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Posted on on September 15th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

H.E. Mr. Jigmi Y. Thinley, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Bhutan, will speak on the first day of the debate of the High-level Plenary Meeting of the UN General Assembly 65th Session, Monday September 20, 2010. In the provisional List of speakers for the morning he is number 17.

He will propose the inclusion of a ninth Millennium Development Goal (MDG 9) – that introduces the concept of GROSS NATIONAL HAPPINESS as a UN Development standard.

We learned the above listening to his presentation today, Wednesday, September 15, 2010, before an assembly at the Columbia University – as first speaker in the new academic year’s Columbia University World Leaders in a series of a dozen Presidents and Prime Ministers that will be speaking at the Low Library Rotunda.

Bhutan has at least three great friends at Columbia University – President Lee C. Bollinger, Professor Jeffrey Sachs, and Professor Joe Stiglitz. the Prime Minister was introduced by the University President, and later shared the podium with Professor Sachs.
At this latter stage the news came out about next week’s activity at the UN and Mr. Thinley said that he is doing this upon the suggestion of Professor Sachs.

The 65th Session of The UN General Assembly was started officially yesterday, September 14, 2010, when the incoming President of the UN General Assembly, H.E. Mr. Joseph Deiss from Switzerland, took over from the outgoing President Dr. Ali Abdussalam Treki of Libya.

Mr. Deiss said that his three highest priorities for the UNGA Session are: (1) to make sure that the MDGs are achieved, (2) to reinstate the UN and the GA at the centre of global governance, and (3) to promote sustainable development.

Mr. Thinley said that it is upon the World’s leaders to look at the nature of leadership and reconsider the balance between a happy life and a happy economy in the sense of a sustainable way of life – leaders must be able to rise above ideological and economic fault lines, he said. Coming from the Himalayas of Hindu and Buddhist cultures he realizes that “compassion, knowledge and strength” are the three qualities of a leader and that separately these qualities have little value – the leader must possess all three of them in order to do good. Reasoning must be moderated by compassion. One could say that this kind of leadership could go well with Mr. Deiss’ priorities and effectively link them into some sort of whole when targeting the MDGs towards SUSTAINABILITY.

Mr. Thinley proceeded to line up a series of 5 points:

(1) There is a population explosion but with modernization there is also a breakdown of the extended family that was the corner stone of society. as such there must be a revitalization of communities in order to avoid the environment where aging comes with being afraid of loneliness.

(2) The rate of biodiversity loss was accelerated – both on surface and in water. This because of monocultures, desertification, emissions … – losing biodiversity we are destroying the base of sustenance. We are directed to mutually assured destruction. He sees a foolish resistance to knowledge based society.

(3) The dependence on fossil fuels leads to crop failures and rural farmers are driven to suicide. He sees a lack of media attention that is a sign of this self-destruction. Investment of 1% of global GDP in new technology is now the minimum requirement to deal with this problem. He continued by saying that we must reduce wasteful consumption to live better with less. This is not just possible but positive. COULD WE NOT MAKE SUSTAINABLE LIFE HONORABLE he asked? MANY IN NEW YORK WALK – CAN WE NOT MAKE THIS FASHIONABLE? Working on economics of climate change has to be made acceptable – a variety of market and non-market technologies are possible.

(4) The relentless growth of the weapons industry – the expansion of arms for security creates insecurity, he said. He continued – “From the old knowledge of security we must move to disarmament for security.” “There are non-military ways of non-violence.”

(5) Intensification of health care has led to prolongation of life and it has changed into prolongation of loneliness so people are too afraid to die and too afraid to wake up to suffering. Quality of life is determined by the structure of society – so it is a structural problem.

Successful living is not just consuming and saving for old age. There are needs to restructure our work-week of 5 days with more leisure time for everyone. He also says that people should be allowed to continue to work beyond retirement age – and remember – this is an interdependent world.

The Prime Minister also said that FREEDOM IS A MAIN INGREDIENT OF HAPPINESS. An emerging democracy has an irreversible free media. Freedom of expression is a must. Bhutan has change from the previous monarchy system to a constitutional democracy and in 2008 Mr. Thinley became the first elected Prime Minister. In Buddhism the King is a Dharma King as in the teachings of the Dalai Lama and that is the link of Buddhism and GNH – to which Professor Sachs noted that when the United States were created it also incorporated the notion of “THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS” so the GNH should in principle not be far from Americans understanding of these societal ideals.

for previous postings on Bhutan please see:…

for previous postings on Gross National Happiness:

And we are anxious to see what the UN General Assembly will do with the GNH proposal from Bhutan.
To us it is obvious GNH should not be tried just on the poor countries – this is actually a concept that would be easiest implemented in the rich industrialized countries.


Posted on on August 20th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

August 19, 2010, before the UN started its meetings, the Asia Society in New York opened the discussion on the Pakistan Flood response by diving right to the bottom truth – the latest mega-disasters have one common cause – human induced climate change. It was Financier George Soros who injected the topic and the media was allowed by Ambassador Holbrooke to follow up. See what you can do when you go outside the UN!

Ambassador Dr. Richard C. Holbrooke, former Chairman of the Board of the Asia Society, and now US Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan,  chaired the 8:30 am event at his New York home – the Asia Society – on the day when for 3:00 pm the UN General Assembly scheduled a pledging event for funding Pakistan relief. At the UN, for the US, spoke Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton, and I saw on TV  the complete  Asia Society American team sitting in the hall. The team included also Judith A. McHale, US Department of State Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Dr. George Erik Rupp, a theologian, President of the International Rescue Committee and former President of Rice University and Columbia University, and Raymond Offenheiser, President of Oxfam America.

The opening speaker after Ambassador Holbrooke was Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, and the panel included also USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah. Then there was a list of guests that made their comments, followed by questions from the floor and answers from Administrator Dr. Shah and Ambassador Qureshi.


enlarge image
L to R: USAID’s Dr. Rajiv Shah, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, and Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke. (Else Ruiz/Asia Society)
Judith A. McHale, a former media head herself ( President and Chief Executive Officer of Discovery Communications – 1987 to 2006), and now with the US Government, said that information is critical. “We work with the government of Pakistan to provide the critical information on the ground. It is posted on

Among the guests were Financier George Soros, whose Open Society Institute and Soros Foundations work on the ground in Pakistan – he announced that he adds another $5 million to the funds that his foundation will work with in helping directly civil society in Pakistan,  Christopher MacCormac of the Asian Development Bank, which is leading the effort to assess the flood damage, said much of the economic infrastructure of the area has been destroyed. 2 million ha. of crops were lost and livestock have been devastated, which has taken a large toll on Pakistan farmers. ADB has said that after the immediate contribution of $3 million from the ASia-Pacific Disaster Fund, it would loan Pakistan $2 billion to help the country rebuild, and Pakistan’s rock star turned political activist Salman Ahmad, known as Pakistan’s Bono, or as Holbrooke pointed out, “Bono is the Irish Salman Ahmad,” pointed out a very important topic:

“This is a defining moment in Pakistan,” Ahmad said. “This flood has set back Pakistan in a huge way. Out of 175 million people, 100 million are under 25. Those young people are skeptical, and they feel abandoned by the world. The international community has to win hearts and minds of those 100 million youth in Pakistan.” “If there is a sluggish response the terrorists/extremists win.” He also said that last year he had a concert at the UN to show to the young people in Pakistan that there was hope – he said that he is sure the international community will react positively.

Ambassador Holbrooke said that in the catastrophe there is also an opportunity, that we should not miss –  the people in Pakistan should see that the world is ready to help. He found that these elements of hope in opportunity were missing in the day’s article in The New York Times.

For the US the strategic implications are clear. The US pulled out helicopters from the military effort in order to help in the rescue effort. Will the Taliban take advantage of this? A US transport ship with materials arrived to Karachi, and Japan will now also send helicopters to help in the rescue effort.

The meeting was summarized by The Asia Society and there is also the full tape at –…

Further, Ms. Nafis Sadik from the UN, now a Trustee Emeritus of the Asia Society and Chair of the Pakistan Foundation at the Asia Society called for Ramadan giving to the Foundation. Other Pakistan-Americans spoke and told of their own efforts to raise funds for the Pakistan relief program as the State’s capacity to meet the challenge has been overstretched. Today Pakistan , one fifth of its territory submerged, 68 million of its people affected, and 1,600 people dead, crops, animal stock, and infrastructure devastated – Pakistan is calling – humanity is calling they said. We saw a video proving every point. The Pakistan-American Foundation was inspired by Hilary Clinton’s “Pakistani Peacebuilders.”

Oxfam America was joined by “Save the Chidren” NGO  representative Gorel Bogarde said the obvious – what children most need is food, clean drinking water and shelter. She is most concerned for the moment about the outbreak of water-bourne diseases, such as cholera.

We will not repeat here further figures of loss and the size of the calamity. We assume that these are known by our readers by now – we want rather to point out the blunt comments that resulted from the statement by Mr. Soros who linked what happens to our lack of readiness to do something about the human-made climate change. Pakistan is the biggest of the recent disasters he said and we must deal with the root causes he continued. CLIMATE CHANGE IS THE ROOT CAUSE FOR ALL THESE RECENT DISASTERS. Mr. Soros spoke of the coincidence of the Himalaya glaciers melting and the monsoons getting stronger at the same time.

He also said “there is a certain amount of fatigue in responding to these disasters… [but] we have to come to terms with the fact that they are in fact connected, that there is climate change.”

At the Q & A part of the program, I asked the last question that was intended to bring the attention back to what Mr. Soros said.
My question was something like – I am with Sustainable Development Media and I wonder what Pakistan thinks about Mr. Soros’ statement about climate change – the reason being that the present calamity will repeat itself, so how does one do reconstruction work that makes sense?

Ambassador Holbrooke said Thank You and addressed the question first to Mr. Rajiv Shah.

When asked if there was a connection between the floods and climate change, USAID’s Shah said “while it’s very hard to attribute any single event to what we’re doing to our global environment it is very clear that that trend is leading to a greater number of large hurricanes, a greater number of floods, hotter and dryer conditions in places that are dependent on weather and rainfall for agriculture, and it’s making it very difficult for the least resilient, the most lower income communities of the world to survive.”

We heard from Mr. Christopher MacCormac that after the Earth Quake of 2005 the rebuilding of houses was done according to higher standards – so what we need here in the response to the present calamity is also to build better – but he did not specify, neither did Mr. Holbrooke. This, with the understanding that the increased monsoon floods,  joined with the melting of the Himalaya Glaciers, is indeed not a one time shot – but the beginning of a trend – leaves us with very bad premonitions about the future of Pakistan and other low lying lands of the region. This  has  clearly left me thinking about what means building better? Are we going to take into account these new phenomena resulting from global use of fossil fuels when going from the immediate reaction to the suffering from the floods to the longer range rebuilding stage? This is clearly an area that will be written up much more in the foreseeable future.

Ambassador Qurashi was asked by Mr. Holbrooke to react to the climate change implications. Are there additional run-off from the Himalayas?

