Social Cohesion and Comparing Ecotourism Experiences

In a recently published article, Montes et al. (2019), I work with co-researchers to compare ecotourism experiences in both Phobjikha and Laya. As both locations have unique characteristics and histories, a straightforward comparison is complicated and difficult to find concrete best practices for the sector. Nevertheless, we work to inform the ecotourism literature by highlighting struggles specific to the area of social cohesion, while also contributing to GNH scholarship. While GNH is often appealed to as a rationale for promoting ecotourism in Bhutan, we show that more critical perspectives and adaptions are required in order for ecotourism to “become the hopeful development solution that Bhutan envisions it to be” (p.41).


Montes, J., Kafley, B., Subba, D., Dema, T., Dendup, T., Selden, P. (2019). Ecotourism and Social Cohesion: Contrasting Phobjikha and Laya Experiences. Rig Tshoel, 2(1), 23-44.

Ecotourism Discourses in Bhutan

I recently co-authored the paper “Ecotourism Discourses in Bhutan: contested perceptions and values” , which was published in Tourism Geographies. This paper explores ecotourism beyond traditional analyses that frame the sector as a material and economic practice, in order to address it as a discursive process that reshapes cultural values and perceptions. I adopt a case study approach in which three ecotourism destinations in Bhutan are investigated showing how socio-cultural and human-nature relations are reshaped through engagement with ecotourism. These new relations are attributed to an underlying neoliberal logic that drives the ecotourism sector, a logic that contrasts local societal values. The paper employs Ingold’s (2000) dwelling as a primary theoretical approach and also engages with environmentality as conceptualized by Agrawal (2005).


Agrawal, A. (2005). Environmentality: Technologies of Government and the Making of Subjects. London: Duke University Press.

Ingold, T. (2000). The Perception of the Environment: Essays on livelihood, dwelling and skill. London: Routledge.

Montes, J. and Kafley, B. (2019). Ecotourism discourses in Bhutan: contested perceptions and values. Tourism Geographies, DOI: 10.1080/14616688.2019.1618905.

Temporality of the Landscape and Storying

Ingold (1993) reflects on something he calls the ‘temporality of the landscape’, which essentially works to make sense of how the natural world and human culture/activity (what Ingold calls ‘taskscape’) are an integrated whole.  Ingold posits that the landscape and taskcape cannot be understood as separate entities because they work together shaping one another.  As humans interact and operate within a landscape, they cause various changes that mold their surroundings.  However, these surroundings also impact human activity, shaping how culture and behavior form.  For example, consider the differences between agriculturalist and pastoralist livelihoods that are largely dependent on environments that promote and support such activities.  The temporal aspect for Ingold is important, not so much in terms of historical sequential patterns, but as a way of conveying a progressional relationship that exists between the landscape and taskscape.  Ingold states: “it is from the relational context of people’s engagement with the world…that each place draws its unique significance” (p.155).  He then goes on to imagine watching the landscape in a ‘fast-forward’ manner in which the land changes and responds to numerous human generations over time.  While these past generations cease to exist, their imprint on the landscape remains as they have left something of themselves.   This allows one to see how the “rhythmic pattern of human activities nests within the wider pattern of activity for all animal life…which nests within the life-process of the world” (p.164).   

From this perspective, Ingold goes on to reflect a particular ontology in which truth is conveyed through the act of storying.  Different cultures have different ways of experiencing a relationality with their surroundings, and therefore have particular ways of conveying these perceptions, often through the act of storying.  In many instances western technocratic approaches to environmental management have dismissed ‘stories’ from indigenous groups.  However, Ingold warns that: “we should resist the temptation to assume that since stories are stories they are, in some sense, unreal or untrue, for this is to suppose that the only real reality, or true truth, is one in which we, as living, experiencing beings, can have no part at all.  Telling a story is not like weaving a tapestry to cover up the world, it is rather a way of guiding the attention of listeners or readers into it” (153).

