In the US clean safe water is taken for granted and the average person uses over 570 liters of water a day! Compare this to a world where 768 million people do not have access to clean safe water, which is one in ten people. People have to walk miles just to get water from a dirty pond, if not rely on expensive water vendors. Women in Africa and Asia often carry water on their heads weighing 20kg (44lbs) (UNDP: Human Development Report, 2006) and spend hours a week fetching this basic necessity for the household, oftentimes children are involved in this endeavor too. Time and energy spent on fetching water negatively impacts people’s life in other areas like earning potential and education in the case of children. On top of everything else, unsafe drinking water results in water-borne disease killing 2000 children a day.
Thankfully, organizations like WaterAid are trying to tackle this problem and last year they were able to provide 1.7 million people with safe water, please help bring clean water to children around the world, help fundraiser for this cause and donate at: http://www.wateraid.org These guys are doing an incredible job!
Also, we in the need to make an effort to not waste water and help in water conservation, but that’s a topic for another blog.
The TED talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Nigerian novelist, about “The Danger of a Single Story” hit a chord with me. Please watch this inspiring talk here:
It got me thinking… Many of us are quick to stereotype people (and entire countries) and put them in boxes. Almost like it’s easier to pass instant judgement than to see them for the multi-faceted person they are. Do the environment and influences we grow up in shape our way of thinking – either expanding or shrinking the windows to our mind? I don’t think there are too many of us that have escaped the claws of prejudice and stereotyping. Sure sometimes stereotypes may be funny and perhaps there’s an element of truth to it but that is only one aspect, one page or a sentence in the book that makes up the human story, where each of us as individuals are so different and unique.
I grew up in a part of the world with many different ethnic groups with diverse traditions and languages and belonging to different socio-economic groups, so I had a diverse group of friends with so many different world views. But even so, I regret to say that there have been times as a teenager where I’ve looked at the world through prejudiced eyes. I wish I knew then what I know now. Looking back I realize it was a lack of insight and wisdom. But as an adult I’ve learned to educate myself and ask questions instead of coming to my own conclusions based on my very small knowledge of people, culture, traditions etc.
When we look at the world without blinders on, our perceptions are broadened and our minds are opened to new facets of the human persona and our world and we are introduced to a new way of thinking. Every country has it’s rich and poor, it’s saints and sinners, it’s trials and tribulations, at the core we’re not that different from each other. Therein lies the secret.
According to a study published by the Sustainable Solutions Development Network, the happiest countries in the world are all in Northern Europe with Denmark being at the top of the list. The findings were based on lifestyle and wellbeing measures and used analysis from experts in various fields including economics and psychology.
This study was conducted to make a case for why well-being should be considered a measure of national development. According to the authors of the study, the well being of individuals is not just beneficial for corporate bottom-lines and their own mental and physical health but may contribute to the progress and development of entire communities and consequently nations. You can read the complete report here.
Respondents to this survey recognized the difference between happiness as an emotion and happiness as in life satisfaction. The six happiness metrics used were:
- Real GDP Per Capita
- Years of Healthy Life Expectancy
- Having Someone to Count On/Social Support
- Perceptions of Corruption
- Freedom to Make Life Choices
- Prevalence of Generosity
The report provides guidance for policymakers on including well-being in national decision-making. Out of a 156 countries surveyed, the U.S. came in at 17th, just below Mexico. People who are emotionally happier, have satisfying lives, are part of happier communities and are more likely to be healthy, productive and socially connected. This report encourages nations to consider progress and development beyond just GDP and put people at the center. It provides evidence that the systemic measurement and analysis of happiness can teach us about ways to improve the world’s wellbeing, placing it at the heart of policy and have countries develop sustainably allowing everyone to flourish. Individuals with high subjective wellbeing are more likely to practice good health and behaviors such as consuming less and saving more. Positive feelings are associated with curiosity and creativity. Happiness is not a complete absence of negative feelings but the happy person doesn’t feel chronic negative feelings, he or or she experiences negative feelings only occasionally and in appropriate situations.
Danes have lowest level of income inequality, high minimum wages ($20), free taxpayer funded healthcare (Denmark has some of the highest taxes in the world about 50% income tax and high taxes on everything they purchase), 37 hours a week workweek, 5-6 weeks of vacation and two weeks of holidays. College education is free, and the they have access to subsidized childcare and elder care. And it’s a peaceful country with hardly any crime and violence. Anyone want to move to Denmark?