It Sure is a Hell of a Move of Courage by Samten Wangchuk

Kuensel, the newspaper of Bhutan
5 February 2013

This is an interview done while Hunter was in Bhutan 29 January-3 February 2013.  Much of the work that was done while she was there is still under embargo–stay tuned!

Kuensel: Did we make any headway?

Hunter Lovins: Definitively. It’s mind bogglingly amazing that you could pull this diversity of disciplines, of points of views, of stature and come to the kind of consensus and coherence that will be reflected through this process.

You have people from almost every part of the globe in various fields and very diverse mental models about what the problem is and what the answers are.

There are people here who believe the problem is within each individual, the answer is building within each individual the capacity to find happiness. There are people here, like me, who believe the problem is the system – economic, political, business – and the answers lie in policy, in transforming how business is done, in laws, in economic measures.

You bring those two divergent points of views together and you’re bound to have sparks flying.

If the stuff we’re talking about was easy, it would have been done. What we’re talking about is nothing short of transforming everything on the planet. That’s not an easy task.

Kuensel: Do you then, really believe a small nation like Bhutan can pull it off?

Lovins: I think Bhutan is probably the only nation in the world that can and I think it is because of this blending of the deep understanding, by and long study of deep intellectual academic tradition of human happiness, and at the same time the political courage that your prime minister and your King showed in convening this group.

That’s a pretty ballsy thing to do.

Bhutan can just stay quiet, stay happy and get on with its own life, why should Bhutan take on rest of the world and take on its shoulders the responsibility for saving the world.

No doubt the world’s going to hell on a peach basket and we’re in trouble the world over, but for your King and your prime minster to say we’re going to invite the experts of the world to come here and take a crack at it is a success.

Against all of my doubts, it’s a success because there are bright people here and there are people who care.

You get them in a lot of places, in UN meetings, universities, in NGOs, but the difference here is the skill of diplomacy and the political leadership, which you have.

Can Bhutan pull it off? That is for a greater power than me to say. But if anybody has a shot at it, Bhutan does.

Kuensel: Is it a risky thing or a smart thing for Bhutan to take on the world with this new paradigm?

Lovins: What your politicians have done is risky, but also smart.

If the world goes down, the climate gets worse, which it is on the track to, the economy goes down globally, Bhutan is in real trouble and arguably, no where is safe, in a collapsing world, economy and environment.

If Bhutan pulls this off, they will showcase several things.

One, the magnificence of what you have here, of your political system, of your environment and the leadership of a little country.

You will put Bhutan on the world map in a very big way. Bhutan will be known for all of history as the country that saved the world.

That will have very real economic benefits. People will want to come here simply because of what Bhutan did.

Who knows if we can, this is going to be tough, but if you succeed then in ordinary politician’s terms, the flow of business to the country, the wellbeing of your people, the creation of jobs, the flow of money into the country, you will so enhance all of that because of the success.

Maybe, it is a pretty smart political move, but it sure is a hell of a move of courage.

Look at politicians the world over. My president, who won the Nobel prize, before he’d done anything just because he got elected, what has he done on a scale like this? Has he convened this group of experts? Cameron in the UK, what has he done? Angela Merkel in Germany, what has she done?

You go politician by politician around the world they’re all running for cover.

Prime Minister Jigmi Thinley stood in front of the world and said let’s go.

Kuensel: But before we begin counting the chickens, do we actually have a pragmatic measure here?

Lovins: We have laid out a set of basic principles of what a sustainable economy would be, principles of how you begin to move from where we are towards a system that will deliver genuine human happiness around the world, not just selfishly for Bhutan and principles that can be applied here in Bhutan.

One of the things that my group did, I ran the sustainable group, is compile examples of best practices from around the world and we spent an hour in the session asking what Bhutanese best practices were.

Like the land reform system, so that even the poorest get a little land, is critically important, that is considered by economists around the world as one of the five pillars of sustainable development.

Your education system, have young people to take a moment and centre themselves and go within, teaching young people that meditation skill, that’s a very pragmatic skill.

The organic agriculture policy, the poultry policy, there are so many policies that Bhutan has put in place, the limits on advertising.

I’d argue all these are very smart economic policies, these will give you a healthier population, a much more attractive place in which to invite tourism, they will save you money, generate products that you can export.

Kuensel: Anything else you’d like to add…

Lovins: For the commitment of Bhutan, Thank you.

Compiled by  Samten Wangchuk

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