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“We are under a spell, we need to return to harmony, to that relationship of love and kindness with all of creation, which just waits and holds it breath, waiting for us to say, “I love you,” because it loves us.”

Interview with Mark Anielski

Mark Anielski is the Chief Happiness Officer and President of Anielski Management in Edmonton, Alberta, a consulting firm that provides strategic advice on well-being economics to governments and corporations all over the world. He’s also one of the architects of the Canadian Index of Well-being and the Genuine Progress Index. In this exclusive Green Interview, Anielski speaks with Silver Donald Cameron about a wide range of issues including the subject of his books, The Economics of Happiness and of the more recent volume An Economy of Well-being. Anielski’s concept of genuine wealth includes not just money but five forms of capital—human, social, natural, built, and finally financial capital. Focusing on those forms of capital, he says, has made his own family genuinely wealthier in the things that really matter. Ultimately he sees wealth as “the harvest of love.”

In this exclusive Green Interview, Anielski discusses why the GDP is a flawed income statement and the “five capitals” of genuine wealth.

In this exclusive interview with Mark Anielski we discuss:

GDP ‘flawed income statement’

When the GDP was first introduced it was “useful” as a measure all of the things that we exchange for money in the economy, explains Anielski. “It was introduced during World War II to help basically figure how to tax the British people and American people for the war effort.” But “there’s a flaw,” he says. “We’re counting things like car crashes, or cancer, divorce, climate change impacts as positive contributions to the economy when arguably those expenditures, which I would call regrettable or avoidable—are not contributing to well-being.

“It’s a bad calculator that only knows how to add, doesn’t subtract, and violates basic accounting principles, which I know because I have an accounting background. So we have a very flawed income statement to judge the progress of countries.”

Anielski says the foundation of our economic system—that more economic growth, as measured by GDP, will lead to well-being and happiness—is a “myth.”

“Five Capitals” of Genuine Wealth

Anielski developed the “genuine wealth model” as a practical tool for policy makers to “examine the well-being impacts of policies, programs, budgets and any decisions that will impact a business, communities or the environment.” According to his model there are “five capitals” of genuine wealth: human, social, natural, built, and financial.

Anielski: “Human capital is our health, our psychic well-being, our spiritual well-being. I use the Indigenous model of the medicine wheel for aspects of the human person. There’s social capital, which is basically relationships, trust, belonging, all the subjective things that are seemingly hard to measure but really aren’t. And then there’s natural capital, which is my specialty: forests, biodiversity, oil and gas in the ground, all the natural assets that nature provides us freely. Then there’s built capital, infrastructure, and then there’s financial capital.”

Anielski says the five capitals are interconnected and “the goal is to optimize well-being or the well-being return on those assets.”

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