helena norberg-hodge

helena bw 222

first intro’d to Helena via Carol‘s schooling the world.. particularly her insight from ladakh

recently took her in – in a session with Charles and Gretchen on gdh and Bhutan.

happiness for all

a few notes:

Helena was in Ladakh, Tibet for 39 years. Bhutan from 84-89. she said when she first went – both places had plenty of time, music, song, dance, humor, daily caretakers in a home.. which are key to deep/effervescent/bubbling/vital joy/happiness. but not – both places don’t show that – mostly from their being made to feel their life (like that) wasn’t adequate. they needed more. children learned to believe that their parents were idiotic for working all day – when westerners didn’t need to work at all.

she said the best education today is to do away with the romantic image of consumer culture. de-commercializing. localization as the economics of happiness. our #1 goal should be to resist the economic system.  in education.. books say – got to get these people out into the city. school training for urban jobs. linked to urban capitalism. Helena was recommending la via campasina, as an organization that facilitates localization … citing that even micro funding is leaving people with debt – where they never had it before. we need to work both ends – resistance and renewal.


ancient futures

book links to amazon

some reviews from amazon page:

Norberg-Hodge first went to Ladakh in 1975 and has spent six months there every year since. This slim volume is her soapbox to air her views of how Ladakh should be. Part 1 is the romantic, idealized Shangri-la where everyone is happy and contented. Then she portrays Ladakh after the tourist invasions and economic development. Next is a tirade against multinational corporations that are responsible for all the world’s problems (strange, since India banned most international companies 20 years ago). Finally, Norberg-Hodge describes her work in establishing local organizations to introduce local-level, low-capital inputs. A popular and sensitive introduction to Ladakh is needed, but this is not it. Not recommended.
– Donald Clay Johnson, Univ. of Minnesota Lib., Minneapolis

This is an excellent book. It inspires questions about community and sustainability and culture which lead to further investigation. The author doesn’t offer a solution, allowing the reader to live with his or her questions and find another several levels of questioning about who we are and how we live with one another and with our planet. It has the potential to open conversations about how we want to live and the choices we make about our economic, technological and social systems. It opens the reader to being altered by engaging in this conversation.

This is an incredibly eye-opening book. A lot of the problems in modern life are those we attribute to the faults of human nature. This book shows us that it is the nature of our culture, not our inborn human nature, that is responsible for greed, selfishness, and jealousy. This book gives hope that we can see the importance of our connections to each other and what they really mean.

