I was excited to be trundling off to Washington DC again participating in the Organic Trade Association’s (OTA) Policy Conference and Hill Visit Days at the end of May. As president of the board of the OTA, one of my responsibilities was to give the opening welcome address. I thought it prudent that I brush up on the guests of honor to understand the tenor and tone of the event. My heart was singing when I read that Kesang Tshomo, Bhutan’s National Organic Program Coordinator, was attending to share her nation’s commitment to organic agriculture. In fact the Kingdom of Bhutan is committed to measuring and thereby increasing Gross National Happiness as part of their strategic development plan. Converting 100% of their agriculture to organic production is one path to insure pleasure, plenitude and prosperity for their people and terrain. I was so delighted just hearing about the plan. It was like a bell going off inside me. Organic = Happiness!
The Kingdom of Bhutan is the only country in the world that supports a policy of “Gross National Happiness”. Nestled in the Himalayan foothills, this ancient culture has a rich history and embraces future economic development while promoting the greater good, wellbeing and happiness of all people. Instead of measuring gross domestic product (GDP), which is an old system of measurement, gross national happiness takes into account indicators that measure quality of life, social progress and growth in more holistic terms. As one article in Nation of Change put it, “What this comes down to is no GMO, no pesticides, no herbicides, no fluoride-based spray products, no Monsanto intrusion at all, and a whole lot of high quality food available for the 700,000 citizens of Bhutan. Food at one time was simply called ‘food’.” The Kingdoms’ organic coordinator had come halfway around the world to explain how this design of gross national happiness is translated through organic agriculture.
I too feel the bliss of organic food. When I hear the dinner bell and its ringing with delicious and nutritious organic cuisine I get ridiculously happy, ecstatic, in fact, thinking about the delectable morsels that will soon be crossing my palate. In addition to the taste and flavor, there are hidden benefits that will make all participants happy as I eat my organic fare. They may be hidden, but they are certainly there. I only have to put myself in a 100% organic Bhutanese world to imagine the happiness benefits that exist.
If I were a naturalist, I would be happy to know that the fish and frogs of the streams would be frolicking in clean water unpolluted by chemical herbicides and pesticides. I could envision the milkweed and honeybee habitat growing back with the pollinators returning in blissful abundance.
If I were a scientist I would be thrilled to be working on organic research to find improved methods for organic farming. I would become elated to be focusing on science that is in harmony with nature, promoting ecological balance and conserving biodiversity.
I think the organic chicken or steer being grown for human consumption must lead a happier existence with animal welfare regulations firmly in place. I can’t help but think a content animal means a more delightful culinary experience knowing the animal has been able to live as it was intended.
If I were a mother concerned about climate change I would be overjoyed to know that organic agriculture has been proven to assist in carbon sequestration, (which is a big word for capturing those nasty gases causing all our climate troubles). Since conventional agriculture is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gases, switching to 100% organic agriculture will bring joyful hope that the effects of these changes can be mitigated.
If I were a grandparent I would be thrilled at the prospect of leaving this planet a better place for my grandchildren and their grandchildren, a planet healthier, more fertile and in balance.
For the time being, I can only put myself in the shoes of those lucky Bhutanese and imagine their euphoria. I must be content to take my pleasure in the work that I do fostering and growing organic agriculture right here. I find additional bliss in the organic meals that I create and share. Nothing makes me more satisfied than a delectable and scrumptious organic meal served forth with friends and family.
Can you imagine a world where instead of gross domestic product we measured gross national happiness? What would that world look like? Let’s share the happiness.
Here is a picture of Kesang Tshomo speaking at the OTA Policy Conference. Read more here.