Imagine your heart, your lungs, your liver, your kidneys, your brains, and other organs competing with each other.
Imagine them wanting to prove they are better. That they are more important. That they are a superpower. Imagine them wanting to claim all the resources. Imagine if they want to send their trash, their wastes to the other organs.
“Absurd.” you would say, “That would completely destroy my well-being.”
Correct. That would destroy your well-being.
Thankfully your heart, your lungs, your liver, your kidneys, your brains, and other organs do not compete with each other. Instead, they all contribute to your well-being.
When the parts of a whole contribute to the well-being of the whole, the well-being of the whole is assured. When the well-being of the whole is assured, the well-being of the parts is also assured.
“Isn’t that common sense?” you may ask.
Yes, it is common-sense for the parts of systems where the parts strive to ensure the well-being of the whole. And yet, we do have systems whose parts do not automatically strive to ensure the well-being of the whole.
Perhaps you noticed the breakdown of our planetary well-being? Perhaps you found your personal, social, or economic well-being compromised as the planet experienced a complete lockdown due to the pandemic? Perhaps you recognized this was a result of our failure to ensure the well-being of our planet, the whole that we make up with the greater community of life, the land, the water, and the air?
Or perhaps you noticed, even experienced increase in temperatures, extreme weather events, changes in seasonal patterns, rising sea levels, food, and water insecurities?
Perhaps you recognized these as breakdown of planetary well-being? Perhaps you saw videos of rapid melting of glaciers and polar caps, and vanishing snow lines on mountain ranges? And maybe, just maybe you recognized this was a result of our failure to ensure the well-being of our planet, the whole that we make up with the greater community of life, the land, the water, and the air?
“It helps to remember that the parts of a system cannot survive without the whole. The long-term interests of your liver require the long-term health of your body, and the long-term interests of sawmills require the long-term health of forests.” my dear friend, systems thinker, activist, and teacher, late Donella Meadows used to say.
Yet, when it comes to planetary well-being, we do not know what we contribute to it. We may not even be aware that we contribute to planetary well-being.
Our countries measure economic growth. It is little wonder that they compare each other by their contributions to the global economy. They measure human development and compare each other with a Human Development Index. They measure human happiness and compare countries for the happiness of their people. While our countries act to make their economies thrive, their HDI grow, and their happiness score increase, they do not no act to contribute to planetary well-being.
Unless our countries recognize their contributions to planetary well-being, they will not be able to sustain them, or even increase them.
Last September I took up the challenge with my friend Mirian Vilela, to find a way to measure the contributions of countries to planetary well-being.
We recognized that the values of respect and care we extend to each other and the greater community of life, the values of ecological integrity that protect the natural processes of interactions, the values of social and economic justice that ensure dignity and health, and the values of democracy, nonviolence and peace that ensure liberty, justice, and participation serve as a guide planetary well-being. When countries use these values to drive their actions and policies, they contribute to planetary well-being.
After a lot of research, innumerable conversations, and many long days we narrowed down our options to measure planetary well-being. We decided that if we can look at the indicators that would be affected by the actions and policies that may be driven by these values, we would be able to score the contributions of countries to planetary well-being. In March this year, we had the proof-of-concept ready. We had scored the contributions of 216 countries to planetary well-being.
Our research is just the beginning. This week we invited anyone, you heard that right, anyone to participate in improving what we did by finding alternate indicators to look for the values that contribute to planetary well-being. We also invited institutions in each country to participate by identifying the policies in the country that explain their scores and demonstrate the presence or absence of values that contribute to planetary well-being.
If you don’t want to be locked down by pandemics, or experience the wrath of rising temperatures, extreme weather events, changes in seasonal patterns, rising sea levels, food, and water insecurities, spread the word. Find out the scores of your country’s contributions to planetary well-being. Ask about the presence of values that contribute to planetary well-being in the actions and policies of your country. Participate in our call to improve our understanding of planetary well-being and the contributions our countries make to planetary well-being.
To find out more visit https://earthcharter.org/planetarywell-beingindex/ or just google “the Earth Charter Index”. Together, we can work to improve our contributions to planetary well-being. Without that, there can be no personal well-being or economic well-being.
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He can be reached @AnupamSaraph