with very poor people with absolutely no resources at all. That is where the idea of the Barefoot College started—with the tremendous knowledge and skills and wisdom of very ordinary people living on less than 50 cents a day. I have tremendous respect for these people.

The Barefoot College is the only college in India for the poor. It was built by the poor and only for the poor. What was the first thing that the Barefoot College reflected of their lifestyle and work style? What the poor said was, “Just don’t get anyone with degrees and qualifications into the college.” They are the biggest threat to development today. As Mark Twain said, “Never let school interfere with your education.”

So I listened to them and my learning process started then. I got only people who were dropouts, cop-outs and wash-outs from villages, very remote, in the middle of nowhere. We built the college together. We changed the whole concept of what is an expert. An expert for us is an ordinary man from another town—someone who has a different vision, someone who is practical, someone who is down to earth.

We had a water diviner in our place. I laughed at this man who said, “You hold the stick.” So I held the stick and I felt very stupid. He said, “Walk,” and I walked. He put his hand on my shoulder. I couldn’t stand up like this. He said, “Bring it down, my child.” I couldn’t bring it down. He said, “Never laugh at things you don’t know.”

So after 34 years I have put in 1,500 hand pumps—which today I think is not the right solution—but in any case, in every site I got the water diviner. Lo and behold, 99 percent of the time he was better than my geophysicist. Why is that? What has he got that we don’t know already? We have traditional midwives today, delivering babies in villages. Regrettably, half of our members of Parliament are still alive today because of them. So they have knowledge and skills today that cannot be laughed at or looked down upon.

The Barefoot College is the only college that collects water from the roofs. It is also the only college which is fully solar-electrified. There are 45 kilowatts of panels on the roof: for the next 25 years we will have no problems with power. All my computers, my telephone exchange, my electronic mail, my photocopy machine—they all work from solar power. The beauty is that this was installed by someone who has only an 8th Standard Pass from a rural village. He fabricated it, he installed it, and he has been repairing and maintaining it since 1990.

If only we listened to people more! If only we listened to what they have to say, if only we had the patience to hear them! All the problems in the rural areas would be solved, I’ll tell you. This is what the Barefoot College has demonstrated: that you really don’t need a paper-qualified doctor, teacher or engineer. You have it all in the village. If only we had the capacity to learn how to communicate, all of our problems would be solved.

So what did we learn from the Barefoot College? We have a network of Barefoot Colleges all over India, 20 Barefoot Colleges all over India. I think we serve in basic minimum needs over a million people in India. So what did we learn?

First, never let an expert come into your organization. We don’t allow anyone from the World Bank, we don’t allow any UN types to come into the organization. Because what do they have that you don’t know already? What do they have apart from the money? They don’t have the humility; they don’t have the patience; they are just so arrogant it is unbelievable. So we don’t allow any of them. That is one of the successes of the Barefoot College.

Second, it is very Gandhian. We live, eat, work on the floor. No one comes to the Barefoot College for the money. They only come for the challenge and for the job satisfaction. No one in the Barefoot College can get more than $100 a month, ever. Not even me. They come for the work, the challenge, and the interaction with communities today.

So what is our concept of happiness? If you can get two square meals a day to a person who is hungry, that is his concept of happiness. If you can arrange that women walk less than two kilometres a day for drinking water, and get water access right there, that is their concept of happiness—for them, not for you and me—because it is so simple. We take everything for granted. But for them it is. If we can make sure that the babies survive, that is their concept of happiness.

How do you make that happen, how do you facilitate that? How do you make sure that it is possible? How do you make happiness into a partnership? How do you make sure that the community lives with you, and you live and work and learn—and unlearn—together? This is the concept of happiness to me.

So what do we do in the Barefoot College? We decentralize. We decentralize right down to the household level. And where it is possible to control, manage and own any processes at the village level, I think we are moving towards a concept of happiness, where there is a partnership involved. That is the first: decentralize.