The answer included: The Glaciers melt and what we have in Pakistan are Monsoon water plus glacier melts combined. We have above normal moisture.

He also said that “There are local NGOs in Pakistan that help push back the extremists and you have shown the world that you are a helping Nation.”


Posted on on August 19th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

from: K N Vajpai (Climate Himalaya Initiative) <>

August 19, 2010

Climate Change Updates from Himalayan Mountains on Various Climate Change Issues.

For your information, the Climate Himalaya Initiative has a dedicated news portal , that updates the Climate Change related news on regular basis from Himalayan Mountains.

Those interested in Climate Change related issues and Mountains, can get regular updates by subscribing or becoming member.

The ongoing issues includes; Pakistan Floods, Leh Cloud Burst, Climate Change Modeling, Domestic Actions by countries, Actions by Asian countries, Cancun Climate Summit, Criticism of IPCC, etc…..!

There are options for subscription, membership, tweeting, facebook, among others….!

You can visit and explore at

from – K N Vajpai
Convener and Theme Leader

Climate Himalaya Initiative
C/O Prakriti a mountain environment group
P.O. Silli, Agastyamuni, Rudraprayag
Uttarakhand, India PIN 246421


Posted on on August 19th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

The ordeal in Pakistan reminded us of the –

Climate Himalaya Initiative.

An Initiative Towards Sustainable Development in Himalayan Mountains.
{This is linked to the reality of melting glaciers and increased severity of monsoon rains. Understanding the underlying causes of the present calamity is needed in order to go for long term help to the region. Talking of return to previous lives is not realistic.}

June 2, 2010

Himalayan countries must set aside their differences and  collaborate on science in order to avoid a common water crisis, says a report.

Environmental pressures, including those from climate change, could have unprecedented effects on the livelihoods of millions of people in the Hindu-Kush Himalaya region, according to the study, published by the UK-based Humanitarian Futures Programme, the Aon Benfield UCL Hazard Research Centre, and China Dialogue. Yet scientific research is either non-existent or, where it exists, is not shared beyond a country’s borders, said the report, ‘The Waters of the Third Pole: Sources of Threat, Sources of Survival’. And scientists are failing to communicate what they do know to the public and policymakers, it added.

The Hindu-Kush Himalaya region provides water for one fifth of the world’s population including countries stretching from Pakistan to Myanmar. “This region is a black hole for data,” said Isabelle Hilton, editor of China Dialogue and a contributor to the report.

“Managing this water requires knowledge and cooperation,” she said at the launch of the report last week (19 May) in the United Kingdom. But the region “lacks the institutions and in some cases the political will to address issues cooperatively”. History, diverse languages and cultures, and military conflicts are behind the lack of a concerted effort to study the waters, she said, and now “a multidisciplinary and collaborative approach is needed” to catch up. But this is not high on the public agenda, she said.

Stephen Edwards, an earth scientist and research manager at the Aon Benfield UCL Hazard Research Centre, called for more high-quality, peer-reviewed data. “We need to understand problems before we know how to manage them,” he said. But science itself is not enough, he added, “scientists have to interact with economists and policymakers — we need proper dialogue”.

Andreas Schild, director general of the Nepal-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, agreed with the report’s conclusions.”Water is one of the most important resources,” he said. “Traditionally there has been no free exchange of information on water discharge and this is practically still the case today. “It is not just a concern between countries, but even within countries, as between the individual states of India.

“Researchers in all concerned countries are very interested in having cross-border collaboration and exchange of information,” he told  SciDev.Net. “But when it comes to cooperation on concrete issues at the level of government institutions, we face a completely different situation, where agreements with various other partners in the country are required.”If you want to close the knowledge gap here in the Himalayas then you have to strengthen the institutions [there].”

Otherwise, short-term foreign development funds mean there is no consistent long-term data and continuity in research by the institutions based in the region, said Schild. But he added that European organisations, with “Europe-centric” research methods, must share the blame.

“A lot of research conducted on this region by European universities and other institutions is often not shared. Sometimes we even get the impression that they are only looking for a partner in the South to use as Sherpas.”

Link to full ‘The Waters of the Third Pole: Sources of Threat, Sources of Survival’ report


Posted on on August 18th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

From: Tek Jung Mahat <> Date: 16 August 2010.

Subject: Youth Forum Empowering Youth with Earth Observation Information for Climate Actions 1-6 October 2010, ICIMOD, Kathmandu.

Dear Colleagues,

Realising the important role of young minds in ensuring sustainability in the region and to promote application of earth observation systems, particularly on climate change adaptation, we are organising a six-days long YOUTH Forum on ‘Benefiting from Earth Observation: Bridging the Data Gap for Adaptation to Climate Change in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan Region’, from 1-6 October 2010 in Kathmandu, Nepal.

The Youth Forum is managed by ICIMOD together with the Asia Pacific Mountain Network (APMN), Nepalese Youth for Climate Action (NYCA), GIS Society of Nepal and other local partners working on youth capacity building. We are expecting to invite some 30 youth professional to attend this programme from ICIMOD Regional Member Countries, which includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan. This initiative is being organized in the framework of SERVIR- Himalaya initiative and is supported by USAID and NASA.

We would appreciate your support in sharing this announcement with the suitable candidates and encouraging to join the forum.



On behalf of the YOUTH Forum preparation committee



The Youth Forum, 1-6 October 2010, is being organized recognising the far reaching consequences of climate change in the Himalaya and to make aware young professionals in the region about how parts of these problems can be addressed though application of modern day technologies, like earth observation (EO).

The Forum will serve as a platform to share and learn experiences regarding climate change issues, for which we will bring about 30 youth climate enthusiasts from the region , who will be familiarised with potential benefits of EO derived information and demonstrated relevant practical actions.

The Youth Forum is one of the key attractions of the International Symposium on ‘Benefiting from Earth Observation: Bridging the Data Gap for Adaptation to Climate Change in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan Region’, 4 – 6 October 2010 being organised by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain development (ICIMOD) together with the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) and the GIS Development, India.

The event will provide opportunity among youths to familiarize with basic RS/GIS skills with practical hands-on sessions, demonstrate case studies related to use of EO in climate actions, internet related resources and project work to take local action in community. This initiative is being organized in the framework of SERVIR- Himalaya initiative and is supported by USAID and NASA.

Who should apply?

Young climate change enthusiasts, media persons, youth activists, development professionals etc. However you don’t have to be an expert on earth observation, climate change or mountain development, but you should have familiarity with the environmental issues mountains are facing and a strong commitment to contribute towards problem solving process with the use of modern tools and approaches like EO, particularly in the context of changing climate, which has posed serious threats to mountain ecosystems.

Young professionals of 18 to 29 years of age (by September 1, 2010) and coming from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan are eligible to apply. Please use this form to apply for the youth forum. All applications will be reviewed by an international review committee. Based on the evaluation of the quality of the application by the review committee and taking into account the need for a balanced group in regard to scientific discipline, geographical background and gender, about 30 applications will be accepted for participation in the Forum. Accepted applicants will be notified by 6 September 2010.

Please note, all the accepted applicants are expected to prepare a poster (hand-made or printed or in any other forms) reflecting their understanding about mountain environment, earth observation and climate change adaptation or any other relevant topics. Further details on this will be communicated later.

In case you have any problems in accessing the application form please write to

Financial support:

Participation cost (round-trip airfare, local transport, and food and accommodation in Kathmandu during the Youth Forum will be covered by ICIMOD)

Important dates and links:

Application deadline 1 September

Selection notification 6 September

Youth Forum 1-6 October

Event details:

Application form: OR

Tek Jung Mahat, Node Manager

Asia Pacific Mountain Network (APMN)

International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development

GPO Box 3226, Kathmandu, Nepal.

Tel +977-1-5003222 Ext 104 Fax +977-1-5003277 Web AND E-mail


Posted on on May 17th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

India-China competition dims hopes for regional cooperation.

The Japan Times online, Monday, May 17, 2010.
LONDON — Established in 1985, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) had its 16th summit meeting in Thimpu, Bhutan, late last month. Apart from the fact that Bhutan hosted its first SAARC summit, there was hardly anything that inspired confidence in this largely moribund organization that is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its founding this year.

Covering at least 1.5 billion people across India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Maldives and Afghanistan, SAARC is one of the largest regional organizations in the world. But its achievements so far have been so minimal that even its constituents have become lackadaisical in their attitudes toward it. The state of regional cooperation in South Asia can be gleaned from the fact that Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani went to Bhutan via Nepal, using Chinese territory in Tibet rather than the straightforward route through India.

Bhutan chose climate change as the theme of the summit, and the eight-nation grouping delivered a Silver Jubilee declaration titled “Toward a Green and Happy South Asia.” The focus, however, was the agreement on trade in services signed during the summit. Intraregional trade in South Asia remains far below its potential despite the member states’ signing the South Asian Free Trade Agreement, which went into force in 2006.

For long, the dominant narrative of SAARC has been how the India-Pakistan rivalry hampers the group’s evolution into something significant. That is now losing salience amid China’s growing dominance of the South Asian landscape.

China entered SAARC as an observer in 2005, supported by most member states; India could do little about it and so acquiesced. Now, much to India’s consternation, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal are supporting China’s full membership in SAARC. China’s rising profile in South Asia is not news. What is astonishing is the diminishing role of India and the rapidity with which New Delhi is ceding strategic space to Beijing on the subcontinent.

Even as China becomes the largest trade partner of most states in South Asia, including India, New Delhi is busy repeating the old mantra of South Asia being India’s exclusive sphere of influence.

Of course, no one takes note of that anymore. Pakistan’s all-weather friendship with China is well-known, but the reach of China in other South Asian states has been extraordinary. Bangladesh and Sri Lanka view India as more interested in creating barriers against exports than in spurring regional economic integration. India’s protectionist tendencies have allowed China to don the mantle of regional economic leader. Instead of India emerging as the facilitator of socio-economic development in Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan, it is China’s developmental assistance that has impact.

India’s attempts to keep China out of the subcontinent have clearly not worked, and it’s time to re-evaluate its South Asia policy. China’s strategy toward South Asia is premised on encircling India and confining her within the geographical coordinates of the region. This strategy of using proxies started with Pakistan and has gradually evolved to include other states in the region, including Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. China is entering markets in South Asia more aggressively through trade and investment, improving linkages with South Asian states through treaties and bilateral cooperation.

It is following up on this by establishing a ring of road and port connections in India’s neighborhood and deepening military engagements with states on India’s periphery. This quiet assertion of China has prompted various smaller countries in South Asia to play China off against India. Most states in the region now use the China card to try to offset the influence of India. India’s structural dominance in South Asia makes it a natural target of resentment among its smaller neighbors.

Yet, there is no hope for regional economic cooperation in the absence of Indian leadership. The failure of India to counter China’s rise has made it even more unlikely that such cooperation will evolve productively. As the two regional giants compete with each other in the near future, they will be more focused on relative gains vis-a-vis each other than on the absolute gains that regional cooperation can bestow.

