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Sustainability and Happiness as “Promoting Life”

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Linking Sustainability and Happiness

Part of the book series: Community Quality-of-Life and Well-Being ((CQLWB))


While various authors have tried to merge happiness and sustainability together in such concepts as sustainable happiness and sustainable well-being, among others, the link is tenuous as the theories built around these concepts are incomplete. In this work, I strive to fill this gap by integrating further conceptualizations of the value of life. While happiness and sustainability are not one in the same, since someone can be happy in unsustainable ways and since something can be performed sustainably without causing happiness, I reflect on the overlap where happiness and sustainability come together. This overlap seems to be the most meaningful and purposeful notions of the terms and the sense in which they have their most normative force. I will attempt to identify the overlap to define both happiness and sustainability as the promotion of life. I will evaluate whether and how this stipulative, working definition for these terms can be useful for practical guidance in real projects in an attempt to bridge theory and application. I review the place of happiness and positive psychology in well-being philosophy and recent advances incorporating sustainability into well-being theory. I also discuss various conceptions of the value of life. I then incorporate these preceding philosophies together to form a conceptual map of the variety of assessments of life that exist. From these concepts, I develop preliminary principles that might serve as a guide for practical living, for happier, more sustainable, and more ethical lives.

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  1. 1.

    For purposes here, I will alternate between articles a and the in front this term. I do not mean to definitively declare that there is one or are multiple lives that could be good life in the big question sense that seems to suggest that that life is the best (possible) life.

  2. 2.

    They may be potentially synonymous with each other or with the good life.

  3. 3.

    I intentionally put the article in parentheses to indicate that the life being evaluated might be singular (an individual), plural (a group), or a hybrid (some mix or relationship between individuals and groups.

  4. 4.

    There may be other conceptualizations besides the foundational types listed here. Some of these perspectives have been augmented by modern thinkers, and still others have been created.

  5. 5.

    The difference between happiness as pleasure and hedonistic sense of pleasure used in well-being might be whether discussing an experience in a moment or the balance of pleasure over pain over a period of time.

  6. 6.

    Haybron (2020) also identifies additional factors that might be associated with happiness, well-being, or a good life, such as: a sense of meaning or purpose, meaningful or worthwhile activities, engagement in interesting and challenging activities, achieving goals, personal growth, relatedness, supportive relationships, autonomy or control, competence, material and physical security, a positive outlook, religion, good governance, trust, helping others, values, not being unemployed, connection with the natural environment, household income, possession of luxury conveniences, satisfaction with standard of living, and psychosocial prosperity, which includes “being treated with respect in the last day, having family and friends to count on, learning something new, doing what they do best, and choosing how their time was spent.”

  7. 7.

    O’Brien also uses the terms health, healthy lifestyle, and quality of life, which may need to be mapped in relation to happiness and well-being.

  8. 8.

    I cannot fit the sense of the meaning of life, meaning purpose that one or any of us is here, exists, or is alive, in the space provided here.

  9. 9.

    Such a view might have offensive implications for people who are not fully able, but that meaning is not endorsed here.

  10. 10.

    Due to space, I will not pursue a tangent about good deaths here, even though they might be a necessary component of a good life.


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Correspondence to Jacob Bethem .

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Bethem, J. (2022). Sustainability and Happiness as “Promoting Life”. In: Cloutier, S., El-Sayed, S., Ross, A., Weaver, M. (eds) Linking Sustainability and Happiness. Community Quality-of-Life and Well-Being. Springer, Cham.

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