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Port Townsend Conference Explores Happiness And The Economy

Michael Ableman
Photo is from the book Street Farm; Growing food, jobs, and hope on the urban frontier Chelsea Green 2016 by Michael Ableman

Happiness often feels elusive.  Recent work to understand what makes us happy shows that what we’re looking for could be closer than we think. Starting Friday, a group is getting together in Port Townsend to see how they can carve out their own bit of happiness.

Karen Wyeth is an activist and local organizer of the Economics of Happiness Conference. She says it’s a chance to explore how the economy impacts our psychological health.  

Happiness isn’t something you can bottle up and sell, but that carefree feeling is nevertheless deeply intertwined with the economy. 

“The way the economy is constructed right now doesn’t take into account human well-being. So the Economics of Happiness is trying to circle back to a place where the economy works for people, to make people’s life better, that’s what it’s supposed to do,” said Wyeth.

For people going about their daily lives, fixing or even changing the economy might sound hard. But Michael Ableman, who will be speaking at the event, says you’ve got to think about happiness in a broad sense.

“And I’m not just talking about for people, I’m talking about the tiniest soil microbe, all the way up to the forest that surrounds us, the water that passes through our land, and yes, also the people,” said Ableman.

Ableman has been a farmer for more than 40 years, working on sustainable agriculture. He has a farm on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia, equal parts giant outdoor classroom and a place that grows food. He says the nuts and bolts of working on a local farm are emblematic of a way forward.

“It’s a group of people working together. Those people know that they have plants that depend on them every day for their survival. There’s a broader community that relies on the food that’s being produced by them, and as a result there are all these connections that they contribute to each day,” he said

Ableman says that connectedness is part of what makes you feel like the world is going to be okay.