Liberals in South Asia have long taken their inspiration from extraordinary developments in the European Union (EU), arguing that South Asia could also go down a similar path of regional economic and political cooperation.

That comparison is fundamentally flawed, however. The states in Western Europe arrived at the EU only after resolving persistent security dilemmas. And the U.S. security umbrella continues to ensure that European political rivalries do not raise their ugly heads again.

In South Asia, the security dynamics between a large India and its smaller neighbors ensures that the road to economic and political cooperation will be a bumpy one. And that road will become even more difficult to traverse with the emergence of China.

Harsh V. Pant teaches at King’s College London.


Posted on on April 15th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

Climate change to be burning issue at 16th SAARC summit
Climate change will be the burning issue at the 16th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in two weeks in Thimpu, Bhutan, local media reported on Monday, April 12th 2010.

The summit, which has the theme “Towards a green and happy South Asia,” expects to see a regional mechanism proposed by Nepal to counter the effects of climate change, reported The Kathmandu Post.

According to a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official, Nepal will push for an effective regional mechanism to cope with climate change. Also, Bangladesh and Maldives are likely to support Nepal’ s effort to set up a regional body, as both the countries will face the most drastic effects of climate change.

Studies have shown that rising sea levels because of melting polar ice caps mean that Maldives might get submerged, while Bangladesh will lose 20 percent of low-lying areas in the Bay of Bengal resulting in the displacement of 25 million people.

Bhutan has finished all the necessary preparations for hosting the summit, which will mark the 25th year of the establishment of the regional body.

According to the schedule, the summit formally kicks off on April 28 followed by a meeting of 38th session of the Programming Committee on April 29. Bhutan has officially launched a separate website with all the necessary information about the summit.

According to Hari Kumar Shrestha, Joint Secretary at the Foreign Ministry, the summit is expected to sign the SAARC Agreement on Disaster Response Mechanism, the Convention on Cooperation on Environment and Climate Change, and the Agreement on Trade in Services among member states.

The other issues likely to taken up by the summit would be energy and food crisis, and the effective implementation of SAARC Development Fund.

Regional issues like terrorism, extremism, early implementation of South Asian Free Trade Agreement, and expansion of tourism across the region will figure during the meet, according to officials.

The other key agenda would be the appointment of a SAARC Development Fund secretary for the secretariat, which is to be established in Thimpu.

The summit will also be attended by observers from China, Japan, the European Union, Republic of Korea, the United States, Australia, Mauritius, and Iran along with the eight member states.

Founded in 1985, the SAARC groups Bhutan, Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Source: Xinhua


Posted on on April 12th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

Bhutan sees struggle to stay “carbon neutral”
* Now absorbs more in forests than emits from fossil fuels *
Bhutan Says “big challenge” to stay carbon neutral.
By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent BONN, Germany, April 12 (Reuters) –
The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan sees a struggle to keep up a rare role in fighting climate change in coming years — its forests currently absorb more carbon than its people emit from use of fossil fuels. Bhutan, which has low fossil fuel use because of poverty twinned with strong forest protection, plans to stay “carbon neutral” under a policy of “gross happiness to save our planet”.
But fossil fuel use is rising with the appearance of more cars on the roads and industrial development. “The government has dared to take a very ambitious decision to declare ‘carbon neutrality’,” said Yeshey Penjor, leading Bhutan’s delegation at U.N. climate talks from April 9-11 that spilled into early Monday to plan new U.N. meetings in 2010. “Now we have to see if we can live up to the commitment,” he said. “From the preliminary inventory (of greenhouse gases) we have completed it’s already indicating a big challenge.”
Run on Buddhist principles of respect for nature, Bhutan is the only country among 194 U.N. members to have formally told the United Nations this year that it is now “climate negative” — soaking up more greenhouse gases more than it emits. Penjor said he knew of no other countries that can make the claim.
Analysts say that some other poor, forested nations in Africa, Asia or Latin America might be carbon negative but deforestation is a problem in many. And some other countries — including the Maldives, Costa Rica and Norway — plan to become carbon neutral in coming years but are far from the goal.
Bhutan is number 108 on a U.N. ranking of gross national product per capita, at $4,837 in 2009. A push to end poverty in a country of fewer than 700,000 people in an area the size of Switzerland, will mean a rise in use of fossil fuels in cars and industry.
“We do not have much area for new forest plantations. We have already more than 72 percent of our land under forests,” Penjor said. Trees soak up carbon as the grow and release it when they burn or rot.
COAL, OIL “We do not import much coal but we do import a lot of oil for the transport sector and that is rising at a very escalated rate,” he said.
Bhutan’s main plan to meet future energy demand is to exploit hydropower — aiming to add 10,000 megawatts of capacity to an existing 1,500 MW in a nation where several mountain peaks are above 7,000 metres (22,970 ft). That plan, which depends on foreign aid, would also enable exports to neighbouring India. Taking those green exports into account as helping to reduce emissions from burning fossil fuels, Bhutan would be able to achieve its carbon goals. “In that sense we will always be carbon negative I think,” said Karma Tshering, the other member of the Bhutan delegation. A problem was that many Himalayan glaciers, which now help provide water in rivers tapped for hydropower year-round even in dry seasons, are shrinking. That could make it necessary to build dams to create big reservoirs to help regulate flows.


Posted on on January 22nd, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

OK, there are disputes among Indian scientists and Indian officials who have connections to Indian oil industry. We knew this all the time and where not happy when under US President G.W. Bush the US pushed out under US business interests push, the scientific head of the IPCC and put in place the proxy Indians. But then, obviously, India is also not homogeneous – so we see internal Indian disputes.
YES – THE GLACIERS ARE MELTING AND NOBODY CAN PREDICT ACCURATELY THE YEAR OF THEIR FUTURE DEMISE – so what? The melting of these glaciers causes floods in the valleys – we know it because we see it. Yes, after they melt there will be draught – that is logic – it is implied in future shortage – that is clear. Those that love oil do not want to let go of it, and those that own refineries do not want to lose their investment – that is clear.
When lots of ice from above earth sites melts it will cause floods on coast line communities – that is clear. The melting of glaciers and the Antarctic ice will cause sea-level rise and floods – that can be sworn by – that is clear. Which island will disappear before 2013 or after – OK – that is not quite clear.
So what all this noise and only the UN can sound retreat – we do not. We also said that the relief of pressure on the tectonic plates because of the melting away of ice can cause earthquakes in areas where the plates meet – like the recent Tsunami belt over the earthquake belt shows. There are no scientific statements on this – only plain logic statements – so what? Yes we stopped short of our statement after the Haiti quakes and said – this one we do not exactly sense how it happened as we do not know of faults in that area. This is our lack of knowledge in this case that calls for help but it does not negate the prior statements. Science is not instantaneous – it requires further thinking and theories and proof if possible – not plain squabbles by industry-backed deniers and knee-jerk reactions by the UN. (our comments to the following news)


SCIENCE, SPHERE, aol, January 21, 2010.

UN Climate Body Eats Crow Over Glacier Warning.

from Theunis Bates, a Contributor.

LONDON (Jan. 20) — It sounds like the plot of a Hollywood disaster movie: Central and Southern Asia are hit by biblical floods when the Himalayan glaciers suddenly melt. After that cataclysm, water no longer flows from the mountains, leaving rivers like the Mekong and Ganges dry and millions facing permanent drought. That was the picture painted by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2007 report, which said there was a “very high” chance that these glaciers would disappear by 2035 if the world kept warming.

But the IPCC, the U.N. body charged with investigating climate change, has retracted that claim after it emerged that its predictions of a sudden melt weren’t based on peer-reviewed evidence, but instead on an article that appeared in the popular science magazine New Scientist in 1999.

Himalayan glacier

Subel Bhandari, AFP / Getty Images
While the Khumbu Glacier near Mount Everest is shrinking, the United Nations admits it overstated the threat of a total glacial meltdown in the Himalayas.

Climate change skeptics have lapped up the scandal, which they’ve already dubbed “Glaciergate,” saying that it further erodes the credibility of climate science already damaged by last year’s Climategate e-mail scandal. Global warming denier Peter Foster, writing in Canada’s National Post, said the error showed how the “IPCC’s task has always been not objectively to examine science but to make the case for man-made climate change by any means available.”

But Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, vice chairman of the IPCC, said the mistake did not undermine the report’s key conclusions: that the warming climate is accelerating glacial melt and that this will affect the supply of water from the world’s major mountain ranges, “where more than one-sixth of the world population currently lives.”

“I don’t see how one mistake in a 3,000-page report can damage the credibility of the overall report,” van Ypersele told the BBC. “Some people will attempt to use it to damage the credibility of the IPCC; but if we can uncover it and explain it and change it, it should strengthen the IPCC’s credibility, showing that we are ready to learn from our mistakes.”

The argument over the IPCC’s melt date went public last November, when a paper written by Indian geologist Vijay Kumar Raina revealed that there was little consistency in the behavior of the Himalayan glaciers. Some were shrinking, he found, some expanding, and others were stable. If global warming were to blame, he asked, why weren’t they all following the same pattern? “A glacier … does not necessarily respond to the immediate climatic changes,” he wrote. “For if it be so then all glaciers within the same climatic zone should have been advancing or retreating at the same time.”

India’s environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, endorsed the paper and accused the IPCC of being “alarmist” in its predictions. But IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri shot back that Raina’s findings were “voodoo science” and accused Ramesh of repeating the claims of “climate change deniers.”

Embarrassingly, it’s now the IPCC that stands accused of sloppy science, as a rigorous system of fact checks would have kept the controversial assertion out of the 2007 report. The claim first appeared in a 1999 interview between a New Scientist journalist and the Indian glaciologist Syed Hasnain, who speculated that the mountain range’s glaciers could vanish by 2035.

Environmental group the World Wildlife Fund then repeated Hasnain’s prediction in its 2005 report, “An Overview of Glaciers, Glacier Retreat, and Subsequent Impacts in Nepal, India and China.” As this was only was a campaigning paper, it had not undergone a thorough scientific review. But its lack of scientific rigor didn’t stop the IPCC using the WWF document as a source.

In chapter 10 of its 2007 report, the IPCC concluded: “Glaciers in the Himalaya are receding faster than in any other part of the world, and if the present rate continues, the likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high if the Earth keeps warming at the current rate. Its total area will likely shrink from the present 500,000 to 100,000 square kilometers by the year 2035 (WWF, 2005).”

But many glaciologists believed those claims were overheated. As most Himalayan glaciers are hundreds of feet thick, only a sudden, huge spike in global temperatures could cause them to disappear before 2035. “The reality, that the glaciers are wasting away, is bad enough,” Graham Cogley, a glaciologist at Canada’s University of Trent, who played a key role in exposing the flawed claim, told the United Kingdom’s Sunday Times. “But they are not wasting away at the rate suggested by this speculative remark and the IPCC report. The problem is that nobody who studied this material bothered chasing the trail back to the original point when the claim first arose.”

