The country of Bhutan is often referred to as the happiest nation on earth. The GHI (Gross Happiness Index) was created by the then-King of Bhutan in 1973 as a method of measuring quality of life as distinct from Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which measures progress by income.
The concept of the GHI has since traveled to many countries and even cities around the world, including Santa Monica under the name “well-being index.” As Bhutan peacefully transformed from a monarchy to a democracy in recent years, development began to play an important role, especially in view of rapid urbanization. The nation’s challenge is how to retain its emphasis on quality of life, and move into contemporary urban living patterns driven by development to accommodate increasing in-migration to its cities?
Here to share the story with us tonight are two of the world’s experts on happiness and urban development. What might be the lessons for Los Angeles?
Latha Chhetri is Chief Urban Planner with the Ministry of Works & Human Settlement in Bhutan.
She heads the Urban Planning and Development Division which oversees planning and design process and strategies for municipal development projects across the country, including coordinating government agencies and private stakeholders. Her office also provides technical support and advice to the local governments for implementation. Latha is also a committed member of the Mainstreaming Reference Group (MRG) championing to integrate the cross-cutting aspects such as Environment, Climate-change, Poverty, Gender and Disaster into Bhutan’s plans, policies and programmes. She holds a masters degree in Urban Design and Development from the university of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. At MIT, she is attending a SPURS/ Humphrey program for professional enhancement.
Richard Register, Founder: The International Ecocity Conferences
Author: Ecocities – Rebuilding Cities in Balance with Nature
World Rescue – an Economics Built on what We Build
Richard is one of the world’s great theorists and authors on ecological city design and planning. He is also a practitioner with four decades of experience activating local projects, pushing establishment buttons and working with environmentalists and developers to get a better city built and running. Among his many “firsts,” he convened the first of the Ecocity International Conference Series in Berkeley, California, and coined the term “ecocity” as early as 1987.
He was founding president of Urban Ecology (1975) and founder and current president of Ecocity Builders (1992), both nonprofit educational organizations.
Richard illustrates his own writing, and his books are considered as pleasurable for his imaginative drawings as profound in their ecological urban philosophies and visions.
Richard is a frequent guest of organizations and conferences large and small in his home town, the San Francisco Bay Area, and around the world. He is a tireless advocate for the pedestrian city to save the world — by reducing automobile dependence, global warming, massive sprawl, ecological habitat fragmentation, air and water pollution and other harms.
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