What Is Gross National Happiness? Eco-Champ–The Fourth King of Bhutan, Meet the Conservationist Collective!

by | Feb 9, 2023 | Podcasts, The Climate Daily

What Is Gross National Happiness? Eco-Champ, The Fourth King of Bhutan, Meet the Conservationist Collective!



Gross National Happiness (GNH) is a term coined by the Fourth King of Bhutan in the 1970s to describe a holistic approach to development and well-being, which goes beyond a simple focus on economic growth and gross domestic product (GDP). The concept of GNH is based on the idea that true development should take into account not only the material aspects of life, but also the spiritual, social, and cultural well-being of citizens.

The Bhutanese government developed a framework for measuring Gross National Happiness, which consists of nine domains: psychological well-being, health, education, time use, cultural diversity and resilience, good governance, community vitality, ecological diversity and resilience, and living standards. The GNH framework takes into account the interdependence of these domains and recognizes that true happiness and well-being cannot be achieved through material wealth alone. For example, a high standard of living may contribute to physical comfort and security, but it may also lead to increased stress and a sense of disconnection from others and the environment.

The GNH framework prioritizes the importance of cultural preservation, environmental protection, and strong community bonds in promoting well-being. The Bhutanese government has made significant efforts to protect its cultural heritage and environment, including measures to restrict tourist numbers, preserve traditional architecture, and maintain strict controls on logging and deforestation.

The GNH framework also places a strong emphasis on good governance and the development of an ethical and moral society. The Bhutanese government has adopted a policy of Gross National Happiness Commission, which seeks to ensure that the country’s development policies are aligned with the values of GNH. The concept of GNH has received international attention and has been embraced by other countries as an alternative to conventional models of development. 

Gross National Happiness (GNH) matters to us because it provides a holistic and comprehensive approach to development and well-being that goes beyond traditional economic measures such as GDP. GNH recognizes that true happiness and well-being are not just the result of material wealth, but also depend on spiritual, social, cultural, and environmental factors.

DEEPER DIVE: Bhutan, The Fourth King, GNHUSA, GNH/Investopedia Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative


The Fourth King of Bhutan, was the leader of the small landlocked Asian nation of Bhutan from 1972-voluntary “retirement” in 2006. During his reign, he led it through significant political, economic, and social reforms. Perhaps his most notable achievement was the introduction of the concept of Gross National Happiness. GNH is a concept which measures a country’s progress not just in terms of economic indicators, but also in terms of spiritual, cultural, and environmental well-being. This idea was widely adopted by Bhutanese citizens and gained international recognition, making Bhutan a model for sustainable and holistic development.

The Fourth King also instituted Bhutan’s first-ever constitution. That document mandates 60% of Bhutan be forested; that all children shall receive a free education through high school, and that health care shall be free to all citizens. Using the concept of GNH, this small nation of 700,000 people have delivered on all that and more. In fact, 72% of Bhutan’s land today is forest-covered.

The wisdom of the Fourth King of Bhutan matters to us today because it offers a unique perspective on the role of leadership and the pursuit of progress and happiness. King Jigme Singye’s vision of Gross National Happiness (GNH) as a measure of a nation’s success and well-being is particularly relevant in today’s world, where the focus on economic growth and material progress often comes at the expense of spiritual, cultural, and environmental well-being.

DEEPER DIVE: Bhutan, The Fourth King, GNHUSA, GNH/Investopedia 



Carissa Cabrera is founder of the Conservationist Collective, an organization dedicated to conserving the world’s oceans through media, education and community building. The Conservationist Collective was founded on the belief that environmentalism is for everyone, no matter their background, age, or profession. It’s comprised of conservationists, educators, creatives, biologists, students, professionals, and advocates. Together, the collective creates pathways for everyone to get involved in meaningful action using an ocean-minded approach to sustainability, climate solutions, and ecosystem regeneration.

They believe that collective, community-based action is the most effective way to approach the challenges our Earth system currently faces. Some of The Collective’s partners include Kuleana Coral Restoration, the Oceanic Preservation Society and the EcoTok Collective. The Conservationist Collective has a fascinating business model. It’s not a non-profit. It’s actually more like a strategic communications firm for Earth’s oceans. According to its website, the group “works with brands, nonprofits, institutions and corporations to conserve the planet. Depending on the needs of the client, it specializes in project management, content creation and science communication,” among other concepts.

And I think that’s why The Conservationist Collective matters most to us. It helps institutions and companies organize their brands around conserving Mother Earth for human, plant and animal habitation. And isn’t that the point of combating climate change, after all? BTW, gotta check out their video about how whale poop helps fight climate change!

DEEPER DIVE: Conservationist Collective, Strategic Communications, Whale Poop