Environment over economy is key to happiness, expert says

Kimberly Jane Tan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 28 2016 02:44 PM

MANILA - Preserving the environment is key to keeping Filipinos happy, even as the country exploits its natural resources for development, a rare happiness expert said Friday.

Filipinos should prioritize the environment over the economy since it affects their lives more, said Saamdu Chetri, executive director of Bhutan's Gross National Happiness Center.

"We need to think: development for whom? It's for human beings and it has to do with our holistic growth," Chetri told ANC's "Market Edge with Cathy Yang."

"We suffer from the environment because our minds are what the environment makes us to be. So if you live in a concrete world, your environment is a concrete world and that's a depressing world," he said.

The Philippines ranked 82nd out of 157 countries in the 2016 United Nations World Happiness Report, improving from 90th place in the previous year.

Variables identified in the happiness index were real gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on, perceived freedom to make life choices, freedom from corruption and generosity.

With more young people depressed and suffering from anxiety, he said society should realize what it needs to do, Chetri said.

"So we need nature to calm us down. If there is anyone who is actually very depressed, carry him or her next to the nature and you see the calming effect. That is so very immediate," he said.

Chetri, however, said the Philippines should rest assured because it is in the capable hands of Environment Secretary Gina Lopez.

"I call her the queen of environment. I wish I had the power to appoint her the queen of Asia Pacific environment," he said.

Lopez was a known environment advocate before she was appointed to government last June 30. She led an industry-wide crackdown on unsafe mining practices that cited 20 companies for possible suspension.