Bhutan sits on the eastern ridges of the Himalayas, between China and India, and is considered the happiest country in Asia. It is also one of the poorest. Progress in the country is not measured by a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – instead, the Bhutanese government puts an emphasis on a Gross National Happiness (GNH) index.
For most people in the country, however, GNH is encapsulated by a sense that happiness is important, and money isn’t everything.
The four pillars of the country’s Gross National Happiness philosophy include the following:
- Good governance
- Sustainable socio-economic development
- Cultural preservation
- Environmental conservation
Conservation is a way of life, and it is enforced through policy and strong leadership.
Bhutan is the first country to set constitutional obligations on its people to protect the environment. In 1969 the Bhutan government passed the Forest Act which declared that all forests are to be managed by the government and allows for no private rights. It was also declared that 60% of the land will remain under forest cover. Logging exports were also banned in 1999.
About 70% of its 14,800 square miles is covered in forest which removes three times as much CO2 as the country produces.
Conservation goes beyond the trees. It is also strictly illegal to kill or trap any wild animals. The county’s forests are connected by green ways that give animals easy access to all regions and elevations.
Set in a region of high mountains and plentiful rivers, the country is run mostly on clean hydropower, and sells its excess to India, to fund it growing economy.
The Kingdom of Bhutan is the only carbon negative country in the world due to its strong commitment to the Gross National Happiness philosophy. It may be a small and developing country with less than 800,000 people, but they have developed amazing environmental goals that the rest of us should learn from.