TED, an organization dedicated to Ideas Worth Spreading, is really fun for me! You can enjoy the wonderful talks online or in person, much of it free – and know that you are learning useful stuff that may indeed make our lives better, happier! More focused on sustainability and social justice. Go to TED.com to get started.

At least one TED event is poised to come to Petaluma through Institute for Noetic Sciences at their EarthRise retreat center on the crest of San Antonio Road overlooking Petaluma and now IONS has a brand new presence in Foundry Wharf across from Walter Haake’s office. I’m stoked!

If you go to TED.com, they give you lots of clips to get the flavor. More at http://www.ted.com/pages/about. The global group started as technology and design lectures but now is so much more. I am grateful.

So far, I’ve picked http://www.ted.com/talks/nic_marks_the_happy_planet_index.html, which is quite wonderful in my book because what I naturally like to do is high on their list of what will make me happy! Also watched the bioethics clip, but that is way darker, so Happy Planet it is for this blog.

Brit presenter, Nic Marks, says “I have a dream that the future is not a nightmare,” and goes on (very well!) to outline how to change the nightmarish vision of ecological catastrophe we often hear which uses fear to capture attention, not noticing fear makes us sick.

People are freezing from fear of our future and running away. We need to think about what progress is. We’ve been told if we get the math right, make enough money perhaps, life will get better – appealing to human greed, to more is better. But, says Marks, in the Western countries, we have enough and we’ve known for a long time this is no good measure of well being.

“We’ve created a national accounting system based on how much stuff we can produce,” he says. He quotes Robert Kennedy “the gross national product measures everything except that which makes life worthwhile.” People’s well being should be the benchmark.

Marks sites a global survey wherein people round the world said what they want is happiness. Money is on their charts but it’s not nearly as important as happiness. We all need to love and be loved in life; it is a natural human aspiration. Why are we not thinking of the progress of nations in this way?

Marks’ New Economics Foundation has a way to measure well being. We all have to live on one planet and that is the ultimate scarce resource so we must think in terms of efficiency – how much well being do we get for our planetary use of resources? How much well being do we create?

Marks has come up with A Happy Planet and Ecological Footprint for 143 Countries and a resulting HAPPY PLANET INDEX – which makes ME happy because I can plug right into it.

What are 5 things to do every day to be happier, he asks.

He talks about Costa Rica where average life expectancy is 78 years, longer than the USA – calls it the happiest nation on the planet – using a quarter of the resources used by the rest of the planet! 99% of Costa Rica’s energy comes from renewable resources. They abolished their army in 1949 and have one of the highest rates of literacy in the world. He tells us our challenge is to bring more countries in line with this kind of behavior.

So here we go, folks! The five things …
to connect – social relationships are the cornerstone of your happiness.
be active – step outside, turn the radio on and dance
take notice – how aware are you of seasons changing, people around you, what is trying to emerge?
keep learning throughout the life course. Build a much better life; cook a new dish; pick up an instrument
give – our generosity and compassion are hard wired to reward mechanism in our brains.

Though many find it hard to believe they will be happier by giving, says Marks, if 1/2 of a group is asked to spend some money on themselves, and 1/2 is asked to spend money on others, those who spend on others are much happier. Happiness does not cost the earth.

Nic Marks asks that our leaders in business and government follow the example of Martin Luther King near his death, who said “I fear no one; I have been to the Mountain Top and I have seen the promised land.” We must gather people and point the way to a happy future. Marks is convinced “We can create a world where happiness does not cost the earth.”