|Helena Norberg-Hodge in Ladakh
The Economics of Happiness is a film directed by Helena Norberg-Hodge, Steven Gorelick and John Page for the International Society for Ecology and Culture.
The film begins in Ladakh (NW India, sometimes called “Little Tibet”) where Norberg-Hodge has spent a lot of time since 1975, most of that attempting to understand and explain what is happening in the world in ecological, economic and cultural ways. The film has two parts. Part 1 talks about the problems that globalisation has brought to the world: urbanisation with its attendant slums and urban sprawl, trading stupidity (whereby one country may export a commodity, only to import roughly the equivalent amount of the same commodity), theft of land from poor and peasant farmers, meanwhile being a significant driver of climate change.
Norberg-Hodge as the narrator interviews a number of commentators from all parts of the world; from Brazil to Japan, Thailand to the US, India, South Africa, Bhutan, the UK, Tibet and Peru. Many have damning condemnations of the effects of globalisation. Vandana Shiva, for example, speaks of the hundreds of thousands of suicides by peasant farmers in India.
The directors suggest that humanity is facing three major crises: an ecological crisis, an economic crisis and a crisis of the human spirit. The film asks us to “connect the dots” and to realise that these three crises are interconnected.
All is not gloom and doom in the film though. Part 1 segues easily into Part 2 which provides some solutions. Many of the examples given remind us that the solutions are in our own backyard, and at our front doorstep.
A local market, for example, not only provides fresh local produce, reducing transportation waste and allowing local growers to earn a living, but a local market also stimulates conversations hundreds of times more often than does a supermarket.
The film introduces us to one of the largest movements in the world – La Via Compesina (International Peasants Movement). La Via Compesina is made up of 150 local and national organisations in 70 countries, representing around 200 million farmers worldwide.
The Economics of Happiness has been criticised for not presenting the “other side.” When one realises the weight of media presenting the benefits of globalisation then that criticism is nothing short of a chimera. This is exactly the sort of film that needs to be made, that needs to be shown and needs to be seen.
The film may start in Ladakh, but it ends very squarely in our own hearts and minds.