Healthy, happy, hippy: sustainability as an emergent property of wellbeing

Stevens, Paul (2011). Healthy, happy, hippy: sustainability as an emergent property of wellbeing. In: Well-being 2011: The First International Conference Exploring the Multi-dimensions of Well-being, 18-19 Jul 2011, Birmingham, UK.



Wellbeing and sustainability are often presented as separate issues. At best, sustainable practises might have some beneficial side-effects on wellbeing (e.g., less air pollution means less respiratory ailments); at worst, the two are presented as mutually exclusive (i.e., sustainability necessarily means a lower standard of living). But I think the argument can be made for an opposite view: that if we focus on being well, we will find that sustainability emerges from that state. While there is still debate over definitions of wellbeing, it can be generally seen as a state in which our basic, universal needs are met (objective wellbeing), where we experience a predominance of positive mood in our lives (subjective or hedonic wellbeing) and, perhaps most important of the three aspects, where we feel autonomously purposeful, part of something greater that offers meaning to our lives (eudaimonic wellbeing). Drawing on ecopsychological research and theory – including the author's own experimental studies linking personal and environmental health via perceptual pathways – this paper shows how a garden designed to promote these three aspects of wellbeing (a “restorative environment”) would also be a microcosm model for sustainable practise.

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