I recently came across a job posting for a researcher for Happy City, an organisation I had not heard of before. Their website says it all: “The life-shaping power of urban design isn’t always obvious. But design has consequences for public health, the economy, and the well-being of every person in the city. The good news: the happy city, the green city and the low-carbon city are the same place, and we can all help build it.”
Vancouver would certainly be a better city if we could make the necessary shift away from measuring GDP and instead began measuring the actual quality of life. There are so many better ways of measuring the real health of our economy and society rather than simply measuring raw output.
This reminds me of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Did you know that Alaska’s GDP actually went up in the year immediately following this horrific disaster? But this increased economic activity, which was due to thousands of individuals hired to take part in the cleanup, masked the environmental devastation.
In the country of Bhutan they actually measure people’s happiness on an annual basis, and they publish the result.
The Gini coefficient measures wealth inequality. After 20 years of our income gap growing wider and wider, Canada gets a “C”, putting it in 12th place among its 17 peer nations. The U.S. fails with a “D”. After decades of studying this topic we know that, as counterintuitive as it seems, nations with a lower-than-average GDP but less wealth inequality have much healthier, happier societies.
Let’s get behind Vancouver happiness and start focusing on the things that really do make a difference to our quality of life.