Friday, July 21, 2006

Happiest country?

Sent by a friend of mine:

A new Happy Planet Index supports the cliché that money can't buy happiness. The New Economics Foundation, a British think tank, looked at 178 countries' consumption levels, life expectancy, and happiness, and concluded that people can live long, happy lives without sucking up large quantities of the planet's resources. In its ranking of happiest nations, the South Pacific island of Vanuatu earned the top slot.

Vanuatu, population 209,000, runs its economy mainly on small-scale agriculture and tourism; its GDP has been ranked 207th out of 233. Latin American countries dominate the top 10 happiest nations, with Colombia in second place. Many African and Eastern European nations are near the bottom, with Zimbabwe the official unhappiest nation. The U.S., with the world's second-largest ecological footprint (after oil-rich United Arab Emirates), ranked an unhappy 150th. Report co-author Nic Marks says the report reveals "patterns that show how we might better achieve long and happy lives for all while living within our environmental means."
straight to the source: BBC News, 12 Jul 2006
straight to the source: The Independent, Philip Thornton, 12 Jul 2006
straight to the index: Happy Planet Index

The source for this article can be found at

This is important for to consider as a Life Puzzle maker. On the 6-10 side of the Choosing Continuum--our goal is to practice a daily lifestyle to create health and whole life. Yet, to do this we need time to eat well, exercise consistently, parent well, build healthy relationships etc. For so many, work and the need for high quantities of money (to buy stuff!) inhibits their ability to create a healthy lifestyle practice! It is a cycle that is getting progressively crazy here in the United States. This Happiness Index challenges us to ask which is more important---money and stuff--or time to live more simply?

There are no easy answers and I say over and over again--Life Puzzle-making is not for wimps! It is not for people who say, "well, I'd love to but the 'systems' aren't set up to support Life Puzzle making". Life Puzzle makers don't wait for systems to change--they take responsibility for being the change they want to see!

If you want to be's a choice. Reducing the need for money/stuff is a proactive, conscious change--again, it isn't a quick fix choice--but it is something you can begin exploring how to bring these changes into you life--a piece at a time with the whole you in mind!

An Inconvenient Truth

Al Gore’s movie, An Inconvenient Truth, shows that global warming is rapidly altering the world. As I watched this movie what stood out for me was the impact that rising temperatures have had on glaciers—these huge chunks of ice that seem so invincible are one of the most obvious casualties of global warming. Glaciers throughout the world are literally disappearing as they melt back due to high temperatures. Shortly Kilimanjaro will be no more. Glacier National Park will have to find a new name because glaciers will soon no longer be a sight one can see at this park! It is dramatic and indisputable—they’re going, going….um, almost gone.

The area of Oregon that I live in also has glacier mountains—Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams. From my living room window I can see the majesty of Mt. Hood--still snow covered in July. I am struck with how different the community will be if those two mountains were no longer covered by a glacier. There goes the ski season and the water we depend on for irrigation of the pear and apple orchards as well as the small farms in the area. Without the glaciers, Hood River, the Columbia and White Salmon Rivers as well as several others would no longer provide the water necessary for the fun and recreation activities that currently take place on these rivers. We are the windsurfing capital of the world--but would that matter if we don't have a river to windsurf on?

Some days, the thought of global warming and environmental degradation becomes overwhelming to think about. To believe that we can have any impact through our actions seems like a quantum leap—but every small step (piece!) helps. At the end of the movie, he encouraged people to get active. Drive less, buy hybrids and walk more were just a few suggestions.

But one that I would like you think about is eating locally. Food is being shipped all over the world—it requires tremendous amounts of energy as trains, planes, trucks and cars move this vital requirement. Yet, in most areas our food needs could be grown locally through a network of small farms, backyard gardening and container gardening. I'm not suggesting that this could happen overnight, but here in the Gorge, a group of concerned citizens have been actively working since January to do this. We've initiated a Farmers' Market and begun building a network (check out to connect consumers and farmers. All of this happened as a result of just a few folks talking to each other and now it is building towards a regional impact.

We all have to eat--that's a given. But we don't have to eat food shipped halfway around the world! We can eat out of our backyards, balconies (see, and local farms.
Today, take a moment and think of one little thing you could do to eat more locally. Some ideas: You could look for a CSA to join, you could buy an Earthbox, you could look for small, local farmers in your area and talk with them about how you could buy directly from them. But do something!

Remember, Life Puzzle making--every piece impacts the whole. The benefits of this choice goes far beyond impacting global warming. Eating locally builds the community and environment piece of your Life Puzzle! Eating locally improves your nutrition piece because food value is greater the sooner you eat food and when food is shipped--it averages 8-10 days before you even get it home! Locally can be the same day. You support your local economy too. And when you look at your 'finding meaning" area of your Life Puzzle...the act of eating locally leaves the world in a better place after you're gone. Bon appetit!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Summer garden diversions

Wow, just realized I haven't posted since early June...nor did I send out to the newsletter group in June at all. Well, there's a good excuse--I've been in the garden! It's only a little one--about 6 x 10 raised bed patch and 6 Earthboxes. Along with my CSA membership (Community Supported Agriculture), it meets 99% of my vegetable and fruit needs and only occasionally do I need to purchase vegetables from the grocery.

I love being in the garden--it reconnects me to life--something it seems to me we have become ever more disconnected from over the last 25 years. My mother, long ago and before her too early death had taught my father to be an organic gardener. It became a lifelong passion/hobby for him and while I didn't appreciate it much as a child (weed, I don't want to weed!), I am so happy today that he passed that knowledge/awareness on to me.

One of my favorite sayings was found on a needlepoint my mother had done as a child. It was framed and it was something I saw often as a child when visiting my grandmother in the mountains of Pennsylvania. It read: "Kiss of the sun for pardon, song of the bird for mirth, one is nearer God's heart in a garden than any place else on earth!"

Those early words have stayed with me for a lifetime and I think they are so true. Even a half hour tending my garden--picking weeds, snipping back an over-zealous zucchini (think Little Shop of Horrors and you'll know what I'm dealing with!) and hunting for a ready cucumber leaves me feeling peaceful. From April to October, it is a daily ritual. Some people like to go to church, or meditate--but for me, spirituality comes alive each morning and evening as I discover the 'life-force' erupting in my garden. As I water in the evenings, I'm amazed to see the changes--some subtle, some large--but always change. There's a steady peacefulness in it all.

So, forgive me...I missed June's newsletter connection, and am scurrying to bring it forth in July. But I'm hoping you didn't miss it because instead of being on your computer reading email, you too were outside dancing amongst life.