The second is demystify. How do you demystify the most sophisticated of technologies for semi-literate, illiterate men and women? Today, all along the Himalayas from Ladakh to Sikkim, 300 villages have been solar-electrified by people who are all semi-literate or illiterate, but who are all staying in the village, with roots in the village. And, incidentally, there happens to be a solar engineer who is illiterate but still looks after repairs.

So decentralizing and demystifying, I think is the key to happiness, as far as the villages are concerned. Mahatma Gandhi was once asked, “What do you think of western civilization?” He thought for a moment, and said, “It’s a good idea.”

We have traditional societies in India, which are so old, so respected, and we have turned our backs to them. It is time to revive them and turn to those people who have the knowledge and skills to be able to bring development with self-respect, to bring development with dignity. I think this is the way forward.

We have today put a challenge to the global community. We said in six months, you give us any dropout, cop-out, wash-out man or woman, from any village in India, or in the world, and we will make him or her into a barefoot solar engineer. We have done it in Ethiopia, we have done it in Sierra Leone, we have done it in Afghanistan, and we hope to do it in Bhutan one day. It is possible for any person.

To sum up: Gandhi said, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you...and then you win.” Thank you.

Keith Stoodley Thank you. Our next speaker is Elizabeth May. Elizabeth is the Executive Director of the Sierra Club of Canada and a recipient of the UN Environment Programme Global 500 Award. Her work for the environment was recognized by the establishment of the Elizabeth May Chair in Women’s Health and Environment at Dalhousie University. I should also note that Elizabeth is a former member and vice-chair of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy.

Tuesday Morning Plenary: Pursuing Gross National Happiness, What’s Working
Good Governance and Engaged Citizenship
Elizabeth May
Elizabeth May I can’t start without thanking Ron and Gwen and Dahlia Colman. I think Ron knows a few things about happiness and I’m glad he pulled us all together to work on it.

I have also been inspired by someone I have never met, but have read about, to start by labeling myself—because I think that some of us in the Christian left need to speak out since it seems like the only time you see the word “Christian” in the newspapers is when it’s describing someone who drowned all his children because he thought they had the devil in them. So sometimes I need to say out loud: I am a radical, vegetarian, Christian, eco-feminist mother. That is what I think defines me.

Also, in terms of good governance and active citizenship, I am fundamentally rooted in a belief in democracy. I always have been. I grew up in the United States with a mother who worshipped Franklin Delano Roosevelt. And I grew up in a household that was very engaged in the peace movement and believed in the founding fathers and the American Revolution—we sort of idealized all of that.

I grew up in that culture and then I moved to Canada when I was 18. My parents moved us to Margaree, which I reference specifically because I ended up living not far from the places touched by the work of Monsignor Moses Coady and Father Jimmy Tompkins. I think their work today is all we need to know.

Let me go on from there to say that when I grew up, I found it very striking that the US constitution and the Canadian constitution are so very different in what they frame as our societal purpose. Let’s face it, it’s the US constitution, that says our goals are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. When I moved here I thought how wonderful Canada was: we had such boring goals, but they were so nice: peace, order and good government. Hardly lofty stuff but sometimes it’s a whole lot better to be a boring country.

Elizabeth May What has happened to that pursuit of happiness in the United States; how did it go wrong? It is worth knowing where it went wrong: it was misinterpreted. Happiness was translated as meaning material wealth: the more you have, the happier you are. This is a big, fat lie, but of course it never disproves itself because if you are not happy, even though you have lots of stuff, you just don’t have enough yet. So the model of: “He who dies with the most toys wins,” is very hard to disprove—it’s hard to interview them afterwards, at least from here.

So happiness became equal to shopping. The motto of my mother’s depression era childhood—“waste not, want not”—was replaced in my childhood and my daughter’s childhood by “shop till you drop.” This is driving the Gross National Product. The entire economic enterprise is founded on a false notion of happiness that tells us “consume, waste, consume, waste—and do it as fast as you can.” That’s what is driving the issues. The only thing I disagree with Holly about is that sometimes we have to do things fast. We have to get off fossil fuels fast, because we are destroying our planet by consuming them.

