Earth Institute - Columbia University World Happiness Report
We live in an age of stark contradictions. The world enjoys technologies of unimaginable sophistication; yet
has at least one billion people without enough to eat each day. The world economy is propelled to soaring
new heights of productivity through ongoing technological and organizational advance; yet is relentlessly
destroying the natural environment in the process. Countries achieve great progress in economic development
as conventionally measured; yet along the way succumb to new crises of obesity, smoking, diabetes, depression,
and other ills of modern life.
These contradictions would not come as a shock to the greatest sages of humanity, including Aristotle and
the Buddha. The sages taught humanity, time and again, that material gain alone will not fulfi ll our deepest
needs. Material life must be harnessed to meet these human needs, most importantly to promote the end
of suffering, social justice, and the attainment of happiness. The challenge is real for all parts of the world.
As one key example, the world’s economic superpower, the United States, has achieved striking economic and
technological progress over the past half century without gains in the self-reported happiness of the citizenry.
Instead, uncertainties and anxieties are high, social and economic inequalities have widened considerably,
social trust is in decline, and confi dence in government is at an all-time low. Perhaps for these reasons, life
satisfaction has remained nearly constant during decades of rising Gross National Product (GNP) per capita.