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The Danish capital ranks high on the list of the world’s healthiest and happiest cities. It consistently sits at the very top of the UN's happiness index and is one of the star performers in the Healthy Cities initiative of the World Health Organisation (the latter currently celebrating its 30th Anniversary).

With obesity and depression on the rise worldwide, this article presents Copenhagen's lessons for how to combat them culturally.

One of these lessons is that we don't do what we ought to do for our health – we do what we enjoy or what makes our lives easiest. Copenhagen planners have taken that fact on board in ways that many cities could learn from.

The key lesson in achieving happiness is perhaps this one:


It is no accident that the USA, whose current administration follows a philosoophy that appears to be the exact opposite, is far being a collectively happy place. Luckily, many parts of the USA (and many people) are not fans of the current administration, to put it mildly, and both happiness and hope are still to be found there.


If you like this...

[How to be a happy country: Lessons from Bhutan]


The New Crusades

Wars fuelled by religion are no new thing. But there are at least two crusades taking place today against (some forms of) religion itself - campaigns fought with words and ideas rather than with swords, bombs or bullets.

And some of them are very entertaining.

The Book of Dust Vol 1: La Belle Sauvage is the first volume in Philip Pullman's long-awaited prequel to the His Dark Materials trilogy: Northern Lights (The Golden Compass in the USA), The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass.

The original trilogy, and now its prequel, are gripping stories for younger and older readers alike. But they are also Pullman's crusade against forms of religion that I would describe as "a waste of life" - denying pleasure in this one life that we have in the expectation of a glorious (or eternally damned) life to come.

The two images and quotes below come from this really excellent Guardian review.

“Philip Pullman … a tension between deep attraction to magic and fierce atheistic pragmatism resolves itself into a commitment to art. Photograph: Michael Leckie”


“Dakota Blue Richards as Lyra in The Golden Compass, the 2007 film adaptation of Northern Lights. Photograph: Allstar/New Line Cinema”

From the Guardian review (click any of the images to read it):

Bible Belt America didn't know much about the original trilogy until the movie came out, and was then horrified. The books were withdrawn from libraries and schools because "they are teaching atheism to our kids", and no movies of the remaining books in the trilogy were made.

Such censorship is the opposite of education, closing minds instead of opening them - something that I find wholly destructive and evil.

Which brings us to the second crusade, this one being waged against science-denying forms of religion, particularly prevalent in the USA:
America still living in the Dark Ages - rejection of science by religion

In today's Dark Ages, many Conservative Evangelical Christians support a morally-degenerate President and a morally-degenerate political culture that are as far from real Christian values as you can get. It seems that they only had to be told that Hillary Clinton is a satanic figure who will deny your religious freedoms (an Internet-multiplied lie), and be fed and feed each other with distorted and falsified versions of her views on abortion, for them to bring about and support something that is truly evil.

The really frightening thing about the situation in the USA (and increasingly on the other side of Atlantic) is that truth in politics matters less and less - a situation for which science-denying religion is, of course, only partly responsible. To some extent politics has always been "a dirty business", but this is different. Donald Trump rose to power by telling literally thousands of flat-out, easily-disproved lies, spread by supporters on the Internet, and has gone on doing so since becoming President (at an average rate of 5.5 lies per day, see the CNN analysis here).

It is no accident that Trump constantly vilifies the free Press (violating the 1st Amendment) and is actively damaging (among other things) the country's Environmental Protection Agency, Intelligence Services and Science (follow these links for a current damage report). What all of these have in common is that they deal in reality, something to which Trump and his supporters are seriously allergic.

It is also no accident that the crusade against science-denying religions has become a wider crusade against the “post-truth culture” of today, which thrives on easy labels, fake news and the power of the Internet to spread misinformation, and which enemies of democracy (and I unhesitatingly include Trump, Steve Bannon and Putin among them) have clearly been exploiting.

It includes the world-wide protests that had a hashtag #StandUpForScience.

It includes (in their gentle and subtle support for reason and humanism) the highly entertaining books of Terry Pratchett.

It includes, in a small way, what you are reading now, and published letters like this one:

(Climate change denial has other causes, including corporate interests in fossil fuels. Also, the letter was actually written in response to a similar article in the same issue called THE TRUTH ON LIES.)

So... is there a bright side in all this? Are these crusades having any effect?