By William J. Brown on March 14, 2001
Rarely have I felt more dispair about the direction of what we know as civilization as I felt halfway through this book. The Ladakh people are described as happy, healthy, and self-reliant. Suddenly, the “real world” happens to them, and they come to see themselves as poor, when before they had no need of money.
The authors do a nice job of weaving a story of hope at the end but I have concern for the future of these people. It helps me understand the decision the government of Bhutan has made to isolate themselves from western-style civilization.
By Pam Hanna on October 24, 2000
The first half of *Ancient Futures* will delight and amaze you; the second half will break your heart.
In the 1970s, the Ladakhis of Little Tibet were a happy people. They had a sustainable traditional economy based on trade and cooperation – not money. One person’s gain was not another person’s loss. There was plenty of leisure, no hunger or poverty, very little sickness or disease, everyone was valued, there was no pollution and nothing was wasted. They got along fine with their Muslim neighbors and they kept their population stable through marriage customs based on land use. Almost every family had a celibate monk or nun. Buddhist monasteries and people had a mutually beneficial economic, social and spiritual relationship. Ladakhis are a naturally contemplative people with a great deal of spiritual awareness. “Schon chan” (one who angers easily) is about the only insult in the Ladakhi lnaguage. “Lack of pride is a virtue, for pride, born of ego, has nothing to do with self-respect among these Buddhist people.” The author says that it took her two years of living among them to realize that the people were genuinely and joyfully HAPPY. Then the world beat a path to their door and all that changed – in fewer than two decades.
It’s like a little piece of cultural time-lapse photography. What took western culture more than four centuries to do to the Native-Americans took only twenty years here. Ladakh has become a cautionary tale and a monument to western greed and stupidity.
Now there is poverty and unemployment, stress-related disease, women are devalued, the people are ashamed of their “backward” culture, there is little leisure but a great deal of pollution and waste as well as dispute between Muslims and Buddhists and the population had increased markedly. (“Interestingly, a number of Ladakhis have linked the rise of birth rates to the advent of modern democracy. “Power is a question of votes” is a current slogan, meaning that, in the modern sector, the larger your group, the greater your access to power. Competition for jobs and political representation within the new centralized structures is increasingly dividing Ladakhis.”)
Chiildren are trained to become specialists in a technological rather than an ecological society. They no longer have time to learn the superb survival techniques of their families. Western culture is creating artificial scarsity and inducing competition.
Now I understand the mechanism better. A culture that has a heavily subsidized infrastructure invades a traditional self-sustaining culture and creates artificial “needs.” So they go to the city to earn money which they never needed before, leaving their farms and women, who are immediately devalued because they’re not wage earners. The people are no longer planting, irrigating, spinning wool, gathering seeds, harvesting, playing music and singing and telling stories, having seasonal parties, marriage parties or funeral watches – together.
Time has become a commodity. It has become uneconomical to grow one’s own food, make one’s own clothes and build one’s own house. You have to pay your neighbors for the work that the whole community used to do for free.
The men are in the cities earning money and the women are producing tourist commodities with the wool they used to spin for their own use and the food they used to grow for their own families. Now they grow cash crops for strangers so they can make enough money to buy polyester clothes and walkmans and jeans for their kids and food grown hundreds of miles away and fuel trucked in from afar.
The Yak and the Dzo, uniquely suited for high altitudes of Ladakh gave rich milk but not as much as western cattle. So what did the conquering culture do? They imported cattle that can’t make it at such altitudes, so more land has to be relegated to planting crops to feed the cattle, thereby upsetting the balance. And they call this progress.
Why can’t we just leave people alone – especially when they’re doing FINE without us?
“When one-third of the world’s population consumes two-thirds of the world’s resources,” says Norberg-Hodge, “and then in effect turns around and tells the others to do as they do, it is little short of a hoax. Development is all too often a euphemism for exploitation, a new colonialism.”
All this would be a dismal tragedy comparable to Columbus’s complete genocide of the Tainos if not for a “counter development” movement generated in part by this author. Since the Ladakhis can’t go back, they can at least go forward. Instead of importing expensive fossil fuels (previously they had used yak dung and kept warm) they can have solar houses and greenhouses, which have worked very well and given them one benefit that they have previously not had. That’s something. Information is another plus. The people are being made aware that westerners pay more for whole grains, organic vegetables, pure water, natural fibers, and natural building materials – things these people have had for a thousand years without money. This is something so-called third-world people are generally not told about.
Once in a while a book comes along that changes one’s perspective forever. *Ancient Futures* is such a book. I haven’t been the same since.
One of the reviewers on this site said he ended up buy copies for his friends. So have I. This book is a must-read for every person who is concerned about the preservation of our planet and our species.


2013 – talking about movement in italy – 5 star movement:

8:50 farmers growing one thing, one size, tons of stress for farmer and for land.. and much trashed – ie: if not right size

15:50 – start shifting taxes.. 

imagine if school funds as well – huge – and time in the day – given back to people

reconnection to life..


Helena at The Economics of Happiness Conference 2013:

This is Helena Norberg-Hodge’s plenary talk at ISEC’s Economics of Happiness conference held in Byron Bay, Australia in March 2013. 

talking about attachment..

invited to exist

and finding tribe


Helena at TEDxEQCHCH – The Economics of Happiness


localization is a solution multiplier..

restoring biodiversity – increases productivity for food/clothing/shelter

increasing prosperity while reducing ecological impact

the global economy is responsible for poverty.. widening

left and right is not the issue.. the issue is local and global

small, slow, local, shortening of the distances.. is the way to go

energy consumption, break down of community/democracy

sounds like (from presencing global forum 2014):i need you to wake up

this is about nasty people making bad things happen – it’s the system.. that has us asleep..

this isn’t utopian, it’s happening in many places…

ie: la via campesina

this is the economics of happiness


2015 – free showing – This is a clip from The Economics of Happiness (2011). Thanks to the filmmakers, you can watch the full documentary online for FREE through the month of August, 2015 here on Films For Action. Watch it here.



dec 2014 via Manish

Re-imagining Nai Taleem: A Dialogue on Education 

mix ages

link to practical skills – do with hands – help

plant seed in garden

make music – not as performer but as a participator

diversity of activities – we’re not made to do one thing all day

quiet the mind

movement – every 15 min

community-based structure


find/follow Helena:

link twitter

wikipedia small

Helena Norberg-Hodge is an analyst of the impact of the global economy on cultures and agriculture worldwide, a pioneer of the localisation movement, and the articulator of the core ideas of Counter-development. She is producer and co-director of the award-winning documentary, The Economics of Happiness and is the founder and director of the International Society for Ecology and Culture (ISEC). Based in the US and UK, with subsidiaries in Sweden, Germany, Australia, and Ladakh, ISEC’s mission is to examine the root causes of our social and environmental crises, while promoting more sustainable and equitable patterns of living in both North and South. Its activities include The Economics of Happiness, The Ladakh Project, a Local Food program and Global to Local Outreach.

