The Kingdom of Bhutan is the Kingdom of Green. While most countries are struggling to reduce their carbon emissions, Bhutan is carbon negative, which means that it absorbs more greenhouse gases from the atmosphere than it emits- according to reports, nearly three times. In fact, it is the only carbon negative country in the world.

 

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Image via Bookmundi

Its low population (about 750,000) and the fact that it’s mostly undeveloped gives the country a big advantage. Most of Bhutan’s population works in agriculture or forestry, so it’s definitely not your typical industrialized country.

While most countries don’t enjoy Bhutan’s advantages, it could also be said that most countries are simply not trying hard enough. For instance, Bhutan is the only country in the world that talks about the environment in its constitution. Bhutan’s constitution states that at least 60% of the country’s total landmass must be covered by forests. The country’s priorities are different, definite, and importantly, enshrined in law, which means that unsustainable development or environmental damage aren’t just ethically wrong, they’re literally illegal. Not a bad tactic, and one that requires gumption. In a world that fetishizes development, Bhutan is (literally) a breath of fresh air.

India has a tougher challenge than most countries because not only does it have an insanely high population (in excess of 1 billion), but also, its development is uneven, a devastating combination of mid-to-high unsustainability and rural underdevelopment. If more of us consciously make efforts to go green, if more of us at least make going green a priority, then at least we’ll increase the odds of successfully tackling global warming.

Gross National Happiness > Gross Domestic Product

While most countries worry about their GDP (Gross Domestic Product), Bhutan measures progress through GNH (Gross National Happiness). The four pillars of GNH are good governance, sustainable development, conservation of natural environment, and the preservation and promotion of cultural values. Bhutan understands that a healthy environment plays a huge role in making people happy. To improve their GNH, Bhutan took the remarkable step of banning the sale and production of cigarettes in 2010.

It’s common knowledge that smoking is bad for health, but it’s also bad for the environment. The manufacturing process itself generates huge amounts of harmful chemical pesticides – which are highly toxic to plants and animals and can seep into waterways and poison the soil for years.

Banning cigarettes in India is probably a long shot, although it might not be such a bad idea given that over half a million children between the ages of 10 to 14 smoke cigarettes every day (to say nothing of the adults). And anti-smoking ads, realistic and painful though they are, just… don’t work. We as a country should focus a little more on Gross National Happiness and make the environment a vital part of that measure. Perhaps it’s time we recognized the difference between ‘standard of living’ and ‘quality of life’.

So yes, Bhutan might have a couple of advantages, but it’s important to realize that they’re leveraging them better by simply holding themselves to different standards than the rest of the world.

Posted by Rohan

Rohan Parekh is a writer that is passionate about writing on sustainability because he believes that the world needs to wake up and smell the coffee when it comes to climate change.

One Comment

  1. […] time to shift our collective business approach: as we said elsewhere: there is a huge difference between standard of living and quality of life, and we need to choose […]

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