Ah, the good life!
We crave it. We work for it. We envy it. Can we define it? Would we know if we are already living it or is it always on the horizon, just out of reach? As Alice in Wonderland asks, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cheshire Cat. And if you don’t care where you get to, it doesn’t matter which way you go.
To get to the good life, to live the dream, you have to know which way to go. You need clear targets and a way to know how to reach them. A common assumption is that more wealth equals the good life, that a winning lottery ticket hits the bullseye. That’s the wrong direction.
Defining the good life is so vital that it has been the subject of scientific studies for decades.
In science, the good life is often called well-being, and is broken into subjective well-being–your emotional feelings of happiness, and objective well-being–measurable conditions affecting the quality of daily life.
The measurable conditions of well-being are by no means absolute, but certain elements are accepted as necessary: good living standards, robust health, a sustainable environment, vital communities, an educated populace, balanced time use, high levels of democratic participation, moderate income, and access to and participation in leisure and culture. These are measurable targets to move toward. We create our well-being by the choices we make, but one of the elements requires special effort.
an element we absolutely depend on for the rest of our well-being, is not something individuals or even communities can easily control. The environment is too large for a local community. Subtract any part of an environmentally sustainable source of clean water, clean air, and healthy food from the other elements and well-being, regardless of income, would be essentially impossible. It’s just that critical.
Local organizations are crucial to local environment, but what actually sustains us is not local. Air, water quality, energy, and resources are bigger than a local community. We need to become educated on the environment beyond backyards and local communities. The environment is the global biological machine that supports the world.
Do you know anyone who has read the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) report (summarized here: https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2019/05/nature-decline-unprecedented-report/)? Probably not. That SDG report indicates the state of the world’s wildlife and focuses on most factors of well-being. It is the most comprehensive report on the planet. It also says we have work to do, changes to make, and fast.
Individual citizens are almost powerless to influence or control global environmental sustainability. Even when we try, our efforts are feeble in the face of opposition, and inferior to the scale of what needs to be done. Instead, we need to concede that the solution rests with powerful people. Yes, we need to defer to, no, encourage and empower the rare people who can connect with others around the world, and can affect the policies and practices that encourage environmental sustainability.
Become educated in the big picture.
There are abundant free reports online to educate you and help you focus on effective strategies. Know what your government is or is not doing. Get involved. You can’t influence environmental stability alone, but you can join powerful organizations that can lobby and act on your behalf. Contribute to the big influential organizations. That money is not an expense, it’s your tax-deductible investment in the good life. Make choices. Take actions. It’s your well-being we are talking about.
Steve Waller’s family lives in a wind- and solar-powered home. He has been involved with conservation and energy issues since the 1970s and frequently teaches about energy. He and a partner own a U.P. wind/solar business called Lean Clean Energy. He can be reached at Steve@UPWallers.net.
Reprinted with permission from the Fall 2019 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2019. All rights reserved