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Sustainability and Well-Being: A Happy Synergy

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  • Christopher Barrington-Leigh

Abstract

Abstract The new science of ‘happiness’ is revolutionizing our ability to measure social progress. Factors such as meaningful relationships and a sense of purpose and belonging have been shown to be essential to human well-being; indeed, they contribute even more than income. The happiest societies foster dignity for all, in part through robust investment in public goods and a holistic approach to education. This converging body of research indicates that well-being and ecological sustainability, goals sometimes viewed as contradictory, are in fact complementary. Emphasizing social drivers of well-being counters the conventional focus on economic growth and fosters the pro-social attitudes and behaviors necessary to live in better balance with nature. Fortuitously, recent technological innovations that make knowledge and productive capacity widely available at little cost and promote creative and collaborative activity could facilitate a transition to a world of reduced environmental stress and enhanced human well-being. An affirmative vision of a future both resilient and fulfilling, rather one of dour work and sacrifice, should guide our way.

Suggested Citation

  • Christopher Barrington-Leigh, 2016. "Sustainability and Well-Being: A Happy Synergy," Development, Palgrave Macmillan;Society for International Deveopment, vol. 59(3), pages 292-298, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:pal:develp:v:59:y:2016:i:3:d:10.1057_s41301-017-0113-x
    DOI: 10.1057/s41301-017-0113-x
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2008. "Economic Growth and Subjective Well-Being: Reassessing the Easterlin Paradox," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 39(1 (Spring), pages 1-102.
    2. John F. Helliwell & Christopher P. Barrington-Leigh, 2010. "Viewpoint: Measuring and understanding subjective well-being," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 43(3), pages 729-753, August.
    3. Kingdon, Geeta Gandhi & Knight, John, 2007. "Community, comparisons and subjective well-being in a divided society," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 64(1), pages 69-90, September.
    4. Carrie Exton & Conal Smith & Damien Vandendriessche, 2015. "Comparing Happiness across the World: Does Culture Matter?," OECD Statistics Working Papers 2015/4, OECD Publishing.
    5. Andrew E. Clark & Paul Frijters & Michael A. Shields, 2008. "Relative Income, Happiness, and Utility: An Explanation for the Easterlin Paradox and Other Puzzles," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 46(1), pages 95-144, March.
    6. George A. Akerlof & Robert J. Shiller, 2015. "Phishing for Phools: The Economics of Manipulation and Deception," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 10534.
    7. John F. Helliwell & Christopher P. Barrington-Leigh, 2010. "Measuring and Understanding Subjective Well-Being," NBER Working Papers 15887, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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