Therefore, indigenous perspectives represent novel ways of perceiving the environment that may have profound significance for present-day environmental decision-making.  While much research and global efforts have been made to acknowledge indigenous perspectives, much work is still needed.  Misrepresentation of such knowledge and biased scientific narratives continue to marginalize these perspectives.  Some of the research I have been involved in works to advocate these perspectives.  For example, in a manuscript submitted for publication (Montes, Tshering, & Phuntsho, forthcoming), I have presented the story of Rigo Tsho, a famous lake in the hill country of Haa Dzongkhag (district), Bhutan.  In this story, a fantastic cosmological battle ensues that incorporates deities, landscape features, humans, and historic saints.  What is important about the story is not necessarily the historicity, but rather the relationships portrayed between the various actors.  How are humans positioned within larger cosmological hierarchies with deities and elements of the landscape?  What is found is that humans do not have the advantage of power in which they practice dominance over their surroundings.  Rather, humans are at the bottom of the hierarchy, relying on the landscape and spiritual beings to protect them.  How does such a perspective change environmental management behaviors?  First of all, it does not prioritize ‘management’ as a primary task of humans.  Instead power differentials are inverted, humans are at the mercy of other natural and spiritual forces and they adopt a new ethic/moral towards their surroundings.  What this novel positionality promotes is a set of attitudes towards the environment that contrasts hegemonic perspectives placing humans over and rather places humans within the environment. 


Ingold, T. (1993). Temporality of the Landscape. World Archaeology, 25(2), 152-174. 

Montes, J., Tshering, S., and Phuntsho, T. (forthcoming). Cosmological Subjectivities: exploring ‘truth’ environmentalities in Haa Highlands. 

Bhutan, Carbon Neutrality, and SDG12

In 2009, at the 15th UNFCCC Conference in Denmark, Bhutan made a valiant commitment to carbon neutrality, which was then re-vocalized at the 2015 Paris Climate Summit.  Further, this commitment has evolved to claims of carbon neutrality, and even negativity (Tobgay, 2016), based upon rates of carbon sequestration and industrial production.  These claims are justified through unpublished figures that show a “potential to sequester 6.3 million tons (Mt) of CO2 annually, easily eclipsing the country’s estimated year 2013 emission total of 2.2 Mt of CO2 equivalent “(Munawar, 2016).  This is certainly good news for the small Himalayan kingdom that is sandwiched between two heavy hitters, India and China, in regards to carbon emissions.   However, the problem I foresee for Bhutan is that their current calculations only seem to account for production values of carbon within the country, and lack consideration of consumption that has broader international impacts. 

The notion of ecological footprint is important here, because this concept looks beyond one’s immediate impact on the local environment, and assumes that one’s consumption of materials, which may be produced from afar, must be calculated into one’s impact.  The products consumed within the country have broader impacts that go beyond the nation’s borders.  For example, Bhutan currently does not produce enough rice for the population, necessitating imports from India.  The rice grown in India requires various inputs such as land use, water, and fertilizers, but also incorporates transportation costs and emissions.  Therefore, as one consumes such rice in Bhutan, their ecological footprint extends to India.  The same situation applies to energy use.  While Bhutan produces ‘green’ energy through hydropower facilities, many Bhutanese are using fossil fuels for cooking, heating, and transportation.  Where are these fossil fuels coming from?  They come from India.  And these fossil fuel imports are on the rise (Jamtsho, 2015).  Therefore, despite Bhutan’s efforts to produce carbon neutral energy sources, their current imports of fossil fuels likely offset such efforts. 

With Bhutan’s commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), this may be a humbling experience as the country works to come under compliance with SDG 12, which promotes “Responsible Consumption and Production”.  Sustainability will require calculations of not only production, but also consumption.  While rural living is certainly a strength of the country which may attribute to low levels of consumption and carbon emissions, the number of urban residents rose from 5% in 1980 to 45% in 2016 (NEC, 2016).  Such a transition has most certainly put aspirations of carbon neutrality at risk as the growing urban population develops an appetite for foreign goods and increased consumption patterns.       

All this being said, I have not been able to find concrete calculations for claims of carbon neutrality.  Any such references so far seem to be ‘unpublished’.  Rather, we find numerous references that continue to popularize and reify such claims, all of which ignore consumption patterns in the country.  Therefore, while my assumptions may be proven false in the future, I remain cautious about claims to carbon neutrality, and especially carbon negativity.


Jamtsho, S. (2015). Sustainable Energy in Bhutan. Int. J. on Green Growth and Development, 1(2), 75-102.

Munawar, S. (2016). Bhutan Improves Economic Development as a Net Carbon Sink.  Washington, D.C.: Climate Institute. 

NEC (National Environment Commission). (2016). Bhutan State of the Environment Report 2016. Thimphu, Bhutan. 