Indian glaciologist Murari Lal, the lead author of that section of the IPCC report, last week rejected claims that the U.N. group had made a serious error. “We relied rather heavily on gray [not peer-reviewed] literature, including the WWF report,” Lal told New Scientist. “The error, if any, lies with Dr Hasnain’s assertion and not with the IPCC authors.”

Unsurprisingly, Hasnain has refuted that attempt to pass the blame. “The magic number of 2035 has not [been] mentioned in any research papers written by me, as no peer-reviewed journal will accept speculative figures,” he said to New Scientist. “It is not proper for IPCC to include references from popular magazines or newspapers.”

That’s a tough but obvious lesson, and one the IPCC is unlikely to forget.


Posted on on January 4th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (


By Manuel Manonelles, BARCELONA, (IPS) Posted by Other News January 3, 2009.

Little by little, it is being confirmed that the melting of the polar ice caps, whether in Antarctica or the Arctic, is happening significantly faster than initially predicted. The consequences of this for peace, one of the main victims of climate change, are enormous.

Glaciers and areas of high-altitude mountains that were previously considered zones of perpetual snow are now melting. A paradigmatic case is that of the alpine border between Switzerland and Italy where during a recent routine verification, certain sections of ice or perennial snow that had been on the map since 1861 were found to be missing. In this case, the two countries have enjoyed long periods of peaceful coexistence and are approaching the problem in a logical and cordial fashion, forming a commission to find a technical solution.

However, the possible implications of cases like this in other geographical areas are very worrisome. The destabilising potential of a similar development on the India-Pakistan border would be enormous, particularly in the zone of Kashmir or the Siachen glacier, where more than 3000 soldiers of both countries have died since 1984. The same is true of the tense China-India border, or the deeply problematic border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, which will grow increasingly porous with melting, contributing to a rise in destabilisation in what are already two of the most unstable countries on the earth.

Another major effect of global warming is the gradual opening of major global shipping lanes in areas that had previously been impassable because of ice. The Northeast Passage along the north of Russia, used recently for the first time in history, shortens travel between the ports of China, Japan, and Korea and Hamburg, Rotterdam, and South Hampton by 4,000 kilometres. With the Northwest Passage along northern Canada, travel between the China and the ports of the eastern United States is similarly shortened.

The opening of these new routes will completely change the dynamics of intercontinental trade and might render irrelevant places that until now were considered geostrategically essential, such as the Panama and the Suez Canal.

Add to this the draw of massive reserves of raw materials expected to be present in the Arctic, ever more accessible as the ice recedes, which is provoking a race for control of the area – including an arms race – and is stoking tensions particularly between Russia, Norway, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States. The Russian news agency TASS has calculated oil reserves in the area at over 10 billion tonnes. Last year Canada approved an extraordinary 6.9 billion dollar arms bill to strengthen its military presence in its arctic zone, while Russia has resumed tactical flights of nuclear bombers in its polar region, triggering the protests of numerous countries.

This also explains, in part, the speed with which the European Union is processing the application for EU membership of bankrupt Iceland, which would place the body in the best possible position for future negotiations and territorial claims in the area with regard to future access to the “Arctic banquet”.

The melting of the ice caps is also the major cause of rising sea levels, which have other irreversible territorial, social, and economic consequences, such as the physical disappearance -partial or total- of certain small island states of the Pacific likely to occur within a few years -the Maldives, Samoa, Kiribati, among others. Obviously the implications are vast, including – in addition to the personal, environmental, cultural, and national trauma – the political and legal status of future states that have no territory. The principal components of the global infrastructure, from ports and refineries to airports and nuclear plants, are also seriously at risk, and will find themselves near or at or even below sea level.

It is important to note in this context that the majority of the global population lives in areas close to the sea, starting with megacities like Mumbai, London, New York, Shanghai, Tokyo, and Buenos Aires, and densely-populated areas like the Ganges delta in Bangladesh, where rising sea levels are already wreaking havoc in the form of water pollution and related effects. Recent studies indicate the possibility of some 200 million new environmental refugees in coming years -refugees who would only increase the already considerable humanitarian pressures and tensions in these areas and exacerbate existing or latent conflict.

The Global Humanitarian Fund issued a report this year that shows unequivocally that climate change today is responsible for some 300,000 deaths per year. Numbers for the medium and long-term are even higher. In this context, the urgency of fighting climate is a pre-condition for a peaceful future. Therefore, the international community has no other option, specially after the fiasco in Copenhagen, to spring into action as soon as possible. It is about climate, but also about peace and human lives.


This and all “other news” issues edited by Roberto Savio can be found at


Posted on on October 18th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

We had the following as a posting on our future events button. Now we update after the events.


Posted on October 12, 2009:

Dr. Perkins, a student of leadership, to speak October 15th at the Explorers Club annual Dinner.

Dr. Dennis Perkins is Keynote Speaker at the Explorers’ Club,
Lowell Thomas Annual Awards Dinner,
October 15th, 2009 Cipriani Wall Street, NY, NY

Dr. Perkins is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, served as a Marine infantry officer in Vietnam and subsequently received an MBA from Harvard University, and a Ph.D. in psychology at the University of Michigan.

Dr. Perkins has spent his lifetime evaluating and analyzing leadership and teamwork of successful and doomed expeditions, first as a front line military leader and subsequently in the field and as faculty at our nation’s top universities. Dr. Perkins’ passion to experience and understand risk has taken him to disparate places including Antarctica, where he retraced the footsteps of famed explorer, Ernest Shackleton; and to Australia, where he sailed the Midnight Rambler, winning the challenging Sydney to Hobart Race, a 628 nautical mile race — often called “the Everest” of offshore racing – using a Volvo 60 racing boat.

Dr. Perkins has written extensively on leadership and organizational effectiveness all in the context of risk assessment and optimization.


I was intrigued by the interest in risk as described in the Explorers Club info material. Indeed, now I can report that both events did indeed stand in the shadow of the RISK idea – but please mind – this was not in the sense of getting involved in adventures for the sake of adventure, but rather the cold assessment of risk, and the intelligent process of learning how to get out from under dangerous conditions. You get to risks at the edge and might look at the brink – said one speaker.

The speakers were all old style explorers and by nature of this concept – risk takers. Those that were honored at the dinner were obviously members of the older generation, but at the Saturday “Mountain Stories” event we saw also younger people – so there is still a future for those that want to allow for risk taking. Now the problem is to find places to explore – but I learned that there is no shortage of such possibilities. Climbing new peaks in areas that were less accessible in the past is just one possibility, but going back to mountain peaks that have been explored many times in the past, but using new equipment, it is possible to open up new roots and even get a minor peak called by your name.

Going in the foots of Shackleton in the Antarctica, Dr. Perkins said that the good news was that we have been there before and we know how to do it.

Perkins speaks of “Balanced optimism grounded in reality – you damn well got to be optimistic to go on such a trip.” You must be wiling to take the big risk – not the unnecessary risk.”

What the explorer must do is to look calmly at the situation and step up to the risk worth taking. The challenge is to find innovative solutions to problems under least favorable conditions.

Dr. Perkins, when he speaks, he peppers his mental pictures with ideas from the world of business and policy – such as: “The IMF says global recovery has begun – but does not say when things will get better – so may be we cannot predict the future.”

We know we will have bad days, but we must be ready to take the worthwhile risk, and ended by saying “Thank you very much – go for the edge.”

Yvon Choinard, a Patagonian man, climed mountains on every continent. Long time ago, he looked for the true source of the Nile at Mt. Stanley in Uganda. He said that he never goes on an adventure trip – it just happens when you take small risks on the way.

Richard Wilson, told about racing a boat for 120 days and 28,000 miles, from Port la Foret, Brittany. 

Eventually someone defined the topic of risk as – “Risk is to take new exploration and the unknown, and this without knowing about success.”


The Saturday event was set up to honor further six outstanding explorers and mountain climbers. I was there for three of the six.

The last presenter was Jennifer Loew-Anker – born in Montana to the outdoors from birth – she sounded like a proof that genetics, or call it upbringing – have something to do with it. When you ride a horse at two years of age, and horse-riding is in effect more dangerous then mountain climbing … you get my point.

Jennifer is an artist with wildlife her major topic. She presented to us her book “Forget Me Not” about her first husband – her childhood friend from Montana – Alex Lowe, who died in 1999, in an avalanche on the Himalayan mountain Shishapangma. Alex was considered one of the greatest modern climbers. Jennifer showed us a movie about their lives – she herself also a great climber. After 18 years of marriage, she was left with three children. Eventually, two years later she remarried another climber who worked with Alex.

Jennifer told us about climbing done in the Pinar del Rio region of Cuba, and of philanthropic work she does now with the Alex foundation. They built a climbing wall in Mongolia and established a school for sherpas when they realized that the sherpas actually never learned to take care for themselves, and the number of casualties among the sherpas is so much higher then among the foreign climbers.

The other two – actually three speakers – were the pair Freddie Wilkenson & Janet Bergman, and Kevin Mahoney. All of them from the Mt. Washington, New Hampshire, Mountain Climber community.  All of them connected to the Dartmouth Club and to “Mountain Hardware,” and from their base they work as guides and climbers all over the world.

Kevin Mahoney sees his job as a “mitigator of risk – so people discover their own worth.” He defined himself as a winter person – he climbs ice. He said that skying has many more accidents then ice climbing.

Freddie Wilkinson and Janet Bergman are young people from Kevin Mahoney’s group. They gave us a run down on today’s ice climbing – mentioning that 95% of climbing is done in a handful of peaks in the Himalayas. They described themselves as a great team as Freddie looks for opportunities and Janet for barriers – this when trying to identify new targets for climbing or new ways of climbing in areas that have been covered earlier.


Now I come to the real reason why I looked at these two fascinating programs at the Explorers Club – this because of an obsession I developed at the UN when I realized that the New York based Explorers Club is an NGO affiliated to the UN, but not part of the environmental NGOs active at the UN. I realized at the time that the Club was dominated by people that would rather shoot an elephant and turn it over to a taxidermist so it be a trophy for them. Could they find the last dinosaur, they would have stuffed him also. That might have been right for the days of President Theodore Roosevelt, but I thought that today you ought  not love the outdoors in order to kill them. Also climate change is a rather important issue and I saw tremendous potential here to get the Explorers involved. Eventually I approached a young new President of the Club, we met but nothing happened.

Now, at the Saturday event I spoke with some of those that were honored at the event. These were young people and clearly not of the riffle kind, but still did not find a feel for activism present on our kind of issues. Nevertheless, I found hope for change.

When I asked Kevin Mahoney if he found signs of climate change in Nepal, he started to tell me about the farmer who complained that he has to go higher uphill with the sheep he owns, because there is no grass for them as there is a lack of water. So he goes up higher to areas that used to be covered snow! This clearly gave me the opening to talk a little about the melting glaciers, and I found real interest among the young climbers. So there may be hope that someday the Explorers might indeed become Environmentalists as well – provided by that time there will still be left some  environment to explore. Just think of the snow caps of Kenya and Tanzania and my statement above might not sound absurd at all. 

