Maddy Harland | Wednesday, 27th April 2011
An inspiring film that explains how we can create a new economic model for the well-being of people as well as the planet.
Author: Helena Norberg-Hodge, Steven Gorelick & John Page
Publisher: ISEC
Publication year: 2011
RRP: £16.95

The Economics of Happiness portrays a world moving simultaneously in two opposing directions. On the one hand, government and big business continue to promote globalisation and the consolidation of corporate power whilst all around the world people are resisting those policies, and demanding a re-regulation of trade and finance. They are also starting to create a very different future. Communities are coming together to re-build more human scale, ecological economies based on a new paradigm – an economics of localisation.

If you think localisation is just about shopping locally you need to think again. It is a movement that campaign against the unfair strangeholds corporates hold over financial markets and resources. It calls for a decentralised energy system based on renewables and advocates producing what we need closer to home and shortening supply chains but it does advocate restricting trade. Our capacity as humans to trade across oceans is an ancient as our ability to build boats and harness wagons.

Vandana Shiva stresses the importance of sustainable agriculture. She says that removing people from the land is the root cause of unemployment, while local food systems increase self-reliance and reduce poverty, and ecological agriculture is capable of producing 3-5 times more food than industrial monocultures. Critically, the film urges us to positively engage with these issues, saying that individual action is not enough to 'make a difference'. We all have to campaign for the re-regulation of trade and finance and a shift away from globalised industry that is currently controlling us all.

"What's so wonderful about localisation is that there is a path that transcends what most people believe are the only options: communism, socialism or capitalism," Helena says. "... I don't think the bigger links are made clear – between speculative investment and large-scale corporate concentration and how that, in turn, lies behind not just global warming and waste and toxic pollution, but unemployment, loneliness and so on..."

Featuring interviews with thinkers and activists from every continent, this really is an excellent film, an intellectual tour de force that presents a subtle and complex subject with ease. I would urge all permaculturists and transitioners to watch this film and reframe economics. We have to escape the mindset that GDP is the fiscal Holy Grail. It is impossible to sustain life on this planet based on endless industrial growth and the sooner we redesign our economic lives the better.