Tobgay, T. (2016, February). This country isn’t just carbon neutral – its carbon negative. Retrieved from: https://www.ted.com/talks/tshering_tobgay_this_country_isn_t_just_carbon_neutral_it_s_carbon_negative

Buddhist Biopower

In a recently published article I proposed the concept of Buddhist Biopower to make sense of GNH/Bhutanese governance in light of Foucault’s governmentality & biopower discussions.  “While governmentality refers to an abstract rationality and techniques for how a state conducts the conduct of target populations, biopower is a state’s claim to promote life used to justify actions in exercising this governance” (Montes & Bhattarai, 2018, p.210).  Therefore, I make an argument that a Buddhist ethic are appealed to in order to legitimize policy & rule in Bhutan.  Primarily the ethic “diminishes the individual in favor of interdependence” (p.212) and conceptualizes happiness as a collective good.  Analyses of the GNH index and Bhutan’s 11th Five Year Plan are provided to reveal elements that portray such a governmentality and Buddhist Biopower at work.  While much of the work is theoretical and based on secondary document reviews, these conclusions are also based on interviews with governance practitioners as well as from those who have been governed in the country.    It is my hope that such work will lay a base for exploring Bhutanese environmental governance in particular.  The article is free on the Geoforum website for another couple of weeks, feel free to download and read it here.    


Montes, J. and Bhattarai, S.R. (2018). Buddhist Biopower? – Variegated governmentality in Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness agenda. Geoforum, 96, 207-216.

Struggling with GNH

One cannot come to Bhutan without hearing about Gross National Happiness (GNH). It is an idea birthed in the late 1970’s as an alternative to dominant development philosophies that prioritize economic criteria for proxies of well-being. The idea was to provide a more holistic way of viewing human nature and assessing development by recognizing spiritual, socio-cultural, and environmental values. While it originated as a philosophy, based on Buddhist ideals and cultural values, it was later transformed into a development index providing indicators to measure the country’s wellbeing and providing a basis for policy direction. While GNH has received a number of criticisms, especially regarding the measurement of happiness, it has continued to evolve providing a champion for alternative development models. For this, I applaud Bhutan’s contribution to global discourses surrounding development and well-being.

However, I have come to approach GNH with some skepticism. While the GNH philosophy seems to have local origins, the tools, strategies and discourses that have emerged in recent years seem to have external roots. Many international NGOs, donors, and researchers (even like myself) seem to have taken hold of the concept, in their eagerness to find alternatives to neoliberal capitalism, and have helped it progress to its current state. While global cooperation in maturing the concept is certainly not criteria for dismissing GNH, what has happened is that local involvement and understanding has eroded. Local residents are either confused or frustrated by GNH. With a history of state paternalism, many residents look to the government as being responsible for providing ‘happiness’, despite education efforts to promote personal responsibility. Other locals merely know GNH as something mentioned on TV or at school, but know nothing else of its purpose or how it is being used to impact their lives. Although this isn’t the case for all, it seems to be a common theme for rural residents as you get further from the hubs of Thimphu, Paro and Phuentsholing. However, even urban elites express concern about how GNH has become something other than a ‘home-grown’ philosophy. They feel that GNH has been appropriated by outsiders and no longer resembles their national identity.

I commend Bhutan for offering the gift of GNH, as it has challenged the global community to think beyond economic measures. However, more work needs to be done to ensure that GNH remains a localized concept that accounts for the experiences, understandings and values of the common Bhutanese.

Reconceptualizing the ‘Village’

I recently read an older article, Rigg (1994), that was very enlightening. Rigg confronts the mischaracterization of ‘village’ by appealing to evidence that such a construct is falsely created and thus drives development towards a false standard of measurement. ‘Village’ has been romanticized by many writers, and has created polarized views “of rural life which is somewhat divorced from reality” (p. 124). He addresses specific mischaracterizations such as egalitarianism, and shows how ‘traditional villages’ were very much engrained with hierarchies of power and influence in which labor was used and incorporated into production activities for export. Rigg also addresses the corporate village fallacy and shows how shared labor activities, and other examples, point towards self-interest rather than selfless acts of redistribution to impoverished members of the community. “Relations of mutual help and assistance are not necessarily indicative of a moral economy. Indeed…they may merely be mystifications of exploitation” (p. 127). Thirdly, the autonomous and self-reliant village fallacy is taken up, showing how there are links to export markets very early on. And finally, Rigg addresses the colonial origins of a village. Rather than being a self–induced regional organizing method of a local population, a village is seen as being a state/colonial method to observe populations, imposing control, and facilitating the extraction of surplus labor and production. Therefore, the ‘village’ may have been ‘arbitrarily imposed’ as “the colonial state found that it was necessary spatially and administratively to define villages in order to control the population and then be in a position to extract surplus from them” (p. 129).   With these critiques of ‘village’, Rigg posits that development practitioners need to be aware of false characterizations that do an injustice to current development practice and limit potential outcomes for moving forward. Commercialization of local products and labor being integrated into global markets are “not a case of new technologies operating on a tabula rasa and creating class structures, but rather of ‘capitalism’ building upon structures that already exist” (p. 131). With this new view, then, development can properly move forward by ‘conceptualizing new ways of ‘doing’ development’ while avoiding false images of past/present and “misinterpretation[s] of history” (p.131).


