The tiny Himalayan country of Bhutan is the only country in the world to measure happiness and its message that quality of life is more important than economics is about to be personally delivered to the Columbia Valley. On Monday (October 29) at the Invermere Community Hall, a special guest will be presenting on the concept of Gross National Happiness, the Bhutanese government’s policy that has been causing quite the international stir.
Dasho Kinley Dorji, a journalist and the Secretary of Information and Communications for Bhutan, is being hosted by the Invermere branch of Wildsight thanks to branch president Baiba Morrow and her husband Pat Morrow, the now-Wilmer resident who made history as the first person to climb the Seven Summits — the highest mountains of each of the seven continents.
“I’ve spent over three years in the Himalayas in general, on climbing and trekking and bicycling expeditions, and Bhutan is the most environmentally intact and socially intact country in the entire region,” Pat told The Echo.
The Morrows were asked by the Banff Mountain Film Festival if they had any recommendations for someone who could talk at this year’s event about Gross National Happiness, defined by sustainable development, preserving cultural values, conserving the natural environment and the establishment of good governance.
Through their friend Nancy Stricklander, who used to be the official Canadian representative in Butan and now works for the Canada-Bhutan Foundation, the Morrows discovered Dorji, who was willing to travel to Banff.
“Baiba seized the opportunity of snagging him on his way to the festival,” said Pat, “so instead of him flying to Calgary and going up to Banff, he’s going to come to Cranbrook and then we’ll drive him up to Banff and join him at the festival.”
At the festival, which takes place from October 27 to November 4, Dorji will be headlining with none other than Dr. David Suzuki when the two hold a life onstage conversation how Gross National Happiness can apply to the world at large.
“(The Bhutanese) depend a lot on hydro power to sell to India, and that’s their main income,” Pat said. “They recognize that keeping the forests intact keeps the flow of water going into their hydro projects… other countries in that part of the world have suffered tremendously from their natural resources being squandered.”
Bhutan, a predominantly Buddhist country nestled between India and China with fewer than 750,000 people, has until recently been fairly well protected from the outside world. A ban on TV and the Internet was lifted only in 1999, and democracy was just introduced in 2008 by Bhutan’s fourth king Jigme Singye Wangchuck who decided democracy was the appropriate form of government.
“They’re trying to hang onto what they have and they’ve been sharing their ancient wisdom with the rest of the world through the United Nations and other outlets,” said Pat. “I think (Dorji) will be frank in describing the challenges in trying to maintain the traditional life.”
In his own words, Dorji explained in an email: “(GNH) is a responsibility that we are trying to operationalize, not a great
achievement that we have made,” he wrote. “We cannot claim that every Bhutanese is enlightened and happy — there’s a lot to be done.”
Dorji’s presentation, Within the Realm of Happiness: a Himalayan Perspective, will take place on Monday (October 29) at 7:30 p.m. in the Invermere Community Hall. Tickets are $12, and $6 for students, available at Circle Health Foods, The Book Bar and online at www.wildsight.ca. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 250-341-3554.