Happiness: Driver of climate action
Jeffrey Gogo Climate Story
THE prejudice of global studies on Africa have never been more bizarre than the latest country ratings on personal happiness from the latest UN’s World Happiness Report 2017.
According to the report, people in war-torn Libya and Somalia, ranked third and fifth on the continent respectively, are happier and live longer than those in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Nigeria, which are at peace.
The report, published by the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) every year since 2012, puts Zimbabwe at 33 out of the 44 countries surveyed in Africa.
It ranks countries according to well-being, with a focus on the “social foundations of happiness of individuals and nations.”
Frequent exposure to extreme climate events, such as drought or flooding, could have considerable and lasting negative effects on the well-being and happiness of individuals, say experts.
They say policies aimed at effectively mitigating climate change by cutting back on fossil fuels use would have a monetary impact on the economy, as well as on personal happiness and standard of living.
According to the report, Zimbabweans were mostly worried about a lack of adequate social support, corruption, incomes, public infrastructure, and the freedom to make life choices.
Because of their sorrow, Zimbabweans are less generous and they die early, it says.
The greatest shock was the rating of Zimbabwe much lower than Libya and Somalia, two countries in perpetual chaos, where tens of thousands of people have been killed in armed conflict. In Somalia, famine and hunger are endemic.
Surely, there could be no greater embarrassment to the credibility of the 2017 edition of the World Happiness Report.
How Libya, a country in anarchy since 2011, considered in some quarters as a failed state, and Somalia, which has known no peace for decades, could be said to be happier than Zimbabwe – at peace for the past 37 years — is mind boggling.
But the authors of the chapter on Africa — Valerie Moller of Rhodes University, South Africa; Benjamin J Roberts, a South African researcher; Habib Tillouine of Oran University, Algeria; and Jay Loschky of Gallup — would be the first to admit that a lack of data in Africa may have distorted the outcome of the research.
“While data coverage for Africa has improved over the past decades, there is still a dearth of social indicators that cover the whole of the continent,” they say.
“In particular, there is a shortage of trend data that would help us track the relationship between happiness and factors that we think might have influenced happiness over time.”
North-Africa is the happiest region on the continent. Algeria, Mauritius, Morrocco, Egypt and Tunisia all make the top 10.
South Africa, the continent’s most industrialised economy, ranks seventh, and Nigeria, Africa biggest economy, sixth.
Southern Africa is largely unhappy. Botswana, Angola, Lesotho and Madagascar all rank above 30.
People in war-ravaged Central African Republic, South Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Rwanda and Burundi, are the most miserable in Africa.
The world’s happiest people live in Norway, followed by Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland and Finland.
The US dropped one place to 14th due to increasing corruption and anger within the American society.
The World Happiness Report looks at factors considered key to achieving happiness, such like good governance, freedom, health and incomes.
Happiness and Climate Change
In 2015 the UN launched 17 Sustainable Development Goals that seek to end poverty, reduce inequality, and protect our planet — three key aspects that lead to well-being and happiness.
It might seem difficult to establish a direct link between individual happiness and climate change.
But experts have proved a happier people are key drivers of positive economic and environmental change.
Former UN secretary general, Ban Ki Moon, last year appointed Red, the lead character of the popular mobile game “Angry Birds”, as an envoy “to inspire climate action toward a sustainable and happier future for all.”
“We are proud to give Red a reason to go Green,” he said at the time.
“There is no better way . . . than to have our animated ambassador raise awareness about the importance of addressing climate change to create a safer, more sustainable and happier future for all.”
So how will the Angry Birds help tackle climate change? The UN will make citizens of the world to make the Angry Birds happy “by taking actions on climate change and sharing their photos and commitments on social media platforms using the common hashtag #AngryBirdsHappyPlanet.”
By recycling, taking public transportation and conserving water, for example, individuals can share tips on how they can live sustainably and happily in their everyday lives, said Mr Ban.
This year, the TV cartoon series Smurfs has taken over.
These same principles can be applied here at home, where anger and happiness incontrovertibly meet on social media platforms.
Ever so quick to turn their troubles into humour, Zimbabweans are arguably happiest at creating jokes over serious national issues, which spread like veld fire on WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter.
A few years ago the Facebook community literally went “crazy” over “Zvirikufaya,” skits that loosely derided Zimbabweans living abroad, and vice versa.
Such creative energy could be harnessed and redirected towards the creation of content in more useful subjects like climate change.
Since 2013, the UN has annually observed the International Happiness Day on March 20 — coinciding with the 2017 release of the World Happiness Report — as a way to recognize the importance of happiness in the lives of people worldwide.
God is faithful.