Rigg, J. (1994). Redefining the village and rural life: Lessons from South East Asia. Geographical Journal, 123-135.

A Trip to Laya and Beyond

If you get a chance, catch the new issue of Tashi Delek (Druk Air’s In-Flight Magazine) and you will see a story of mine about my trip to Laya last October (2016).  Here is a link to the proofs for the article A Trip to Laya and Beyond.

Here are a few photos that you will find: 

Ecotourism Research in the South-Eastern Himalaya

Over the last 18 months I have worked closely with a group of students at the Royal Thimphu College, also in collaboration with Sikkim University (SU) and Kathmandu University (KU) students, conducting research related to ecotourism. The research was funded by a grant from the Himalayan University Consortium (HUC), a chapter of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD). Each of the three partnering institutes (SU, KU, and RTC) conducted research in their respective region of the eastern Himalayas, training students in research methods, field work, and data analyses. The work culminated in a conference hosted by SU in Gangtok, Sikkim, India from March 30th – April 2nd. I accompanied five of my student researchers to Gangtok where they delivered analysis presentations to a panel of ecotourism experts. After official conference meetings from March 30th – 31st, participants then travelled to South Sikkim to visit Sikkim field sites from April 1st – 2nd. The project was a large success in that it also resulted in signed MOUs between the three institutions, thus laying a groundwork for future collaborations.

 

Biodiversity, Cultural Resilience, and Potatoes

Preserving biodiversity is a critical area of many conservation programs across the globe. Biodiversity is a determinant for ecosystem health, thus falling rates have produced a significant amount of concern. I recently read an article by Brush (1992) who explored the diversity of potatoes in Andean agricultural fields while fusing the analysis with an ethnoecological perspective investigating the influence of cultural practice and economic decision-making. Essentially, the research examined the resiliency of the potato agriculturalists, which were motivated to preserve indigenous varieties in the wake of globalized market forces that favor one or two varieties.  Brush found that in two particular valleys, cultural norms and values motivated the maintenance of indigenous varieties that were understood as being important to social connections, festivals, and a gift giving culture. Bush notes:

“Ritual meals and celebrations and meals for guests emphasize native potatoes” (p.178)

“Native varieties are favored gift items and are used to strengthen social ties, and some reports refer to them as ‘gift potatoes’ (Spanish: papas de regalo)” (p.178-179)

“Within farming communities, native potatoes are also appreciated, perhaps as much for their cultural significance as for their superior flavor. They are favored gift items, and in a rural economy that is increasingly short of labor, they are used as added incentives by landowners to attract workers” (p.180-181)

In a world that often seems at the mercy of globalizing market forces, these findings provide optimism. Cultural practices are expressive tools that not only shape social interactions, but also shape the world in which we live.


Brush, S. B. (1992). Ethnoecology, Biodiversity, and Modernization in Andean Potato Agriculture. Journal of Ethnobiology, 12(2), 161-185.  

Natural Capital, Neoliberalism and Motivating Conservation

In environmental literature there seems to be a recent fascination with the term ‘natural capital’. While the term seemingly signifies a positive notion, by producing a perspective of natural resources that are now understood as capital, and should thus be valued as such, the term also solidifies a particular socio-ecological relationship in line with a neoliberal worldview. Neoliberal forms of conservation work to provide external incentives that motivate people to act in conservation-friendly ways. So by framing resources, or the environment more generally, as ‘natural capital’, one associates benefits that can be derived and therefore one is motivated to treat the ‘natural capital’ in conservation-friendly ways. While this works towards a positive outcome, the means of providing such incentives contains troubling logic. What happens when the incentives for conservation are removed?

If people’s actions are trained to act towards monetary incentives, this not only puts the environment at risk during times of economic downturn, but also changes significantly the relationship that humans have with their surroundings. We are trained, in the capitalism system, to view objects in our environment according to how they benefit us individually. Therefore, the environment becomes a source of meeting our personal needs and wants and we impose power over it so that it produces what we want. This becomes even more intensified as we live in urban spaces that see ‘nature’ as something ‘other-than’ our current surroundings, thus nature is abstracted as a commodity to be managed and manipulated.

