Bhutan is clearly a good place to be an animal: even the numerous stray dogs in central Thimphu are happy and fat thanks to the locals' propensity to feed and protect them.
It also does an incredible job of nurturing biodiversity by putting in place wildlife corridors between the protected areas that cover 72% of its land to allow animals like Bengali tigers, snow leopards and (wow, you really are a real animal!) takins to roam the length and breadth of the country.
The most recent National Tiger Survey in 2015 counted 103 tigers, which is critically important given that 90% of global tiger habitat has been lost, and the expanding illegal wildlife trade is worth 20-40 billions of dollars a year.
Happiness is a serious business in this country ’’
Learning about Gross National Happiness and 'development with values' has been the ideal backdrop for an event about taking effective climate action. Even some confirmed cynics in our number have been visibly moved by GNH and have seen how it can serve as an inspiration and a tool to shape better policy.
Tomorrow is pitch day when the 14 teams have 3 minutes each to convince the judges that they should be the ones to win extra project funding and the opportunity to come to Brisbane next June to be trained by Al Gore as a Climate Reality Leader.
I'll be highlighting the winning teams' projects in the next few posts, as well as sharing the secrets of Bhutan's magic teapots!
We will fly very close to the mountains. Do not be alarmed, this is quite normal''
Welcome to the new Pomegranate blog, where I'll be sharing thoughts and tips on how to accelerate action to tackle climate change, examples of breakthroughs and progress, plus any other interesting snippets I come across.
This week the action is in Thimphu, Bhutan where I'm running a climate action workshop for Australia Awards alumni from 7 countries across South and West Asia Regional Alumni Workshop: Australia Awards alumni as Champions for the Environment and Climate Change.
The Land of the Thunder Dragon is still one of the harder places to reach on the planet, partly due to geography, tucked away as it is in the Eastern Himalayas just below Tibet, and partly due to its policy of charging tourists US$250 a day to enter. Bhutan famously pursues a development philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH) rather than just chasing the almighty GDP dollar, recognising that humans need more than just material wealth to thrive, making this the perfect place for our workshop this week.
GNH is based on the idea that happiness can only come if you look after people and your natural environment at the same time, leading Bhutan to enshrine in its constitution a commitment to remaining carbon neutral for all time. Clearly if the rest of the world took a similar approach we wouldn't be in the mess we're in now but it's never too late to start emulating this seriously enlightened approach. If you'd like to learn more about this unique Buddhist kingdom a great starting point is this TED talk by Tshering Tobgay, the former PM.
The teams here this week will be showcasing the environmental projects they've been working on all year: ranging from a renewable energy bootcamp run by women for women in Pakistan, to new systems to alert authorities to natural disasters in Bangladesh by turning ordinary people into walking alarm systems. I'll cover some of the highlights, as well as insights from some of the great work being done by the World Wildlife Fund and Bhutan for Life. Stay tuned!