Norberg-Hodge was educated in Sweden, Germany, Austria, England and the United States. She specialised in linguistics, including studies at the doctoral level at the University of London and at MIT, with Noam Chomsky. Fluent in seven languages, she has lived in and studied numerous cultures at varying degrees of industrialisation, giving her a unique international perspective.

Helena Norberg-Hodge is co-director and producer of The Economics of Happiness, a 68 minute documentary made by ISEC in 2011. The film describes a world moving simultaneously in two opposing directions. On the one hand, government and big business continue to promote globalization and the consolidation of corporate power. At the same time, all around the world people are resisting those policies, demanding a re-regulation of trade and finance—and, far from the old institutions of power, they’re starting to forge a very different future. Communities are coming together to re-build more human scale, ecological economies based on a new paradigm – an economics of localization.

The Economics of Happiness has been shown around in the world and been featured in more than twenty film festivals. It won Best in Show at the Cinema Verde Environmental Film and Arts Festival in Florida and Best Director Award at the EkoFilm Festival in the Czech Republic.

Helena’s experiences in Ladakh were crucial in enabling her to understand the impact of conventional development and globalisation on people and the environment. Ladakh, also known as Little Tibet, is a remote region on the Tibetan plateau. Although it is politically part of India, it has more in common culturally with Tibet. Helena first went to Ladakh in 1975 as part of a film crew. The Indian government had recently made a decision to open up region to development, yet the traditional culture was still very much intact. Previous to the 1970s, Ladakh had experienced little change from year to year, from generation to generation. Now, however, external forces began descending on the Ladakhis like an avalanche, causing massive and rapid disruption. There were changes at every level—environmental, cultural, economic, social, psychological; conventional development leaves nothing unaltered. The profound changes in the way people thought and how they interacted with each other were reflected in the Ladakhi landscape. She describes these changes: “When I first arrived in Leh, the capital of 5,000 inhabitants, cows were the most likely cause of congestion and the air was crystal clear. Within five minutes’ walk in any direction from the town centre were barley fields, dotted with large farmhouses. For the next twenty years I watched Leh turn into an urban sprawl. The streets became choked with traffic, and the air tasted of diesel fumes. ‘Housing colonies’ of soulless, cement boxes spread into the dusty desert. The once pristine streams became polluted, the water undrinkable. For the first time, there were homeless people. The increased economic pressures led to unemployment and competition. Within a few years, friction between different communities appeared. All of these things had not existed for the previous 500 years.”

Norberg-Hodge went on to found The Ladakh Project, for which ISEC is now the parent organisation. She has helped establish several indigenous organisations in Ladakh including the Ladakh Ecological Development Group (LEDeG) and the Women’s Alliance of Ladakh (WAL).

She is the author of Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh, based on her first-hand experience of the effects of conventional development in Ladakh. Ancient Futures has been described as an “inspirational classic” by The Times and together with a film of the same title, it has been translated into 42 languages. A new edition was published in 2009 by Random House. She is also co-author of Bringing the Food Economy Home and From the Ground Up: Rethinking Industrial Agriculture.

Helena on schooling the world site:

helena on schooling the world site


grandmother gathering 2010?

Helena intro’s herself  min in..


Helena is founder and director of local futures… feature video:

Localization: for people and the Earth

Published on Jun 3, 2014

The movement for localization is growing rapidly, worldwide. These international voices from the 2014 Economics of Happiness conference in Bangalore, India, succinctly tell us why globalization is so damaging, why localization is the most strategic antidote, and what we can do to help make the shift from global to local.


rethinking modern schooling:


oct 2014:

TTIP – How We’re Lied To About Food: Russell Brand The Trews


nov 2014:

Voices of Hope in a Time of Crisis

we mustn’t be caught in a theatre of politics… absolutely obscuring the real name of the game.. of accumulation and extraction on the part of the few to the detriment of many

ladakh – seeing what happens as a culture develops according to its own priorities.. and then thrown over by corporate led global economy.. in just a few years in the name of growth – unemployment is created.. et al

the right to fresh healthy food

hope has to do with faith in human nature


a simpler way (doc)


“In order to move forward, we need to give those who voted for Trump & Brexit something better to believe in.” https://t.co/ECQJG6fQ0W

Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/cblack__/status/802574968152170496

a nother way


NEW #podcast with author, filmmaker & founder of @EconofHappiness Helena Norberg-Hodge who talks about #localization & the importance of systemic & economic literacy #systemsthinking #TheComplexityPodcast https://t.co/NXiA2Uc37Y
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/LetsWorkHappy/status/1020006086026452998

4 min – localization is about a deep connection .. reconnection.. after the separation we have experienced

