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May 11, 2021

Economics of Happiness: Byron to Bangalore

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Co-organiser Helena Norberg-Hodge at the third Economics of Happiness Conference in Bangalore, India. Photo Edu Cavalcanti
Co-organiser Helena Norberg-Hodge at the third Economics of Happiness Conference in Bangalore, India. Photo Edu Cavalcanti

Anita Martins

The impact of globalisation on our everyday lives and the urgency of a shift to localisation brought about a thousand people from all over the world together at the third Economics of Happiness Conference in Bangalore, India, from March 14 to 17.

The message coming from over 20 international delegates made it clear that the control of governments by corporations is a common problem and that political and economic decentralisation is a common goal.

‘Through trade treaties such as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), companies pressure politicians to give them cheap labour, subsidies and tax breaks as well as the most modern infrastructure,’ director of ISEC and producer of the documentary Economics of Happiness, Helena Norberg-Hodge, said in her keynote address.

‘And they threaten to leave the country if their demands are not met. I don’t know any government that is not falling for it.’


Camila Moreno, who has been working with social movements in Latin America for the past 15 years, reported that ‘In Brazil, political parties are embracing a new “green” economy, which is nothing more than corporate greenwash’.

However, the mood of the conference was that this situation is beginning to change. One of the delegates was Carlo Sibilia, a member of the Italian parliament.

He represents the Five Star Movement, which started with two people in 2006 and achieved nine million votes in the last election. Sibilia plans to present the conference ideas to his fellow MPs.

It became clear during the course of the conference that the consequences of globalisation are the same everywhere: increasing competition for scarce jobs, the lowering of wages and benefits, the destruction of cultural diversity and biodiversity, the death of local knowledge systems that have worked for millennia, and the transformation of citizens into consumers.

Dedicated to their slavery

The former prime minister of Tibet, Ven Samdhong Rinpoche, said, ‘Localisation is absolutely necessary’.

He pointed to imbalances caused by this economic system, such as forgetting the need for community and paying too much attention to the individual, as well as putting spirituality and morality aside while focusing on materialism.

As a provocative example of the results of development at any cost, the Indian scholar and environmentalist Claude Alvares mentioned Bangalore itself. ‘This used to be a garden city. Now it’s a slave camp. People don’t smile. They go around in metal boxes. Everyone is rushing to do I don’t know what, but very dedicated to their slavery.’

The one single No to corporate globalisation was accompanied by many Yeses.

A diversity of inspiring initiatives was highlighted – in local food, sustainable farming, community-managed forests and water, decentralised energy, traditional knowledge systems, alternative education and village-level direct democracy.

Global alliance

There were two main purposes of the conference: to link up all these initiatives within India and to connect them to an emerging worldwide movement. ‘I see an urgent need to create an international alliance for localisation, to resist corporate power and rebuild more human-scale and ecological economies,’ Helena Norberg-Hodge said. ‘The wonderful thing is that as people come together to localise their economies, they reconnect with each other and the natural world, and this reconnection is fundamental to genuine wellbeing. This is the essence of what I call the economics of happiness.’

Last year’s gathering was held in Byron Bay, where Helena lives.

And Byron Shire was mentioned many times in Bangalore as an inspiring example of strong community and a strong local economy.

The next Economics of Happiness Conference will take place in October of this year in Portland, Oregon (USA). The event was organised by the Byron-based International Society for Ecology and Culture (ISEC), with the support of the Indian educational institutions Bhoomi College and Shikshantar.

For more information visit www.theeconomicsofhappiness.org.

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