However, rather than rant on about what is wrong, my job is to talk about what are the elements of good governance and active citizenship that could lead us to the kind of society that we want. In thinking about that I feel that a key aspect of wellbeing is a sense of control over your life—self determination, in other words.

People who are powerless do not feel happy. If you are in an oppressed society it is very hard to experience wellbeing. Powerlessness is not conducive to a healthy democracy. So I endorse principles of intentional citizenship. I go around the country giving activist training workshops. The word “activist” has somehow been demonized in our society. We are supposed to sleep until the election comes around; we are then supposed to wake up vaguely in order to vote. But we need to be active citizens all the time, or people get away with murder—sometimes literally.

Now activist training in a functional democracy is pretty easy. When I think of what my friends do...we heard earlier, when we were talking about Kenya, about the horrible era of the Moi government. Wangari Maathai is a friend of mine. I think of her in the jails of Daniel arap Moi, when she was fighting that highrise in Nairobi. But she just persevered and persevered. I look at Oranto Douglas, who lived through the Abacha regime in Nigeria, or Wangari Kenya, and I say to Canadians: “What are you waiting for? They are not going to put us in jail. It may be a career-limiting move, but get with the program. You are not going to be killed here.”

There is no excuse for being lazy in a democracy when you have the kind of comforts we do as activists in Canada. A functional democracy means—and these are the skills I teach people—how to talk to politicians; how to make your case; how to work the system. It is very, very susceptible to being moved; although forgive me for noting that we are in a province where—rated on a scale of one to ten—the Hamm government’s responsiveness to environmental concerns is minus eight. However, we can get organized, and we can change even John Hamm.

Let me go to what a functional democracy in a sustainable society would look like. Sustainable societies need to be grounded in some values. And those values need to be, as I said, those of Moses Coady and Jimmy Tompkins: they need to be about community; they need to be about cooperation; they need to be about sharing. They need to be much more about the common good than private profit.

These, in essence, are the kind of principles that used to exist. This is why my mother worshipped FDR: these values underpinned the New Deal. This was what a society was supposed to be. People said: “We’ll pay higher taxes so that our children are better educated.” Where did this current panic about how we have to keep reducing taxes come from? We know where it came from: it came from a corporate world that wants to privatize everything, so that social services are eroded to the point where nothing works. And they say, “Bring it on, we’ll take private any day.”

So we need to focus very much on sharing. Happiness is not about self-gratification. Real happiness always comes more from sharing. Real happiness is love. Thank you.

Keith Stoodley Thank you very much, Elizabeth. Our final speaker for this morning’s session is Krishna Kumar. Mr. Kumar is a founding member of one of India’s largest voluntary agencies, Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samithi, which provides academic support for literacy and continuing education. He is also on the executive committee of India’s National Literacy Mission.

Tuesday Morning Plenary: Pursuing Gross National Happiness, What’s Working
Good Governance and Engaged Citizenship
Krishna Kumar
Krishna Kumar Thank you my dear friends. Greetings from Kerala, India, to all of you who have greater faith in happiness than in money power and muscle power.

Come with me for a minute to Kerala, the southwestern tip of India. If Columbus had not missed his route he would probably still be there. Vasco da Gama made it in 1498, but that is a different story.

Kerala is a very small state, with low per capita income and maybe, in other terms, a high per capita of happiness. This has been a mystery. People have been discussing the many aspects to that. I will not go into all of it. I will quickly go into my own personal experiences, which I don’t want to glorify, but at the same time, may be interesting to discuss.

I will quickly give you some scenarios. We have something like 8,000 rural libraries in our state. People read. The library network system is growing. It is not government-instituted libraries. It is something that government supports, but people build them. Every library has people who are elected by the local community, but government supports them. People clamour for support and government has to give it; a certain kind of partnership has developed.