Is this a different meaning for RISK?


Posted on on November 26th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

 Brazil imports GNH from Bhutan.

25 November, 2008 – As Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness (GNH) continues to draw international attention, its most recent destination is Brazil, one of the largest and most populous countries in South America.

Last month, when a team from Bhutan visited the country to attend a conference on GNH, they were greeted with an overwhelming response. GNH found its place in the hearts of Brazilians, or so the coordinators say.

“GNH seeds are planted in Brazil. Now we have to water it with care,” said a psychologist and educator Dr Susan Andrews, the founder of the Future Vision Ecological Park, who coordinates GNH in Brazil.

“There is a tremendous yearning in people’s hearts for an integrated solution to problems and GNH shows a systematic approach to all of them. People want to work together towards that,” said Dr Andrews, who was in the capital to attend the GNH conference scheduled to begin next week.

“More and more people in the world are material-oriented but there is also a yearning of the human soul beyond material possession, that’s why GNH has touched so many hearts,” she said.

According to her, Brazil today was becoming one of the superpowers in the world with vast resources of water, energy, food and forests, but had reached a threshold where they had to choose a path to follow.

“Will it follow USA where Gross National Product increased three times in the past 50 years but people are less happy? Where community vitality has been extremely degraded, number of people who don’t visit neighbours increased by four times, violence tripled, one in every 100 people jailed and one in every four people unhappy or depressed,” she said.

“Or should Brazil become like China, a country where a recent earthquake killed thousands of people but the count was less than the number, who died of respiratory diseases caused by pollution every year,” she said.


She said that one Chinese environment minister recently admitted that, even though their GNP increased by 10 percent every year, the same percentage was spent in cleaning environmental problems created by development every year, so there was no progress.

“Now is the time for Brazil to follow a new formula and GNH offers the most complete set of indicators for true progress,” she said, adding that even their mayors were interested to apply GNH in their cities and eagerly awaiting the GNH survey to be implemented in their areas.

She suggested that GNH, being a process of empowering people to do something for their own integrated progress, should come from within the people and not only from top-down.

“Here in Bhutan, many are talking about it but heard that only a few really understand it, so it’s important to involve Bhutanese people in the process,” said Dr Susan Andrews, who has plans to develop a Brazilian version of questionnaires and put them into practice as soon as she returns.

Meanwhile, she said Bhutanese had to be very aware that more people from outside were expecting a lot from them and really wanted to see Bhutan as a GNH country and that was a great responsibility.

“We hope you won’t disappoint us,” she told Kuensel.

By Kesang Dema
 kesang64 at

Kuensel Newspaper – Brazil imports GNH from Bhutan
25 November, 2008 – As Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness (GNH) continues to … in the capital to attend the GNH conference scheduled to begin next week. … – 23 hours ago


Posted on on November 26th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Looking at these figures, can we just say plainly that the people that run the economy just did not understand what they were doing or were plain crooks? Can we decide on this?
Can we also say that the politicians that made us feel we were living in a post-WWII paradise – ditto!

Can we conclude that unless we learn about SUSTAINABILITY and the concept of GROSS NATIONAL HAPPINESS – there is no chance to create a belief in a sound future? Will this mean that a new kind of Economy Science will have to be instituted and the folks running it will have to come from people with a background in real hard sciences rather then in what is regarded now as the soft social sciences. Not even the mathematicians that founded econometrics will do in this post-plunge era.

We lived in a garden of fools and the walls we built were a “fata morgana” construct.

« Three Day Rallies?
Another Crisis, Another Bailout »

Big Bailouts, Bigger Bucks

By Barry Ritholtz – November 25th, 2008, 7:19AM…

Whenever I discussed the current bailout situation with people, I find they have a hard time comprehending the actual numbers involved. That became a problem while doing the research for the Bailout Nation book. I needed some way to put this into proper historical perspective.

If we add in the Citi bailout, the total cost now exceeds $4.6165 trillion dollars. People have a hard time conceptualizing very large numbers, so let’s give this some context. The current Credit Crisis bailout is now the largest outlay In American history.

Jim Bianco of Bianco Research crunched the inflation adjusted numbers. The bailout has cost more than all of these big budget government expenditures – combined:

• Marshall Plan: Cost: $12.7 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $115.3 billion
• Louisiana Purchase: Cost: $15 million, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $217 billion
• Race to the Moon: Cost: $36.4 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $237 billion
• S&L Crisis: Cost: $153 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $256 billion
• Korean War: Cost: $54 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $454 billion
• The New Deal: Cost: $32 billion (Est), Inflation Adjusted Cost: $500 billion (Est)
• Invasion of Iraq: Cost: $551b, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $597 billion
• Vietnam War: Cost: $111 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $698 billion
• NASA: Cost: $416.7 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $851.2 billion

TOTAL: $3.92 trillion


data courtesy of Bianco Research


That is $686 billion less than the cost of the credit crisis thus far.

The only single American event in history that even comes close to matching the cost of the credit crisis is World War II: Original Cost: $288 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $3.6 trillion

The $4.6165 trillion dollars committed so far is about a trillion dollars ($979 billion dollars) greater than the entire cost of World War II borne by the United States: $3.6 trillion, adjusted for inflation (original cost was $288 billion).

Go figure: WWII was a relative bargain.

I estimate that by the time we get through 2010, the final bill may scale up to as much as $10 trillion dollars…


UPDATE:   November 25, 23008 10:34am

A few additional details:

-Well regarded Jim Bianco did the number crunching. The easiest method is to recalculate the numbers using   CPI data.   There are other ways to depict this — such as percentage of GDP, or on a per capita basis, or in terms of costs of common items (eggs, bread, big macs, etc.).

Bloomberg calculates the total amount the taxpayer is on the hook for is $7.76 trillion, or $24,000 for every man woman and child in the country. (Data breakdown is here)

Regardless, no matter you calculate it, we are talking about an ungodly amount of money.


Posted on on November 25th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2008

OUR PLANET EARTH: Junk0 Edahiro -Asia’s first lady of the environment.…

By STEPHEN HESSE for Japan Times online.

If Barak Obama is serious about developing proactive environmental policies that are international is scope, he would do well to work closely with Japan.

Green queen: Junko Edahiro, translator of Al Gore’s book “An Inconvenient Truth,” is a champion of Asian environmentalism in her own right.

But for the inside scoop on Japan’s most creative initiatives, I suggest he bypass the bureaucrats and the prime minister. The person to talk to is Junko Edahiro.


Edahiro is widely known in Japan as the translator of Al Gore’s book “An Inconvenient Truth,” but that’s just one tip of her professional iceberg.

Besides translation, Edahiro, 46, is perhaps Japan’s most dynamic and prolific environmental writer and speaker, and a valued adviser to top corporations, civic organizations, local and national bureaucrats and the prime minister. She is also Executive Director of Japan for Sustainability (JFS), which oversees a network of more than 400 volunteers across Japan who search for environmental news and draft articles that are posted on the JFS Web site in Japanese and English.

In an interview earlier this month, Edahiro explained that she sees herself as an agent for environmental and societal change, her goal being to share information and translate awareness into action, both nationally and internationally.

Last month, for example, she was in China to address government leaders on the history of NGOs and civil society in Japan, but she also learned about encouraging changes taking place in Chinese environmental policy.

This week she is in Bhutan at the International Conference on Gross National Happiness (GNH), where participants are discussing alternative ways to quantify and measure economic activity, environmental health and human well-being, in contrast to the widely used, but myopic and outdated, Gross National Product (GNP).

Talking with Edahiro and Noriko Sakamoto, the JFS communications director, offers a refreshing glimpse of Japanese civil society. Too often in the past, Japanese NGOs have tended toward exclusiveness and self-absorption, hesitant to cooperate with others and more concerned about ideology than impact.

Edahiro and Sakamoto couldn’t be more different. Well aware of the daunting challenges facing Japan and the planet, they dedicate long hours to their work; but they are also upbeat and outward looking, laugh easily, and are driven by an empowering combination of idealism and pragmatism.

I last spoke with Edahiro in 2003, so I asked her how things have changed since then.

“In recent years, especially last year, there have been many changes, and what is going on in Japan is similar to what is going on in the world as a whole. Since the most recent U.N.-IPCC report on Climate Change was released, and following Al Gore’s movie (“An Inconvenient Truth”), awareness among the general public and politicians is increasing,” she said.

“The Government of Japan does not usually take the lead, but they are very good at following suit. Many Japanese companies, too, are finding that the rules defining competitiveness are changing, so government and corporations are gradually changing,” she added.

Edahiro noted that corporate environmental activity used to be limited to philanthropy, but environmental action is now becoming a core part of corporate culture. “The bottom line has changed, especially for companies that are involved in overseas operations,” she said.

Change comes more slowly to domestic firms, but she was pleased to see a variety of interesting initiatives surfacing in local markets, particularly in the banking and finance sectors.

“Small banks are very eager to help local companies reduce their carbon-dioxide emissions. For example, some banks are offering special reduced-rate loans to help businesses invest in emissions reductions. Others, such as Shiga Bank and Biwako Bank, are offering savings accounts with interest rates that rise as reductions are made in community CO2 emissions. Similarly, other banks are tying higher interest rates to reductions in the amount of garbage generated by the community,” she said.

At the local-government level, Edahiro noted the use of incentives in Nagoya City to get city employees to ride bicycles rather than drive. While car drivers are paid a flat rate monthly for travel expenses, bicycle riders are paid a variable rate that begins higher than cars and rises with the number of kilometers traveled. As of 2003, car use was down 25 percent, bicycle riding up 50 percent.

(For more information on these and other initiatives across Japan, visit the JFS Web site, scroll down to the index in the right-hand margin, then search more than a dozen topic choices, from energy and transportation to manufacturing industry and NGO/citizen activities.)

Hundreds of volunteers scattered across Japan are the eyes and ears of JFS, providing information on these and other local initiatives from Hokkaido to Okinawa.

This enviable grassroots network, providing Edahiro with a unique perspective on Japan’s environmental landscape, has not been entirely lost on the central government.

Last February, former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda appointed 12 individuals from various fields to serve on an advisory committee, the so-called Panel on a Low-Carbon Society, in an effort to address the problems of global warming and climate change. Edahiro was selected to represent Japanese civil society and now sits on the panel with representatives from Toyota, Japan Steel, TEPCO and academia.

Edahiro believes that the appointment is proof that the government is finally opening its doors, however little, to direct cooperation with civil society. “To put someone like me on a panel at this level would have been unthinkable just three or four years ago. It reflects change at the highest level,” Edahiro noted.

As one government official confided to her, working with NGO people in the past has been difficult because they tended to be quite confrontational. Edahiro hopes that by listening and discussing problems and solutions in a more cooperative spirit, she and representatives of government and industry can find shared goals and means to achieve those goals.

