Penn State Ph.D. candidate Matt Branch recently embarked on a journey to better understand a potentially unique approach to environmental governance. In December, Branch traveled to Bhutan, a tiny Buddhist kingdom nestled in the eastern Himalayas, to research environmental governance in the country. Bhutan has gained important international attention for developing a concept called “Gross National Happiness,” or GNH, which is an alternative to mainstream development models oriented toward GDP, or Gross Domestic Product. The concept was born in the 1970s by the fourth king of Bhutan, in response to criticisms that Bhutan’s GDP wasn’t growing rapidly enough. The king stated that he was more concerned with the well-being of his citizens than simply increasing the country’s economy.
The concept has gained quite a bit of traction since then. Bhutan has transformed GNH from a broad guiding principle to a quantitative metric that involves intensive national surveys that aim to understand the population’s happiness levels and what the government can do to improve them. Originally understood to have four pillars, good governance, sustainable economy, a healthy natural environment, and cultural preservation, GNH has since evolved to have 72 empirical indicators. In 2008, Bhutan crowned a new king and completed its transformation to a parliamentary monarchy, holding its first democratic elections. Thus, the country is at an interesting crossroads, as GNH will undoubtedly change with the shift in government.
Read More: Gross National Happiness in Bhutan
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“The Buddha Tree” – Ayutthaya, Thailand – Tashi Delek – Featured Photographer
Wow! Man and nature fused together as one. Just an hour outside of Bangkok lays the historic city of Aytthaya. Many of the 14th century temples and wats were destroyed by the Burmese in the 18th century. Out of the destruction has risen an unexpected national treasure. It is unclear how the Buddha head ended up inside the roots of this tree, but it has become a symbol of Thailand. Tashi Delek captured the deity along with his offerings beautifully.
Please take a minute to study the intricacies of the photograph then view the rest of Tashi’s portfolio at http://500px.com/the22row .
Take it Away Tashi:
I took this photo at a temple called “Wat Phra Mahathat” in Ayutthaya, Thailand.
This temple is where you can spot the famous tree that has grown around a Buddha head.
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