We have about 92 percent literacy, which is far above other parts of India. This again was the result of a very massive campaign involving a very large number of volunteers—millions of them. And they did it voluntarily. We called for “patriotic literacy,” not “paid-for literacy.” We used to go to the villages and talk to the volunteers; and at that time all the literacy programs were on the basis of payment. We used to discuss it like this: “If your mother is ill, and you want to provide medicine for her, will you take money for that?” No! So this is something like that. It caught on very easily.

We used cultural programs to talk to the villagers: we used songs, and danced with them; all sorts of cultural programs, all over. We talked about literacy and also about linkages between literacy and various aspects of life. People started coming in. In a big way, they participated.

That is the key word: participation—very creative participation. From the moment people started participating, the entire movement changed completely, and government started supporting it. Government had to support it: they can’t just keep apart because it is a democratic system, and Kerala is famous for electing the first communist government probably in the world. But we did not get stuck with that. We changed them, we re-elected them. So it is a complete kind of option. Even now we have a left/right system—sometimes it is left, sometimes it is right; and it goes on: left, right, left, right.

Looking at the our library system and, of course, our schools and our health system, it is apparent that there are three fundamental aspects to the Kerala model. One is education. Education has played a very important role. Sometimes it has been education by civil society movements; sometimes formal education; sometimes it is informal education through various agencies; sometimes cultural education through traditional groups; and so on and so on. Different types of education and participation. The education has been changing and deepening the quality of participation. I think that how you develop the qualitative aspects of creative participation is very important.

We have conducted a major experiment in participatory planning. We had been talking about decentralization for quite some time. During the last 10 years we were able to implement that: decentralization of governance to local authorities. We have about one thousand Panchayats, local administrations, and political power has been de-centralized to these local governments. The central government was willing to share; our state government was able to go further.

Forty percent of the budget was entrusted to the local government: a major step. Once this was done, people started interacting. Once they had power—economic and also administrative—they started doing it very creatively. The development for them became a festival. We had festivals of development. Festival is the highest form of participation. When you come together with people to celebrate, it comes from your inside. When development and education becomes a people’s movement, it becomes a festival.

So government had to participate in partnership with us. Governments cannot stand aloof and say, “No.” This is not the kind of government that we want. Still, it is not always positive. We also quarrel a lot with the government. We had to quarrel to conserve one of the most important rain forests in our state. The government did not understand. They were telling us: “Who are you to say that it should be conserved; we have the expertise, and we will decide.” We said, “No.” And we stood up and challenged the experts. That was the beginning of a wonderful environmental movement, which is still going on.

So we have not solved all the problems. It is not a question of solving all the problems. It is always about developing the capability to challenge. You are challenging yourself and also challenging what is around—through education, participation and lots of public action.

As I said, we quarrel a lot. Right now there are three very important things going on in our state. One is action against a big multinational company. They have gone into villages to refill their bottles, using the poor villages’ water. So we are challenging them. The small local government is challenging them. Just before I left for this conference, they denied a permit to Pepsi-Cola.

There are companies that have come down to mine our rich mineral sand, but due to its environmental implications, people are stopping here. The government is against us. So sometimes it is not a positive partnership; there is tension; there are challenges. The basic point is that it’s not somebody leading the other; it is a partnership, trying to do things together.

What we have learned is that it is not a matter of developing the people; it is people developing themselves. Allow them to do that. They have the creativity and capability to do that; allow them to do that. This is precisely the crux of it, which deepens democracy. This is the essence of the Kerala experience. It is possible. It is not always about money or GDP.

Happiness, of course, comes out of all of this. Happiness is also localized. It is not something general. You cannot define happiness for the entire universe.
We have challenges, all kinds of challenges. But one thing we are optimistic about is our strength to move on. We are absolutely optimistic and we can infect you with optimism. Thank you.

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Good Governance and Engaged Citizenship ~ A View from Kerala
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