Recently she was even invited to speak at an annual training seminar offered to executives of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transportation and Tourism — the ministry that sits at the heart of Japan’s concrete and construction culture. This is the first time an environmentalist has been asked to address the executives, according to Edahiro, and represents a symbolic step forward in awareness.

However, the real problem in Japan is not awareness. Surveys consistently show the Japanese are well aware of environmental problems — as much as 96 percent of the population is concerned about global warming and climate change. Edahiro attributes this high level of shared concern to Japan’s homogeneity.

The challenge now, for Edahiro and JFS, is to convert awareness into sustained action.

JFS is a nonprofit organization established in 2002 to share Japan’s societal and environmental progress with the wider world. Its Web site is bilingual, it distributes weekly digests and monthly newsletters to more than 7,000 subscribers in 179 countries and it invites foreign researchers to speak in Japan.

Edahiro shares oversight of JFS with a brains trust of colleagues that includes co-CEO Hiroyuki Tada, 47, General Manager Riichiro Oda, 41, and Manager Kazunori Kobayashi, 32. However, the day-to-day operations are in the hands of just two full-time office employees: Sakamoto and Nobuko Saigusa, the JFS general administrator and accountant.

Other staff include a Web-site administrator, an information administrator and project staff in charge of the Daiwa-JFS Sustainability College research and educational programs.

At JFS, however, size belies impact.

Asked about the future, Edahiro has her sights set on taking JFS to the regional level. “I’m hoping that in the future we can shift from JFS to AFS — Asia for Sustainability — then to WFS, or World for Sustainability. First, though, we would like to create a platform so that other Asian countries, such as Korea and China, can send out their information to the world in English,” she said.

Last month, she took part in a conference in China titled “Learning from Japan,” which was sponsored by the Chinese Government and supported by Hitachi Corporation. Other Japanese speakers were from government, academia and Hitachi, with Edahiro representing the NGO sector.

Her talk on the development of civil society in Japan was well received by Chinese officials, and she feels they appreciate that cooperation among government, industry and citizens is key for progress on environmental issues.

She also spoke informally with officials about the importance of information dissemination and was very impressed by the ambitious goals China is setting for energy efficiency and for the introduction of renewable energies, “a goal much higher than Japan’s,” she said.

Another initiative that impressed Edahiro was a change in the government’s policy for civil servant promotions. Traditionally, central government officials would be promoted after being sent to work in local areas. In the past, the sole criteria for evaluation, and promotion, was economic growth in the local region.

That is changing. Now environmental criteria are being included, such as better energy efficiency and water quality. If a civil servant does not show progress on these criteria, despite good economic performance, the chance for a promotion to a prestigious central government position is lost, says Edahiro.

Even more exciting for Edahiro, Chinese officials agreed to let JFS publish the contents of their discussions with her.

With Asia for Sustainability on the horizon, Edahiro is even more focused on the biggest challenge of all: translating widespread awareness into widespread action. Being a translator, it’s a challenge to which Edahiro is perfectly suited.

Stephen Hesse can be contacted at  stevehesse at


Japan for Sustainability (JFS), established in 2002, is a non-profit organization providing information on developments and activities in Japan that lead toward sustainability.

Junko Edahiro
Environmental Journalist
Co-Founder and Co-Chief Executive, Japan for Sustainability (JFS)
Founder and President, e’s Inc.
Co-Founder and Chairperson, Change Agent, Inc.
Visiting researcher, Research into Artifacts, the Center for Engineering (RACE) at the University of Tokyo
Member of International Sustainability Innovation Council of Switzerland(ISIS).

Junko Edahiro was born in 1962 in Kyoto, Japan. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Education and a Master’s degree in Educational Psychology from the University of Tokyo.

At the age of 29 years old she set her goal to become a simultaneous interpreter, and started learning English from scratch. Within a few years, she transformed herself into a simultaneous interpreter and a translator from otherwise deemed as an “ordinary housewife.” Later, she published a book titled Anything Is Possible If You Wake Up at 2 A.M. and wrote her own stories about this transformation. It became a national best seller and is very popular among those ordinary people with hidden aspirations.

In 1993 she was inspired to work in the environmental arena after her encounter with Lester R. Brown, then-President of the World Watch Institute and a renowned thinker and writer on environmental and global issues. As an interpreter and translator, she has interpreted at many international meetings, lectures, and seminars on the environmental subjects and has translated several books on the environment and sustainability, including Revolution for Eco Economy by Lester Brown, Limits to Growth: The 30 Year Update by Donnela Meadows, et al., and Believing in Casandra by Alan Atkisson.

As she has built the more experiences in the environmental field, she became an environmental journalist and has started writing and speaking with her own ideas and words. In 1998 she started a list serve which passes on information on the state of the global environment and initiatives of sustainability development worldwide, which attracts over 7,500 subscribers from government, industrial and civil sectors. She has written several books, including How to Fix the Earth published in 2005 and intended for business people and policy makers. She also has delivered hundreds of lectures and speeches on the environment, sustainability, corporate social responsibility and corporate communication. She is regularly on TV and Radio shows on topics of the environment.

She also invites prominent opinion leaders from the U.S. and Europe, and presides several networking events, which attracts hundreds of business people, policy makers, researchers, and concerned citizens. With these activities, she is deemed as an icon figure of networking across different sectors.

In 2002, along with other collaborators, she founded Japan for Sustainability (JFS), a non-profit environmental communication platform, which provides information on Japan’s activities promoting sustainability on the website and publishes weekly digests and monthly newsletters to over 7,000 subscribers in 179 countries.
She is also an initiator of the Candle Night campaign, in which over five millions of people join to turn lights off in the night of the summer and winter solstices to think about the environment and peace.

From 2003 to 2005, she founded three companies, all related to sustainability in one way or the other. e’s Inc. sells eco-products and supports those who would like to transform themselves. Eco Networks, Inc. provides translation and consulting services and help Japanese corporations to conduct effective communication on sustainability and CSR. The other company is named Change Agent, Inc. (, and it provides consulting and education services, with tools such as visioning, systems thinking, communication and management systems.

She has been chosen as a most successful career woman by Nikkei Career Women magazine in 2003. She has been selected as one of the “100 Planet Earth Lovers” at the World Expo 2005 held in Aichi, Japan.

The Fourth International Conference on Gross National Happiness will be held 24-26 November 2008 in Thimphu, Bhutan.

The official announcement can be downloaded from


Posted on on October 31st, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (


Asia-EU Summit to Address ‘Financial Tsunami.’

Analysis by Antoaneta Bezlova, IPS, October 23, 2008

BEIJING, Oct 22 (IPS) – Cast in the role of global saviour in the unfolding financial turmoil, China is playing host to a meeting of Asian and European leaders in Beijing this week that is expected to castigate the Anglo-Saxon model of capitalism and press for a reshaped global economic order.

“Can Asia be global economy’s best hope,” asked an editorial in the Economic Observer last week. Noting that Asia hardly played any role during the global economic recovery after the Great Depression of 1929, the paper suggested that the continent’s established and emerging economies constituted the world’s best chance for recovery after the “financial tsunami”.

“And even if the Wall Street demise does not instantly signify the triumph of Mahathir’s Asian model, it is the beginning of a much-needed readjustment of economic power in the world,” it concluded.

More than 40 leaders will converge in the Chinese capital for the 7th Asian European Meeting (ASEM) summit from Oct. 24 to 25 to discuss the global financial crisis and a plan for joint action.

Aside from the 27 EU countries, 10 ASEAN countries, the European Commission, China, Japan and South Korea, the summit will be attended by three other Asian countries — India, Pakistan and Mongolia. The talks will be co-chaired by France, which holds the European Union’s presidency, and China.


“China maintains that the international community should strengthen cooperation and jointly handle the current financial crisis on the basis of equal consultation,” foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in Beijing on Tuesday. But he warned that “developing countries’ interests and concerns should be fully respected and safeguarded.”

China — a major emerging economy which sits on 1.8 trillion US dollars worth of foreign exchange reserves — has been looked upon as an important player to lead the way out of the global financial meltdown.

U.S. Treasury Department officials and politicians have all called on Beijing to show a pro-active attitude and join efforts with the Western world to fight the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Qin Gang said Beijing had adopted a “responsible and constructive attitude” in dealing with the crisis. But few details have emerged over the role China is expected to play. Latest economic figures show that the country’s economy is also vulnerable to the effects of the global economic slowdown.

The National Statistics Bureau said on Monday the economy expanded by just nine percent in the third quarter, the slowest rate in five years. By comparison, the economy grew 10.6 percent in the first quarter and 10.1 in the second quarter of 2008. The slowdown was blamed on plummeting demand for Chinese goods as consumers in the U.S. and Europe cut back on spending.

In recent weeks Beijing has grown more critical over the lack of financial surveillance in developed economies, which it blames for the spiralling crisis. The deputy governor of China’s central bank, Yi Gang, who took part in the emergency G20 meeting in Washington earlier this month, chastised the International Monetary Fund for allowing too much leverage in the system and failing to exert control of big Western financial institutions.

He told the media that “weak financial-policy discipline resulted in excess global liquidity and disorderly capital flows”. The line has been echoed in a numerous articles and columns in the Chinese media attempting to dissect the reasons for the downfall of Wall Street powerhouses. Some have sung an “eulogy to U.S. capitalism” while others have proclaimed the end of the “era of Washington consensus”.

But there has been less certainty about what would replace the current order of international capitalism. “The demise of Wall Street Anglo-Saxon model doesn’t signify the victory of China’s financial modus operandi,” said a commentary in the 21st Century Economic Herald.

“Even as we criticise Wall Street’s excesses, we should be aware that China’s model of financial operation is not necessarily the answer,” it said. “True, Chinese banks are stable and they don’t pursue excessive profits blindly. But they are far from free from red tape and administrative interference.”

According to Qin Gang the ASEM summit offers the “perfect platform” for leaders to discuss ways of dealing with the crisis.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has proposed a global system of financial supervision that would empower international bodies including the International Monetary fund to monitor global markets and act as early warning systems. French President Nicolas Sarkozy — one of the summit’s coordinators — has pledged to use the meeting as a platform to persuade Asian nations to take part in a plan for the rebuilding of international capitalism.

“What has happened is an act of treason against the values of capitalism; it is not a result of the market economy,” said Sarkozy during a speech Tuesday at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

“The most simple solution” for the global summits would be to bring the G8 (group of eight) largest industrialised nations together with the five biggest emerging economies, led by China and India, he told European politicians.

Chinese analysts anticipate that the summit may produce an agreement for the establishment of a joint trust fund between Asia and Europe, similar to the one launched during the second ASEM summit in London in 1998, to combat the Asian financial crisis.


The update comes October 31, 2008 to the original posting of October 25, 2008 and it deals specifically with the place of Mongolia in all of the above. This because of a breakfast meeting at the Asia Society in New York today, October 31, 2008 – the traditional Halloween day, and I will mention after a few further lines why I say this.