5 min – on injustice: one side of planet.. 5cents.. other side $20

have to go deeper than money

people start reclaiming their right.. between production, consumption



they need to belong to a country and abide rules of that country


7 min – shorten distance between production and consumption.. doesn’t destroy the farmers or the land

13 min – at 30.. invited to go to ladakh


14 min – went there imagining to stay for wks..  there was no poverty as we see it.. no pollution.. unemployment was an unknown concept.. people saying regularly.. we have more than enough

just entranced by radiant joy and lightness of being

i stayed..  became aware of how destructive the indian development/education was .. in a very short period .. unemployment and competition.. people who had lived side by side for years

16 min – became so clear that our dominant system was creating this destruction.. so i became a critic of the dominant econ in the 70s..

18 min – became more clear this is systemic..  ie: had two huge systemic directions..  1\ further from dependence on the living earth  2\ localism.. could end all isms.. reconnecting us to the truth/interdependence..

19 min – took me 16 yrs .. wrote a book – ancient futures.. i felt very empowered by this message.. that it was a global message.. to support a return home..

undisturbed ecosystem

21 min- localization: look in towns like portland oregon, boulder co.. and their counterparts.. around the world we are seeing people realizing that they long for community/connection/nature..

22min – using certain communication tools (not the ones we are using now)

2 convos.. as infra

as it could be..

23 min – need to build up a big enough movement to get back to a real democracy.. a real systemic shift

rather..  an undisturbed ecosystem

27 min – moving away from make believe money

i believe it’s really what stands between us and major systemic change is simply that ignorance of the systemic nature of the dominant system..t

thurman interconnectedness law

30 min – people trying to protect jobs.. don’t have that global view.. systems view of what’s happening globally from the bottom up..

31 min – what i see.. people of privilege ..looking at numbers ..and the numbers shield them from reality.. numbers and specialized categories.. t


33 min – the growth is actually making people poorer.. but they don’t see that.. an urgent need for systemic literacy

36 min – people long to connect to nature..  when it becomes more conscious.. it can become so much more powerful and create a more rapid transition.. t

holmgren indigenous law

begs self-talk as data..to wake us up to what is already w/in

38 mi n- michael schuman – expert.. charles eisenstein.. manish jain..

charles.. manish

39 min – still working in ladakh.. now 40 yrs..  on that other track

40 min – we’re doing this on almost every continent.. film on ancient futures translated to 25 languages.. book over to over 40 languages

42 min – huge propaganda: blaming human nature for the mess we’re in.. t

human nature et al

43 min – at the same time.. working harder and harder just to pay rent.. psych and econ pressure.. need to remove blame altogether.. not about good guys and bad guys.. so raising consciousness is the best way forward..t

thurman interconnectedness law

46 min – when you have more community.. in ladakh.. each child surrounded by at least a dozen care takers.. stark contrast to nuclear family w this bipolar structure.. also working side by side and close to each other.. this extended network of support..t

maté trauma law

begs our focus is maté basic needs

51 min – so major key is policy change..t

begs moten abolition law .. and alt as 2 convos.. as infra

54 mni – often it’s people who can afford to make the leap..t 

begs a mech to facil a means for 7bn people to leap.. has to be all of us for sync/dance

56 min – this debt/tech based life is not saving us time.. the solution can’t be.. i won’t use my phone.. the solution is changing the i to we..

58 min – let’s try to get clarity on our needs..love and nurturing need time

59 min – local food is key

1:00 – all this is still micro.. not showing up in the media..  ie: saying small farms won’t work.. when they are really all that work

1:02 – nature will win out.. but next 20-40 yrs we could see a massive increase in fear, pollution, depression..  or we might see in a relatively short time a major wake up

self-talk as data

5 words we leave people w: connect.. educate (big picture activism).. resist.. renew.. (not good/bad guys.. not individual)..  celebrate

1:08 – connect w like minded people in area where you live.. that do see benefits of localization… we need to simultaneously slow down and speed up the spread of this message..

1:09 – fundamental to what we are saying is .. human beings long for love and connection and when they are given that.. they are loving themselves.. t

maté basic needs


Daniel Christian Wahl (@DrDCWahl) tweeted at 6:05 AM – 21 Jul 2019 :
A conversation with Helena Norberg-Hodge on Ladakh, relocalization, and our dysfunctional economic… https://t.co/l8NpGeGjJY CC #localisation #localization #bioregions #localfood #localeconomy #globalization #sustainability (http://twitter.com/DrDCWahl/status/1152912458803228673?s=17)


helena and daniel on (2019 book) local is our future (notes from 1:24 video and notes from book here)


convo june 2020 on world localization day (notes here).. with charles, alnoor, helena, zach, local futures



money ness