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The Green Life: Movie Review Friday: The Economics of Happiness

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January 28, 2011

Movie Review Friday: The Economics of Happiness

Escape to the movies with one of our Movie Review Friday selections. Each week, we review a film with an environmental or socially responsible theme that’s currently in theaters or available on DVD. Seen a good eco-flick lately? Send us a review of 100 or fewer words and look for your review in the next Movie Review Friday.

The Economics of Happiness (2011)

Limited screenings available


Money makes the world go round, but happiness can’t be bought. Or can it? According to this documentary about the worldwide movement for economic localization, happiness can be bought. Just not in the ways we originally thought.

Featuring interviews with a variety of renowned thinkers (Bill McKibben, Helena Norberg-Hodge, Zac Goldsmith, and Samdhong Rinpoche, among others), the film delves into globalization's negative effects, and the responding movement to bolster local economies.

The Economics of Happiness is divided into two parts, both working to further the film's main argument: globalization stinks; localization works. The first half focuses on communities around the world that have suffered from the pressures of globalization: People, especially farmers, are out of jobs. Divisiveness and despair prevail. And the strain on natural resources is reaching a breaking point. McKibben points out that even though people are consuming more now than ever, no one's really happier.

But where the documentary really shines isn't in its rehashing of the problem, but in its enlightening and engaging approach to the solution. During the film's latter half, the spotlight is on tangible, effective undertakings such as farmers' markets, community-supported agriculture, and urban gardens. There's a particularly moving segment showing how a community garden brings together a tough part of Detroit.

Such endeavors, the film points out, create jobs, foster community, and benefit the environment. Buying locally shortens the distance between producers and consumers, creating less waste and fewer emissions. It doesn’t take an economist to see that this is a good deal to buy into. But don’t take this reviewer’s word for it — make sure you see the film.

--Shirley Mak

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