The meeting today had the title – Mongolia Rising: The Incredible and Continuing Story of Mongolia’s Emergence as a Free Market Democracy.

At the breakfast meeting spoke the US Ambassador to Mongolia, Mr. Mark C. Minton, and in the audience sat also Ambassador Ms. Enkhtsetseg Ochir, the Permanent Representative of Mongolia to the UN. Jamie F. Metzl, the Exec. VP of Asia Society chaired.

Strangely, when I looked up the website of the Asia Society, I found that on October 31, 2005   The Asia Society   Washington DC Center had a meeting on Mongolia. Here the strange coincidence of the Halloween date repeating itself exactly three years later and my possibility to compare the progress of relations between the US and Mongolia in the last three years – to the date.

The information from 2005 –…

Strangely, already at that first meeting there was a reference to Halloween, but that was a very serious meeting – “US-Mongolia Relations: History and Future Prospects.” That meeting, according to the pdf had a large cast of Ambassadors participating, including Tony Lake, and it was arranged before President Bush trip to Mongolia – the first Summit of a US President with a Mongolian President. Since then there was a return visit – a Summit of the presidents in the Washington DC White House in 2007.

Mr. Mark Minton, a career member of the US Foreign Service got to UlaanBataar in December 2006 after having served in Korea and Japan, so he was in Mongolia for the last two years of the US- Mongolia rapprochement.

So why Mongolia? It is a country, the size of Alaska, of 3 million people, and 45% live now in the capital area urban environment. Culturally they are close to Tibet and are of the same religious belief as the Tibetan Buddhism, thus I would assume also close culturally to Bhutan, but they were a nomadic people.

In the 20th century that brushed with Soviets, Chinese and Japanese occupation and are fiercely intent on preserving their freedom. Being geographically wedged in between China and Russia, they want that “third neighbor” that geography did not give them. So thy go the long distance and want the US as their third neighbor. To reach the US they developed their democracy so they can interact with countries beyond their two immediate neighbors. They reorganized their army as a peace making army and they participate in UN peace missions like Sierra Leone, and with the US in Iraq and Afghanistan. in exchange the US established an AID program involved in preventive health care and in construction workers education as the transformation from the nomadic lifestyle created needs for new skills in the housing sector; further the US Peace Corps are active in Mongolia – it is actually the largest per capita Peace Corps location. But obviously the US does not have Mongolia to itself, the Japanese foreign aid is the largest in Mongolia and the EU, Australia, and Canada are also active.

Democratization made large progress – there is transparency, a judiciary, there are elections and they have a market economy and the leaders are involved in diplomacy. They are visited often by the Dalai Lama and the university is in exchange with the University of Alaska.

Obviously, the US is interested in Mongolia’s mineral resources – so is China. Peabody Coal and Rio Tinto International are active in Mongolia. Hilton International opened this year. Mongolia is becoming a middle income country. It is landlocked but is starting to take advantage from its location by becoming a country of transit between China and Russia.

In the democracy department there was a blemish recently when after the summer elections there were riots. The Ambassador explained those as inexperience because they have an army but not good police service. The fact was that the army, that was trained for peace work, did not know how to act when called in after the opposition protests about the elections. The authorities panicked and the army was inefficient.

An adviser to Nature Conservancy criticised the ambassador as he said nothing about the environmental problems and the mining industry. Further there are issues resulting from foreigners buying up grazing land for meet production and farming.

The nuclear issue came up as Mongolia wants to be part of the six Party talks on North Korea programs. Further, what was not mentioned is that Mongolia declared its nuclear-weapon-free status. In effect I have in front of me UN General Assembly document A/c.1/63/L.28 where Kazakhstan, Morocco, and Mongolia brought up together Mongolia’s rejection of nuclear weapons. Also, in recognition of their specific situation, Japan let Mongolia host one of the six-Party talks commissions.

Japan is also looking into the problem with desert dust from Mongolia reaching Japan.

From all this material, what is China doing when insisting in bringing in Mongolia to the meeting they hosted between the 27 EU countries and the four major Asian economies, when besides Japan, India and Korea, they also invited Pakistan and Mongolia? We understood Pakistan as sort of balance to India, but now we also figure that bringing in Mongolia has more to do with trying to redirect this country towards Europe and weakening a runaway relationship with the US directly, or via Japan.

The bottom line is that because of size and economic potential, Mongolia is a country with much higher importance then it might be assumed from the mere 3 million people. China night then want to keep it in its own orbit and to guard it from   “third neighbors'” exaggerated footholds.


Posted on on August 8th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

The World Values Survey is available at:


Download the reports
Download the Happy Planet report (2006, pdf)
Download the European Happy Planet report (2007, pdf)

See the Global HPI map:


Posted on on August 5th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Why your happiness matters to the planet: Surveys and research link true happiness to a smaller footprint on the ecology.

By Moises Velasquez-Manoff, Staff Writer of The Christian Science Monitor / July 22, 2008
From New York, Reporter Moises Velasquez-Manoff discusses the correlations between happiness, material goods, and ecological footprints.

Overall, people around the world have grown happier during the past 25 years – this according to the most recent World Values Survey (WVS), a periodic assessment of happiness in 97 nations.

On average, people describing themselves as “very happy” have increased by nearly 7 percent. The findings seem to contradict the view, held by some, that national happiness levels are more or less fixed.

The report’s authors attribute rising world happiness to improved economies, greater democratization, and increased social tolerance in many nations. Along with material stability, freedom to live as one pleases is a major factor in subjective well-being, they say.

But the survey, based at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research in Ann Arbor, also underscore that, beyond a certain point, material wealth doesn’t boost happiness.

The United States, which ranked 16th, and has the world’s largest economy, has largely stalled in happiness gains – this despite ever more buying power.

Americans are now twice as rich as they were in 1950, but no happier, according to the survey.

Other rich countries, the United Kingdom and western Germany among them, show downward happiness trends. For psychologists and environmentalists alike, these observations prompt a profound question. Rich countries consume the lion’s share of world resources.

Overconsumption is a major factor in environmental degradation, global warming chief among them.

Could a wrong-headed approach to seeking happiness, then, be exacerbating some of the world’s most pressing environmental problems? And could learning to be truly content help mitigate them?

In the past decade, a cadre of psychologists has directed its attention away from determining what’s wrong with the infirm toward quantifying what’s right with the healthy. They’ve christened this new field “positive psychology,” and what they’re discovering perhaps shouldn’t be all that surprising. At the core, humans are social beings. While food and shelter are absolutely essential to well-being, once these basic needs are fulfilled, engagement with other human beings makes people happiest.

For Martin Seligman, director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, the problem in the US is not consumption per se, but that as a society we consume in ways that don’t make us happy. He divides the pursuit of happiness into three categories: seeking positive emotion, or feeling good; engagement with others; and meaning, or participating in something larger than oneself.

People, he notes, are often happiest when helping other people, when engaged in “self-transcendent” activities. What does this mean?

Rather than making a gift of the latest iPhone, buy someone dancing lessons, he says. Instead of taking a resort vacation, build a house with Habitat for Humanity.

“The pursuit of engagement and the pursuit of meaning don’t habituate,” he says, whereas trying to feel good is like eating French vanilla ice cream: The first bite is fantastic; the tenth tastes like cardboard.

By definition, happiness is subjective. And yet, scientists find measurable differences in people who describe themselves as happy. They’re more productive at work. They learn more quickly. Strong social networks – a large predictor of happiness – also have health effects, researchers say.

One study found that belonging to clubs or societies cut in half members’ risk of dying during the following year. Another found that, when exposed to a cold virus, children with stronger social networks fell ill only one-quarter as often as those without.

For psychologists, social networks explain one of the seeming paradoxes of WVS findings: While relatively rich Denmark took the top spot, much less wealthy Puerto Rico and Colombias are second and third. In fact, relatively poor Latin America countries often score high on WVS rankings. This may underline the value of community, family, and strong social institutions to well-being.

Scientists say this need for community may be a result of humanity’s long evolution in groups. Living together conferred an advantage, they say. In the hunter-gatherer world, relatedness, autonomy, curiosity, and competence – the very things that psychologists find make people happy – “had payoffs that were pretty clear,” says Richard Ryan, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester in New York. “Aspiring for a lot of material goods is actually unhappiness-producing,” he says. “People who value material good and wealth also are people who are treading more heavily on the earth – and not getting happier.”

High consumption fails to make us happy, and it comes at a cost. According to the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) 2006 Living Planet Report, humanity’s ecological footprint now exceeds earth’s capacity to regenerate by about 25 percent.

Furthermore, with only 5 percent of the world’s population, North America accounts for 22 percent of this footprint. The US consumes twice what its land, air, and water can sustain. (By contrast, WWF calculates that Africa, with 13 percent of earth’s population, accounts for 7 percent of its footprint.) America’s outsize footprint results in part from its appetite for stuff – what psychologists now say is the wrong approach to lasting well-being.

“The pursuit of happiness can drive environmental degradation, but only a degraded type of happiness pursuit leads to that outcome,” says Kennon Sheldon, professor of psychological sciences at the University of Missouri, Columbia, in an e-mail. “The standard western focus upon economic utility as the highest good (exemplified by the US) seems to encourage that kind of degraded pursuit.”

Worse, so-called “extrinsic” values (wealth, power, fame), as opposed to “intrinsic” values (adventure, engagement, meaning), seem to go hand-in-hand with more environmentally destructive behavior.

Tim Kasser, an associate professor of psychology at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., has found that people who are more extrinsically oriented tend to ride bikes less, buy second-hand less, and recycle less.

Nations with more individualistic and materialistic values also tend to be more ecologically destructive.

“The choice of sustainability is very consistent with a happier life,” Professor Kasser says. “Whereas the choice to live with materialistic [values] is a choice to be less happy.”

The idea that what’s good for humanity is also good for the planet is central to environmentalist Bill McKibben’s book “Deep Economy.” His prescriptions for lowering carbon emissions – living closer together, relocalizing food production, consuming less – line up with what psychologists say promotes happiness.

In fact, although painful in the short term, high fuel prices may result in happier Americans in the long run, says Mr. McKib ben. This year, Americans drove less than they did the year before – probably for the first time since the car was invented, he says. They also bought double the vegetable seeds this year compared with last. “These are signs of a new world,” he says by e-mail.

For their part, psychologists are advocating that policymakers use indicators other than the Gross National Product (GNP) to make decisions. What’s the purpose of an economy, they ask, if not to enhance the well-being of its citizenry?

“It’s because growth for growth sake” says Nic Marks, founder of the Centre for Well-beong at the New Economics Foundation (NEF) in London. It’s got its own internal logic, but it’s not serving humanity. So why are we doing it?”

Bhutan uses Gross National Happiness as a measure of its success. Although small and undeveloped, the largely Buddhist nation is the happiest in Asia, according to BusinessWeek.

Psychologists also have specific recommendations to promote national happiness, based on their findings about what makes people happy. Insecurity fosters a materialistic approach to life, they say. Policies that combat insecurity – universal healthcare, say, or good, affordable education – promote happiness. Many link social policies like these to Scandinavian nations’ consistently high happiness rankings.

