Not a happy thought…

As you emerge from the tunnel it’s a degree or two cooler and can be raining when it’s clear a half a kilometre behind. When you crest the rise at Crafers the landscape is cooler, greener. You’re heading into the lungs of Adelaide, the heartland of the Hills, special in your heart, as you grew up here or live here by choice. Few can enjoy such well-being in rustic splendour, yet be in the CBD in half an hour. It’s precious.

Trees exuding oxygen give the air crisp, fresh character, even in the avenues and closes of the new housing developments. Traffic lights are intermittent only. With every amenity and convenience in the Hills you live no differently to those in the suburbs: the best of both worlds. Yet are you truly happy? How many know of us what is “enough” in an industrialised society driven by the relentless correlation between material wealth and emotional satisfaction?

In Baby Boomer lifetimes, personal wealth as measured by Gross Domestic Product has trebled, yet neither research nor conventional wisdom indicate greater happiness. How many of you Boomers recall fondly the simpler age of childhood? In an age when psychologists measure personal well-being numerically by data taken from sets of dry querying around activities encouraging positive emotion, you would be hard pressed to match the relatively uncomplicated pleasures of the sixties.

The rich get even richer by exploiting resources. At current carbon emission rates our Hills might not be green for much longer, not a happy thought. How many corporate billions into the black equals happy? How much is truly “enough”? For each profit-driven billionaire there are millions battling the stress of modern living to pay bills, feed the family and take an occasional holiday. In the developed world most strive with varying levels of satisfaction towards goals of wealth and so-called freedom.

Then there are those of the Third World, for whom life is a hand-to-mouth struggle from day to day. Yet if you measure well-being, many Third-World citizens have long since learnt what “enough” meant and have found contentment with friends and family in their traditional, indigenous communities. Moral teachings and wisdom on the duties of individuals to the environment promote an ordered societal harmony with nature that creates happiness by its acknowledgement of the Earth as Mother.

Ancient connections to the environment need to be revived. And to curtail industrialisation’s catastrophic levels of carbon emissions, its leaders must heed the dilemma we face in a world under threat from technological progress. Renewable energy sources, bio-oil synthesis, electric vehicles, integrated water and sewage management, zero-emissions housing, seawater desalinisation are all emerging, but need to become standard, not the exception.

Here in the green tranquillity of the Hills, we are reminded daily that such beauty and our happiness may not be sustained without changes in collective practice. Small-scale sustainable food production by our farmers market and others is one path. Community-wide acceptance, not yet in full force, is the next step on that path. The fork in the road looms. When we reach it there may only be one way to go.

Not a happy thought.