The pursuit of happiness

Dear Uma: When the Rapture didn't happen I spent the following couple of days doing some serious research into a best possible scenario for Pete and me to live through the coming days of accelerated social, economic, and environmental decay.

Dear Uma:

When the Rapture didn’t happen I spent the following couple of days doing some serious research into a best possible scenario for Pete and me to live through the coming days of accelerated social, economic, and environmental decay.

The Rapture was longed for in many ways, I think, as a quick fix; everyone senses the looming of disaster and the either/or of heaven/hell seems like a better alternative to the picture of the future that is being painted by the world’s experts in everything. When David Suzuki’s scientist guru predicts our species has a 50/50 chance of survival by the end of this century, it is time to get cracking.

The logical place to begin my search for a best place was Denmark.

I have been enthusiastic about Denmark since reading they are the world’s happiest country, and I liked that they attributed their happiness largely to having meaningful work.

Denmark is not only glad, it is smart; the government has set 2050 as the date when the country will be using 100 per cent renewables, and they are serious. They have already accomplished a great deal towards this goal; they now boast 35 per cent electricity from renewables and this has been done while also growing their economy. The latter has grown a whopping 80 per cent while energy consumption has stayed more or less the same AND their CO2 emissions fell. Today oil accounts for less than 40 per cent of overall energy used. Impressive, and the Danes have a history of moving towards energy self-sufficiency.

It began in the ‘70s when the country was 95 per cent dependent on foreign oil and has moved to today when Denmark has one of the strongest economies in the world and earns the world’s largest share of national revenue from the clean technology industry.

The International Energy Agency projects global energy demand will increase 35 per cent by 2035. As the world’s population grows and emerging economies expand, competition for the finite oil and other fossil fuel resources intensifies. Let us not forget that those resources are largely in politically unstable countries.

It appears that America’s huddled masses will be washing up in tent cities while Denmark rides out the storm in clean comfort. I went immediately to check out Denmark’s immigration policies.

First, though, I took a casual little detour through their crime rates. Uh oh: seems not all is rosy in the happiest country in the world. Per Hansen, a professor of economics at Copenhagen University, painted a less-than-pretty picture of this enlightened state where everyone enjoys food and shelter security, free medical care and all the education one could desire.

Like all countries in the free world, Denmark wants its citizens to be safe, fed and sheltered, but it goes the extra mile in making a welfare cheque generous enough to insure a comfortable living, unlike our system of subsistence level welfare. Add to this nice whack of cash the free medical and education and one would think there would be few people on welfare. Imagine everyone having the option of being financed with daily necessities while earning a degree or learning a trade and voila! A nation of joyous people doing work they love.

In fact, Denmark has the same growing problem we are facing; too many people at the public trough and not enough people filling it. A lot of those folks who are enjoying the security of having their basic needs met and even surpassed are using that surplus time and money to drink and smoke and commit crimes instead of getting educated and finding meaningful work. Idle hands are the devil’s workshop. Who was interviewed for that famous survey that declared Danes the happiest? Was it the workers or the ones who are sitting around drinking and smoking?

So much for Denmark as a model for how human beings must arrange themselves for maximum survival advantage; they won’t be able to achieve their green ambitions with a growing population of ne’er do wells and a shrinking population of able people who have to care for them as well as keep the country economically viable. I may as well stay right here doing my bit of meaningful work and drinking and smoking while paying far less in taxes than I would do in Denmark.

I looked at the animal world for a possible solution and immediately came across something that seemed to do fairly well – a wolf pack. Yes, there is a leader, and he/she is the only member of the pack that has the privilege of mating and that might be a deal-breaker, but the leader is also responsible for the health and well-being of the pack and has some strenuous duties. S/he may get first choice of the victuals, but it is the leader who determines what when and how the food is obtained and is expected to take an active part in the killing of dinner. Every member of the pack has a position in it, and all are valuable because the focus of the whole group is to ensure the survival of the alpha couple’s offspring; they know the future of their species depends on the strength and knowledge of the young. The leader does not kill any opposition to their position in the pack, but firmly puts it down. At some point a stronger more able wolf will challenge and win the leadership and inherit all the responsibilities of that position.

I tried to imagine myself in such a social set up, redesigned for humans, and thought I would probably be most comfortable somewhere in the low end of the hierarchy; maybe the one that cleaned out the den, or took care of the kids for a few hours. I would not want the worries of the leadership, and the running around and bringing down of the prey would not be for me, even though it would mean my menu choices would be limited. But then I realized I would not likely have much say in the matter of my position; it would be determined by my physical health and my intelligence. I may even be forced to wear the mantle of leader, and what if I didn’t like my alpha mate? The biggest and strongest in our species are not really my type; I like a forehead on my mates, and some choice in whether or not to reproduce.

The group howling is something I could get behind. In fact, I already have some experience, having participated in such an event many years ago during a primal therapy workshop. I found it to be exhilarating, though my solo was said to be a bit of a disappointment to the pack. Perhaps I could be designated howl co-co-ordinator? After much thought, I decided I may as well stay here doing enough meaningful work to drink and smoke and eat pretty much whatever I choose.

How about horse society, Uma? Have you witnessed anything there that could be incorporated into a human culture in an effort to have our species survive? I am willing to examine any alternatives on offer, though at this point I think I am more in favour of a Rapture ….



Heather Bennett is a writer who lives in Watson Lake.