Kasser has more ideas: Limit – and tax – advertising, he says. To promote consumption, ads foster insecurity, he says. That hinders self-acceptance, which is another predictor of lasting well-being.

NEF’s Happy Planet Index (HPI), meanwhile, has developed a new measure of a nation’s success. How efficiently does it generate happiness? HPI takes a country’s happiness and average life span and divides it by its ecological impact to measure how much it spent in achieving its well-being. On this scale, the Pacific archipelago nation of Vanatu comes in first place, Colombia second. Germany is twice as efficient at producing happiness as the US, which ranks 150th by that measure. Russia, with its low happiness scores and relatively low life expectancy, is 178th. And Zimbabwe, plagued by poverty and political turmoil, is the least efficient at producing happiness on Earth.

How The HPI is calculated:

The HPI reflects the average years of happy life produced by a given society, nation or group of nations, per unit of planetary resources consumed.

Put another way, it represents the efficiency with which countries convert the earth’s finite resources into well-being experienced by their citizens.
The Global HPI incorporates three separate indicators: ecological footprint, life-satisfaction and life expectancy. Conceptually, it is straight forward and intuitive:

HPI = [ (Life satisfaction x Life expectancy) /(Ecological Footprint + α) ] x ß

(For details of how alpha and beta are calculated, see the appendix in the full Happy Planet Index report)

The World Values Survey is available at:


Download the reports
Download the Happy Planet report (2006, pdf)
Download the European Happy Planet report (2007, pdf)

See the Global HPI map:

The article appeared in The Christian Science Monitor –…

It’s not genetics that makes Danes happy and Russians gloomy, according to the World Values Survey which, for thirty years, has been sending out questionnaires to people in 95 countries to ”know how others experience the world”. (NEWSCOM)


Posted on on July 9th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

From:          naturalhabitat at naturalhabitat.rsys1.c…
Subject:       Natural Habitat Adventures: 60-Second Safari to Bhutan
Date:       July 9, 2008

They write:
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800-543-8917 US & Canada
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Pincas Jawetz notes that he has been there – done that – and written about it. was quite intererested in the GNH idea and would like to see how this concept can be picked up for implementation in the West. Meetings at the University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada tried to investigate this and perhaps the day will come that Nations will agree to make their population’s happiness as their national goal.


Posted on on May 11th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Anson Chan joined Hong Kong civil service in 1962, and advanced within the system until nominated as Chief Secretary for Administration of the Hong Kong Special Administrative region from 1997 to 2001 – First as Deputy to the last British Governor, Chris Patten, and then to Beijing-appointed chief executive Tung Chee-hwa. I happened to be in Hong Kong in 1997, and am aware of the mixed feelings at the time, as people saw in her the China-plant in the British Administration. But now I think that it is agreed that Hon. Anson Chan was rather the person that managed to help smooth the transition of Hong Kong – from a British Colony to an affiliate of China.

She is seen now as the person that while dealing with the mechanics oof government, she also oversaw an orderly transition to a more democratic system – something that Hong Kong did not have under the British either! Hong Kong under China was given an agreed upon “Basic Law” that allows for sort of a mini-constitution; under this law she was pushing through the slow democratizing process. In 2006 she sat up a Core Group to promote democracy and universal suffrage. On that platform she was elected to the Hong Kong Legislative Council in December 2007, and looks forward to pursue that special goal which she keeps defining as UNIVERSAL SUFFRAGE.

Friday, May 9, 2008, Hon. Anson Chan came for a breakfast meeting/discussion with the Asia Society President Dr. Vishaka N. Desai. The topic was: THE FUTURE OF DEMOCRACY IN HONG KONG.

She started out by telling us that until the 1980s there was no attempt under the British to establish a representative government in Hong Kong. The first election was held in 1985. By 1991 there were 10 members elected on the basis of one man – one vote. And there was also the corporate identity that created a Functional Constituency that takes part in the elections. She expressed the obvious that these Functional Constituencies can not be part of the universal suffrage idea.

We regard that time in China as Oppressive – she said, and by the time the British made some moves to have representative government it was already too late. The first real sign of progress was thus the election of December 2007 – and this is with Hong Kong as part of China.

Even Bhutan has now elections – so why does Hong Kong have to wait? – she asked. But still – Hong Kong will have complete personal elections only by 2020. There is an intermediary stage set for 2012, but she hopes that within 4 years, the Central Government (that is Beijing) may get the trust of the people – as the people in Hong Kong are loyal to China, and know that HK is part of China. So, there will be no reason not to have every person in have the right to vote and to stand for election. This second part is important in democracy and this is not yet the case in HK. A nominating Committee should not be a filtering sieve to eliminate those you do not want to stand for the election she explained.

Further she explained of a system of four sectors in the election comittee. She hoped that in stages there will be an increase in elected officials 2012 – 2016 – 2020. Having served for 39 years in HK government , her “passion” is now to get fair government for Hong Kong, she said.

Dr. Desai asked her – after 39 years in government, how is this that you decided now to move over to the elected branch? (or in her actual words – “to the other side”)

Anson explained that she created a group of like-minded people to put forward ideas that the government ignored. The situation was – “put-up or shut-up.” So she decided to run for elections. Quite a few people, even high-school students, went to Taiwan to observe elections. This is very good she said – specially for the young – it will be for them.

WE LOOK FORWARD TO ESTABLISH A RELATIONSHIP TO TAIWAN, a government-to-government relationship, she said.

Q. What role can the International Community play to help on this path? This because of the strong international presence – it is Asia’s International City?

A. there are ex-pats living in HK, so there is concern. At the moment it is air quality! Not just politics! It is important that HK remains GHG Green. This is not interference by the International Community.

Q. From someone who lived in Singapore and wanted to know if the elections could lead to a situation like in Singapore?

A. “I hope it will not be the model for HK – think there will be a genuine choice for Singapore. We have a number of social problems, health care, how to educate, how to teach skills..”

She further expressed her concern with what happens with the civil service as a whole. She was not able to back some of the appointments that were made without the necessary checks and balances. Her opponent was appointed from one of the “friendly parties.”

Now I had my chance, and asked Ms. Chang if she sees a possibility for China evolving into a Federal government situation that could then allow for diversity. I did add perhaps a possibility to have such entities like Macao, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Tibet among the units. I got in reply forthcoming information that was, honestly, even more then I hoped for.

Ms. Chan mentioned the Economic Zones that have their separate governing systems. She also mentioned the Autonomous Regions – so in principle the diversity is possible, and it is not set in stone because of existing present lines of demarcation that separate different administrative units. So, what I understand is that the whole Chinese central government is evolving – so that the state is ready to allow functional entities to evolve in different ways – as ingredients of a China that does figure to be a multi-system state – rather then a tightly centralized state. This gives us the justification that the system of buttons we introduced on, as part of our China button, is indeed the way of the future. We may thus enlarge our present selection by including buttons, as needed, for the Special Economic Zones.


Posted on on April 28th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

A New Environmentalism.      
By Victor Davis Hanson,   a military historian at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.
The Washington Times | Monday, April 28, 2008. Posted also on…

Tuesday was Earth Day, and it reminded us how environmentalism has helped to preserve the natural habitat of the United States — reducing the manmade pollution of our soils, air and water that is a byproduct of comfortable modern industrial life.

But now we are in a new phase of global environmental challenges, as billions of people across an interconnected and resource-scarce world seek an affluent lifestyle once confined to Europe and the United States.

No longer are the old environmental questions of pollution versus conservation so simply framed. Instead, the choices facing us, at least for the next few decades, are not between bad and good, but between bad and far worse — and involve wider questions of global security, fairness and growing scarcity.

One example of where these diverse and often complex concerns meet is the debate over transportation. Until hydrogen fuel cells or electric batteries can power cars economically and safely, we will continue relying on gasoline or similar combustible fuels. But none of our current ways of addressing the problem of transportation fuel are without some sort of danger.

We can, for example, keep importing a growing share of our petroleum needs. That will ensure the global oil supply remains tight and expensive. Less-developed, authoritarian countries like Russia, Sudan and Venezuela will welcome the financial windfall, and keep polluting their tundra, coasts, deserts and lakes to pump as much as they can.

Rising world oil prices ensure that Vladimir Putin, or his handpicked successor, can continue to bully Europe; that Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez can intimidate his neighbors; that Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can promise Israel’s destruction; and that al Qaeda and its affiliates can be funded by sympathetic Middle East sheiks. Such regional strongmen and terrorists cease being mere thugs and evolve into strategic threats once they have billions of petrodollars.

The United States, in taking advantage of a cheap dollar, may set records in exporting American goods and services this year. But we will still end up with massive trade deficits, given that we import every day more than 12 million barrels of oil, now at a cost of over $100 each on the world market. It takes a lot of American wheat, machinery and computer software to pay a nearly half-trillion-dollar annual tab for imported oil.

An alternative is to concentrate more on biofuels. American farmers now are planting the largest acreage of corn in more than 60 years. But the result is that fuel now competes with food production — and not just here, as Europe and South America likewise turn to ethanols.

One result is higher corn prices, which means climbing food bills for cattle, pigs and poultry, and thus skyrocketing meat, pork, chicken and turkey prices. Plus, with more acreage devoted to corn, there is less for other crops like cotton, wheat, rice and soy — and the prices of those commodities are soaring as well.

Americans’ increasing use of homegrown ethanol seems to be raising the price of food for the world’s poor, just as our importation of oil enriches the world’s already wealthy and dangerous.

What, then, is the least pernicious alternative — and the most environmentally, financially and ethically sound?

Unfortunately, for a while longer it is not just to trust in promising new technologies like wind and solar power. For decades to come, these will only provide a fraction of our energy needs.

Instead, aside from greater conservation, we must develop more traditional energy resources at home. That would mean building more nuclear power plants, intensifying efforts at mining and burning coal more cleanly — and developing more domestic oil, while retooling our vehicles to be even lighter and more fuel-efficient.

Nuclear power poses risks of proper disposal of radioactive wastes. Coal heats the atmosphere. But both can also cut our need to import fossil fuels to run our generators, while offering electrical energy to charge efficient and clean cars of the not-too-distant future.

No one wants a nuclear plant in his county. But, then, no one wants to leave the country bankrupt paying for imported fuel, or vulnerable by empowering hostile foreign oil producers, or insensitive to the price of food for the poor.

It is also time to re-evaluate domestic oil production in environmental — and moral — terms. The question is no longer simply whether we want to drill in the Alaskan wilderness or off the Florida or California coasts. Rather, the dilemma is whether by doing so, we can mitigate the world’s ecological risks beyond our shores, deny dictators financial clout, get America out of debt and help the poor afford food.

We may not like oil platforms off the beach or mega-tankers in Arctic waters, but the alternatives for now are far worse — in both environmental and ethical terms.

Victor Davis Hanson is a military historian at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and the author of “A War Like No Other” (Random House).