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Bhutan: the Happiness index in changing times

An illustrated live presentation by Nirmala Nair, who lives in both the Cape and Bhutan.

More about Nirmala Nair's live presentation

There is a tantalising mystique about Bhutan, perhaps it is the mountains, perhaps it is the culture, perhaps it is the charisma of the 4th king - the architect of Gross National Happiness. What ever be the case, the "Land of Thunder Dragon" as Bhutan is called by the locals, does live up to its mystique simply by being a very remote and not so easily accessible a place. Though the country is a democracy, the presence of the Druk Gyalpo is very much evident in all walks of Bhutanese society. Current Druk Gyalpo, the 5th King, Jigme Khesar Wangchuk took over the reins in his early 30s from his father the 4th King Jigme Singye Wanghuk who prepared the country for a democratic election ushering the modern constitutional democracy in 2008. He is also known as the architect of the “Gross National Happiness” – the Happiness index.

During this talk, we shall explore some of these topics around the concept of Happiness in general, the ecology of Happiness , the anatomy of well being and how Bhutan as a Buddhist nation, one of the smallest Mountain kingdom is able to straddle GNH with modernisation/globalisation.

Nirmala’s talk will also focus on some of the following themes:
What does Happiness mean to the Bhutanese?
How did such a radical concept like GNH emerge out of a tiny country like Bhutan?
Why is the world -particularly the Western countries - so fascinated by the concept of "Happiness" and Happiness index ?

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About Nirmala Nair

Nirmala Nair’s association with Bhutan goes back to 2009 when she first organised the visit of the then queen Ashjee Dorjee Wangmo to meet Carlo Petrini, the founder of Slow Food International in Torino during the Terra Madre festival.

Recently her work in Bhutan is mainly around climate change related work – straddling to balance the traditional knowledge systems with emerging new insights around local eco-systems, integrated systems approach to sustainability and holistic well-being.

Nirmala Nair used to run ZERISA (Zero Emissions Research South Africa, 2002 -2012)), mainly focusing on designing close-loop systems for local development. She has worked with local communities in the Western Cape. She has also been involved with local and provincial governments in South Africa on how to integrate ZERI and close loop systems approach. She has also been closely associated with South African Women in Dialogue (SAWID).

Since 2002 Nirmala has conducted trainings, workshops and public lectures in and around South Africa on how to create local sustainable systems that are adaptable and resilient to changing eco-systems. She is also a regular guest lecturer at UCT's Geological and Environmental Sciences as well as Education department.

Since 2012, she has set up School of Practical Sustainability and has been focusing on simple practical solutions based approach to local sustainability that is enabling and empowering local communities. Most of her work currently is taking place in the tiny Himalayan country of Bhutan where she is contracted as the international consultant on climate change for the Royal Government of Bhutan's National Adaptation program for Action (NAPA II).

For more of Nirmala Nair’s work please visit her website.






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