Photograph by @simoncroberts.
A group of scouts near Trongsa in central Bhutan. It was Bhutan’s Jigme Singye Wangchuck, or Dragon King, who formulated the country’s signature quality of life indicator, Gross National Happiness (GNH). Since 1971, the country has rejected GDP as the only way to measure progress. In its place, it has championed GNH, an ethos of environmental sustainability, cultural preservation and holistic civic contentment. Wangchuck envisioned a Bhutan driven by Buddhist values, but also saw the crucial need for the remote, landlocked country to diversify and modernize to provide welfare, support high quality sustainability, and insure against the risk of natural disasters on agrarian livelihoods. Every five years under the direction of the Centre for Bhutan Studies and GNH Research, survey-takers conduct questionnaires across the country. The most recent survey, in 2015, found that 8 percent of the people were "deeply happy," 35 percent identified as "extensively happy," and 47.9 percent registered as "narrowly happy”. With WiFi-ready coffee shops emerging in Thimphu, youngsters in particular are flocking in droves away from rural labor toward the brighter lights of the capital. So as Bhutan’s GDP grows, raising “happiness” is likely to become that every bit harder.
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