It seems true (whether you view it as good news or not) that religion is slowly declining in the USA. Part (but by no means all) of this is due to a backlash against what many Americans see as moral corruption in organized religion, examples being the political support for Trump and the pastor who refused to open his megachurch to victims of Hurricane Harvey. The effect of this last single incident in shifting the American religious landscape is probably very easy to underestimate.

In response the crusade against the “post-truth culture” of today, Google, Twitter and Facebook are finally taking action against fake news (the very latest links on that subject, relative to when you read this, will be found here).

Finally, as I asked in my previous article on a similar subject, how do we get out of this dark place?

Not easily, that's for sure - but FWIW here's my 2¢:

Moving forward, some suggestions for improving life after Trump


From this blog:

[PLEASE wake up, America. You are being “gaslighted”.]
[GPS: The Miracle in Your Smartphone]
[Science, Religion and Quantum Mechanics]
[“The Trump Diaries” (the Trump thread in this blog)]

From my web site:

[Thoughts on Science and Religion - and why this stuff matters]

From others:

[White Evangelicals Are Sticking With Their “Prince of Lies” (Newsweek)]
[Moving forward: the Obama Foundation ]


Seriously...
If we aren't happy with this:
How the president speaks to his nation tweets twitter
...then we need to fix this:
Trump's presidency the end result of flawed democracy
...and think hard about this:
Trumpness rare personality type disrespect for evidence-based truth anti-science religions alt-reality
...and (somehow) advance from this:
The Dark Ages in the USA and how they have led to Trump
...perhaps like this:
Moving forward, some suggestions for improving life after Trump


If you like this...

[PLEASE wake up, America. You are being “gaslighted”.]
[GPS: The Miracle in Your Smartphone]
[Science, Religion and Quantum Mechanics]
[“The Trump Diaries” (the Trump thread in this blog)]
[Moving forward: the Obama Foundation ]

From my web site:

[Why Science and Religion Need Not be Enemies ]



Bhutan girls - click the image to read an extraordinarily fine article in a very fine blog

Quietly, one small step at a time, the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, and the vision and common sense of its Prime Minister Jigme Yoser Thinley in particular, is influencing the way that governments across the world try to bring about "progress".

In Bhutan, after many years of developing the ideas, the materialistic measure of GDP is being extended to a measure called GNH, or Gross National Happiness.

The problem with the word "happiness" is that it suggests that GNH is about some Utopian, flower-power dream. As conceived by Jigme Thinley, nothing could be further from the case. Time Magazine reports that after many years of work, researchers in Bhutan refined the original GNH concept into nine equally-weighted components: Psychological well-being, Health, Time use, Education, Cultural diversity and resilience, Good governance, Community vitality, Ecological diversity and resilience, and Living standards. A very detailed survey established a GNH baseline in Bhutan, a number whose absolute value doesn't matter (it was about 74% of a theoretical maximum), but whose changes can be monitored and tracked.

The important thing in Bhutan is that every government policy decision will be run through a GNH filter - and that is the key idea which is spreading, in a variety of forms to suit individual countries.

If you are interested in how this is happening, check out (for example) the Canadian Index of Wellbeing, the London-based Economic Foundation's Centre for Wellbeing, and many more examples here.

Although nothing is likely to happen in Washington D.C. until more people in the USA's political system become less interested in partisan dogma, some individual U.S. states are going ahead strongly (e.g. Vermont's Genuine Progress Indicator, or GPI).

Since presumably even Ebenezer Scrooge was happy in his own way, not everyone's idea of happiness is the same. There is a fascinating web site called The OECD Better Life Index which lets you see how different countries rate against each other on a number of measures of well-being. Initially these measures are equally weighted, but you can change the weighting according to your own ideas of what's important.

If you don't follow any other link, may I strongly recommend this article, and the fine blog from which it comes. And thanks to the paper edition of Time Magazine for many of the links included here.

As a footnote... however you measure it, the UK became an obviously happier place this summer, with a community spirit and a sense of achievement that has not been felt for a long time. The reason for this was the events leading up to, around and through the London Olympics (my posts on which are here), followed by the equally wonderful London Paralympics (my posts on which are here).

If you like this...

[More links on how Bhutan is affecting the world
[World Happiness Report]



My Dad used to quote this to us when we were young, with some feeling - if only governments today could follow this excellent advice!

(I found this image here - thanks, Ray!)