, Volume 59, Issue 3–4, pp 292–298 | Cite as

Sustainability and Well-Being: A Happy Synergy

  • Christopher Barrington-Leigh


The new science of ‘happiness’ is revolutionizing our ability to measure social progress. Factors such as meaningful relationships and a sense of purpose and belonging have been shown to be essential to human well-being; indeed, they contribute even more than income. The happiest societies foster dignity for all, in part through robust investment in public goods and a holistic approach to education. This converging body of research indicates that well-being and ecological sustainability, goals sometimes viewed as contradictory, are in fact complementary. Emphasizing social drivers of well-being counters the conventional focus on economic growth and fosters the pro-social attitudes and behaviors necessary to live in better balance with nature. Fortuitously, recent technological innovations that make knowledge and productive capacity widely available at little cost and promote creative and collaborative activity could facilitate a transition to a world of reduced environmental stress and enhanced human well-being. An affirmative vision of a future both resilient and fulfilling, rather one of dour work and sacrifice, should guide our way.


Well-being Life satisfaction Happiness Sustainability Income Inclusiveness Transformation Growth 



This article was originally published by the Great Transition Initiative at, under a Creative Commons BC-NC-ND copyright, held by the Tellus Institute.


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Copyright information

© Society for International Development 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher Barrington-Leigh
    • 1
  1. 1.MontrealCanada

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