One hundred years of coverage of the Kingdom of Bhutan by National Geographic

Ever wondered what Bhutan was like over one hundred years ago? In 1914, National Geographic published its first article about the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan: an account of explorations and surveys by John Claude White, a British Raj administrator and an accomplished amateur photographer. – Castles in the Air: Experiences and Journeys in Unknown Bhutan.

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Photograph by John Claude White

Today National Geographic continues to feature Bhutan as a travel destination, highlighting the nations timeless heritage and its unique progression.

“Bhutan has, across the century, made unique progress as a nation. We have continually fortified the values of our traditions and cultural heritage, and the essence of what was observed of our country, a hundred years ago, still remains.” – Queen Jetsun Pema Wangchuck.

Check out National Geographic’s most recent articles in celebration of their one hundred years of coverage. Conversation with Bhutan’s Young “Dragon King” and Queen of Bhutan Celebrates National Geographic’s Anniversary Coverage.

Tshangkha is Happy!

Inspired by Happy Bhutan, BCF teacher Sarah Diamond and students from Tshangkha Lower Secondary School completed a video for their schools variety show! The intention was to celebrate the school’s beauty and build relationships within the school community. Showing off some light-hearted aspects of school life in the midst of some intense exam preparation!

Check out Sarah’s blog Sarah Out and Abhut and her video here!

Visit Bhutan and National Reading Year 2015!

An eventful year ahead indeed! The Royal Government of Bhutan has declared 2015 as Visit Bhutan Year to celebrate the 60th birth anniversary of His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck the Fourth Druk Gyalpo. Bhutan will also commemorate the events by observing National Reading Year to develop a national reading strategy to instil a healthy reading habit by establishing e-Libraries in all Districts.

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Learn more about what Bhutan has planned for the year 2015 at Kuensal Online – An Eventful Year Ahead!

Happy (Bhutan)!

From the Nation of Gross National Happiness comes a video that is bound to make you smile and maybe even dance! Check out this video that the people of Bhutan created to Pharrell Williams’ song Happy.

In other happy news, Bhutan is to host an International Happiness Conference in 2015. Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay has said that “It is a gratifying and humble experience for Bhutan to be at the center stage of the world for its development policy of GNH.”

Have a happy day!

Balloons of Bhutan

In 2007, artist Jonathan Harris travelled to Bhutan to explore the Gross National Happiness paradigm. Balloons of Bhutan documents his effort to capture “a portrait of happiness in the last Himalayan kingdom” through breathtaking and inspiring photos and videos, catalogued on an interactive multimedia website.

Balloons of Bhutan - Harris

Harris asked 117 people of various ages and backgrounds, five questions pertaining to happiness: what makes them happy, what is their happiest memory, what is their favourite joke, what is their level of happiness between 1 and 10, and, if they could make one wish, what would it be. He then inflated a number of balloons based on their level of happiness and wrote each person’s wish on the balloon of their favourite colour. On the final night of his journey, he strung up the inflated balloons at Dochula Pass, bobbing amidst Buddhist prayer flags.

Explore the whole stunning project at Balloons of Bhutan.

The Bhutanese Guide to Happiness

Today we have decided to feature a little book about a concept close to our heart called Gross National Happiness. Simply stated in the book’s synopsis, “What we can learn from a country where Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross Domestic Product?” The book offers 15 keys to happiness amongst its chapters of inspirational quotations reflecting the unique and colourful country of Bhutan, a country that embraces “compassion, understanding and kindness”. Here are 15 keys to happiness, and if you happen to think of any more  be sure to share them on our Facebook and Twitter!

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The Bhutanese Guide to Happiness, from Penguin India

1) If you search for happiness, you will not find it. If happiness searches for you, it will always find you.

2) A flea springs up from a cozy blanket; a hero springs up from a rocky ledge.

3) A yak herder takes the credit, but it is the poor yak which carries the heavy load.

4) If you have not experienced great suffering and great happiness, you will find it hard to tell them apart.

5) Suffering always ends, and so does happiness.

6) Anger is a golden opportunity to practice patience.

7) We are all shepherds, so learn how to tend kindly to your flock.

8) Angrily rebuking a quiet and thoughtful person is like trampling on the petals of a rose.

9) It is better to plant flowers than to build monuments.

10) If your leader turns into a dog, be sure to ask why he is wagging his tail.

11) Even the Sun can be eclipsed, so be aware of your own limitations.

12) Even while it sleeps, the cat dreams of the mouse.

13) Real intelligence is not about what you say, but how you behave towards others.

14) You can choose not to speak, but it is impossible to silence idle chatter in the streets.

15) Live simply. Leave only footprints and carry only your shadow. This is the way.

To read more purchase the book here and be sure to read up on past blog posts about amazing Bhutanese literature!

David Suzuki on Gross National Happiness

David Suzuki,  Co-Founder of the David Suzuki Foundation, and award-winning scientist, environmentalist, and broadcaster, will be travelling to Bhutan in March 2013 and is a staunch advocate for the concept of Gross National Happiness.

In his November newsletter, Dr. Suzuki emphasises the importance of looking beyond GDP and take into consideration other markers, including societal well-being and environmental conservation.

