Sunday, June 14, 2009

Progress and Values

What is progress? What are values? How to measure the well being of a nation? Of a person? The book Rural Renaissance by John Ivanko and Lisa Kivirist pointed something out that is quite obvious. We have heard it before, but it was nice for me to have it repeated again so that my mind is refreshed on this issue.

What's the goal of life? The goal of a nation? What should we look at, focus on: development, growth, progress, quality of life, health, sustainability, ...?

Politicians, financial markets and industry seem to focus only on one thing: Growth. And how is it measured? With the GNP. But what measures the GNP? Money spent. Terrorism is good for the GNP. Because that causes lots of spending on the war on terrorism. Plain war is great for the GNP. Bombs are expensive and billions are spent. Natural disasters are great for the GNP because the recovery operations of floods, tornadoes all cost money. Running out of safe ground water is great for the GNP because people are forced to buy expensive treated water. A high cancer rate is great for the GNP because that requires expensive medical treatment. And the list goes on and on. Nearly anything that is bad for us drives the GNP up: oil spills, high divorce rate, high crime rate, human made disasters, ...

Is GNP the right index to measure the health of an economy, a nation? I don't think so. Still, all politicians tell us that we are doing great if the GNP is raising. Such short-sightedness.

Robert Kennedy in 1968 said: "The gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures … neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything except that which makes life worthwhile."

Since the politicians don't create a new index to measure true human progress towards a more fulfilling sustainable life, it is up to us as individuals to create our personal quality-of-life index.

Look at Redefining Progress where you can find sustainability indicators, genuine progress indicators and more.

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