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Avoiding the Limits to Growth: Gross National Happiness in Bhutan as a Model for Sustainable Development

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  • Jeremy S. Brooks

    () (School of Environment and Natural Resources, The Ohio State University, 210 Kottman Hall, 2021 Coffey Rd. Columbus, OH 43210, USA)

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Jeremy S. Brooks, 2013. "Avoiding the Limits to Growth: Gross National Happiness in Bhutan as a Model for Sustainable Development," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 5(9), pages 1-25, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:5:y:2013:i:9:p:3640-3664:d:28257
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Graham M Turner, 2008. "A Comparison of the Limits to Growth with Thirty Years of Reality," Socio-Economics and the Environment in Discussion (SEED) Working Paper Series 2008-09, CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems.
    2. Offer, Avner, 2007. "The Challenge of Affluence: Self-Control and Well-Being in the United States and Britain since 1950," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199216628.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Angelica-Nicoleta NECULĂESEI, 2015. "About Welfare In Cultural Context," SEA - Practical Application of Science, Fundația Română pentru Inteligența Afacerii, Editorial Department, issue 7, pages 407-414, April.
    2. Pin-Chih Wang & Yuh-Ming Lee & Chiu-Yang Chen, 2014. "Estimation of Resource Productivity and Efficiency: An Extended Evaluation of Sustainability Related to Material Flow," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 6(9), pages 1-18, September.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    limits to growth; sustainability; sustainable development; Buddhism; social norms; well-being; sustainability indicators; economic growth;

    JEL classification:

    • Q - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics
    • Q0 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General
    • Q2 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q3 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products

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