Photo Credit: David Suzuki Foundation.

“We’ve measured our well-being by tracking gross domestic product since the mid-1940s. But spending money on things that anyone would see as negative, or even horrendous — including oil-spill clean-ups, car accidents and products that we discard and replace every year — contributes to positive GDP growth. It’s time to come up with a new measuring stick.

 “Many people, from world leaders to economists to environmentalists, realize that the endless-growth model no longer makes sense. More than 30 years ago, the King of Bhutan stated that gross national happiness is more important than gross domestic product. We need a development paradigm that takes into account well-being and happiness, and that accounts for nature’s services. After all, what good are a growing economy and increasing consumption—and their environmental and social consequences—when people are not healthy and happy and when we destroy the things that keep us alive and well?”

Read the rest of David Suzuki’s letter here: We need a new economic paradigm

Special Event! Within the Realm of Happiness, Dasho Kinley Dorji

Wildsight Invermere is proud to host Dasho Kinley Dorji, a journalist and government official from the Himalayan nation of Bhutan. His presentation, Within the Realm of Happiness: a Himalayan Perspective, will take place on Monday, October 29 at 7:30 p.m. in the Invermere Community Hall.

Tickets are $12, and $6 for students, available at Circle Health Foods, The Book Bar and online here.

Bhutan, a country most people have never heard of, is unique for many reasons. Its catchy tourism tagline boasts “Happiness is a Place”. While the rest of the world interprets development purely as economic development, Bhutan identifies Gross National Happiness (GNH) as the goal for human development.

Since Bhutan’s fourth king, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, came up with the idea of GNH in 1972, the concept has spread to other countries. The Bhutanese have an inherently strong belief that if they preserve their culture, their environment, and ensure that economic development is sustainable, it will enable the people to find and maintain happiness.

Their government has instituted measures that have caused the rest of the world to pay attention. For example, the constitution states that 60% of the country must remain as forests.


The “Finding Balance” forum organized by Wildsight last March generated valuable discussion on the links between conservation, economics and wellbeing. Now Dasho Kinley’s talk is a chance for valley residents to consider other paradigms for living and to question what is really important to us as we pursue wealth and prosperity in the East Kootenay.


Dasho Kinley is the former managing director and editor-in-chief of Kuensel, Bhutan’s national newspaper, and is the author of a collection of short stories, Within the Realm of Happiness, which was published with assistance from the Canadian Co-operation office in Bhutan.

Currently Secretary of the Ministry of Information and Communications in Bhutan, he’s well placed to explain the concept of Gross National Happiness. He will discuss both the theories and challenges of instituting GNH into every day life in Bhutan.

Those who packed the Invermere Community Hall this past June to hear Dr. David Suzuki’s rousing talk on the economic/environmental challenges of the 21st century will be interested to know that Dasho Kinley and Suzuki are headliners at the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival right after his Invermere presentation. They will appear together live on stage to have a conversation on the topic of GNH.


What can we in the Rocky Mountains learn from a tiny Himalayan kingdom in Bhutan? 
Come and find out!

For more information please contact invermere@wildsight.ca
For media information, please call Baiba Morrow @ 250-341-3554 

Wildsight – Invermere Branch
Box 2741, Invermere, BC V0A 1K0
Phone: 250-341-6898 | invermere@wildsight.ca

Do Hazelnuts Equal Happiness in Bhutan?

Photo Credit: Blue Moon Fund

As Bhutan grows, it is trying to find ways to develop economically, but through the lens of Gross National Happiness.


One American entrepreneur has been assisting Bhutan with this task – by growing and exporting hazelnuts in Eastern Bhutan. Using idle and unfit farmland, his team teaches Bhutanese farmers in isolated villages how to properly grow and care for the trees. 

The project is having great success so far, in fact “the government says it will eventually employ about 15% of the impoverished population. This would benefit about 10,000 households, mainly in the eastern part of this country, and together they should be able to produce something like 3% of the world’s hazelnut demand.”

The initiative has also brought some added benefits. The hazelnut trees grow quite well on steep mountains and ridges, and as a result their roots can help prevent deadly landslides. 

To learn more about Bhutanese hazelnuts, read the whole story here

"Happiness and Well Being" at the United Nations

As we hi-lighted last week (Gross National Happiness Takes Center Stage), Bhutan and in particular, Gross National Happiness, is becoming more prominent on the wold stage. Beginning on April 2, hundreds of representatives from government, academics and other civic leaders around the world met at the United Nations for a high level meeting on the importance of incorporating social issues, environmental well-being and sustainability into economic policy.
“Happiness and Well Being: Defining a New Economic Paradigm” at the United Nations. Photo Credit: Associated Press.
“Recognizing problems attending a growth-driven economic sprint in other developing countries, in the early 1970’s King Jigme Singye Wangchuck decided to make his nation’s priority not its G.D.P. but its G.N.H., or gross national happiness. The goal ever since has been a mix of economic and social progress shaped to sustain cultural and environmental assets.”
Make sure to stay connected with live updates and contribute to the conversation here and here.