Helena Norberg-Hodge: The Economics of Happiness

BY Grace O'Keeffe
Helena Norberg-Hodge: The Economics of Happiness
Localization is the economics of happiness—because it's about restoring that human connection and care.

In Western culture we often grow up being told that more is better, that in order to be happy we have to have a big job, big house, nice car and lots of money. But what happens when achieve that? Is that it? Is there no more that can make us happy? Or do we spend our whole lives working towards this dream and never achieving it, leaving us with the empty sense of failure. How can this be what we are taught to believe in? That these are the values we hold highest and can we ever truly be fulfilled by these ideals?

As the worldwide market continues to grow, the population increases and globalisation expands into the darkest corners of the earth. We have to ask ourselves the age-old question is bigger really better?

‘Rebuilding the local food economies from Ghana to Byron Bay, to England or Sweden…is rebuilding the fundamentals of the Economics of Happiness.’


Helena Norberg-Hodge is a long time pioneer of the ‘new economy’ movement. Working for more than thirty years to promote the economics of personal, social and ecological well-being.  The main focus of Helena’s work has been bringing people’s awareness to our economic system and the detrimental effects it has upon our ancient cultures and societies, as well as the happiness and well-being among the global community.

Due to the rapid growth of global economic policies, many people situated in rural communities, living off the land and providing a sustainable life for their families have been forced to move into cities because their way of life is deemed inferior or primitive, according to Western standards and ideologies. Fuelling the premise that happiness comes from wealth and stature only attained by living a ‘superior’ life, this has, in fact, caused widespread disaster globally in rural communities, both socially and environmentally.  Helena has worked very hard to show that the current economic model is, in fact, highly unsustainable and is destroying beautiful, once-thriving cultures around the world.

‘We need a balance between urban and rural—we need diversity, the ability for people to choose.’

Helena is the founder and director of the International Society for Ecology and Culture (ISEC). ISEC examines the root causes of our current social and environmental crises, while promoting more sustainable and equitable patterns of living. She has been instrumental in creating and promoting Local Food Economies all around the world. Local food economies are created when, instead of people buying food that is out of season and therefore flown in from around the world to be available in supermarkets, they begin Farmer’s Markets, buying and selling local produce, trading goods for goods and instilling that essential element of community that the world is desperately lacking.

Rebuilding community at the local level can dramatically restore human well-being.Rebuilding community at the local level can dramatically restore human well-being.

Helena is also the producer and co-director of the award-winning film, The Economics of Happiness and in 2012 won the Goi Peace Prize for her incredible contribution to “the revitalization of cultural and biological diversity, and the strengthening of local communities and economies worldwide.”

Thanks to Helena’s tireless work towards preserving ancient cultures, decentralising and localising the economy, we are finally beginning to see a subtle shift in the world. Moving away from the old story of needing wealth and power to be happy, and into a new story where people are realising that it is when we go back to basics that we find true happiness. Moving forward into the future, remember the pure joy that we get from spending time with our families, buying beautiful organic food from our local farmer and reconnecting with the natural world around us.

‘These are the things that really restore human happiness, and they come through localization.’

Also take a look at Helena’s segment on The Trews with Russell Brand:

BY Grace O'Keeffe
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