Such a conception of the environment is very different than that experienced by indigenous communities. In pre-modern Bhutanese farming communities, people viewed themselves as being at the mercy of the environment, crops being dependent on weather patterns that were controlled by deities in the landscape. Creation narratives in multiple religions also attest to alternative human-environment perceptions that frame the environment as worthy of protection motivating ethical behavior from followers. These examples point towards different socio-ecological relations that contest the model provided by neoliberal capitalism, one that does not create a vision of dominance over, but rather a symbiotic relationship with the environment.  

Conservation and the Terma Tradition

In the 8th century Guru Rinpoche (not pictured above), also known as the 2nd Buddha, was very active in spreading Buddhism across Asia. He became the figure of the Nyingmapa school of Tibetan Buddhism and is still a highly revered figure in much of the Tibetan Buddhist world. Guru Rinpoche foresaw a time in which Buddhism would be suppressed, and therefore saw the need to hide various treasures (both physical and supernatural) that would be revealed at a later date (Hargens, 2002). This tradition of ‘hidden treasures’ has become known as Terma, and is particularly strong in Bhutan. Along with the hidden treasures, Guru Rinpoche foresaw the Tertön, or Treasure Seekers, who would reveal the Terma. Terma have been found in various features of the natural landscape as Tshewang et al. (1995) comment:

“The entire landscape bears marks and memories; the Terma could also be seen more generally as specific manifestations of the living landscape itself, of the forces available to those whose attitude to their environment is one of constant mindfulness and deep reverence” (p.13).

Hargens (2002) also notes:

“the Terma tradition illustrates that even common-place rocks, lakes, and tress can contain the highest spiritual truths. Indeed the Bhutanese landscape comes alive through the Terma and their beloved revealers” (p.67).

What is of particular interest is the connection of Terma to a conservation practice amongst Buddhist practitioners. With the understanding that Terma may be present in the landscape, it produces a reverence that motivates conservation-minded behaviour.

While the connection between spiritual practice and conservation is not a new finding, it is interesting to see how the Bhutanese tradition of Terma is currently evolving, and is very much in decline due to an ‘opening’ of sacred spaces. Spirituality, as a value, has become less important to the younger generation of Bhutanese who are more and more influenced by globalization and the hegemony of scientific discourse. As a result, the current generation of Bhutanese are an interesting case study to explore how societal values are in transition, as are motivators for conservation practice. Today in Bhutan, modern forms of conservation policy seem much more attuned to a neoliberal agent of the homo economicus nature, rather than a spiritually minded individual. More on this to come in the future.


Hargens, S.B.F. (2002). Integral Development: Taking ‘The Middle Path’ Towards Gross National Happiness. Journal of Bhutan Studies, 6, 24-87.

Tshewang, P., Tashi, K.P., Butters, C., and Saetreng, S.K. (1995). The Treasure Revealer of Bhutan: Pemalingpa, the Terma Tradition and its Critics. Kathmandu: EMR Publishing House.

Cartesian Dualism and Capitalism

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Jason Moore (2011) introduces a broad theoretical framework for understanding Capitalism, not so much as a dominant world economy, but as a ‘socio-ecological’ relationship that he calls a ‘world ecology’. Moore states “Capitalism does not develop upon global nature, so much as it emerges through the messy and contingent relations of humans with the rest of nature” (p. 108). One of the main thrusts of this argument is to break down the Cartesian model that sets up a false dichotomy between society and nature. As such, the economy is not seen as an independent institution, but one that is integrated into a broader ecology and host of interactions between human and non-human nature. Moore provides this theoretical framework at a global scale trying to understand the integration of the global economy into larger planetary processes.

Tim Ingold’s work also explicitly confronts a Cartesian/Dualist model and has been very influential as he explores local perceptions of the environment, particularly in what he calls the “Dwelling Approach” (2000). In this approach, Ingold calls out the Cartesian model as a flawed ontology, however approaches the issue with a more localized anthropological perspective trying to understand how humans perceive and interact in their environments. As such, I am curious to explore how Moore’s broader framework might integrate such a localized anthropological approach.

In exploring Moore’s work further I came across an interview conducted after the release of his book “Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital” (2015a). In the interview he was challenged to define how his approach is different from other strategies for breaking down this Cartesian dualism. Moore sees his work as an extension of work that has already been done, but questions “how do you move from a philosophy that says humans are a part of nature into writing stories about the modern world? And what kind of impact does that movement from philosophy to history have on our methodological frames and conceptual premises?” (2015b). Exploring Moore’s philosophical approach, and using it as a basis for understanding Ingold’s musings over how humans perceive and interact with the bio-physical world will create space to ontologically ground future field work.

Why are such musings critical to societal-environment relations? There is a history of societies positioning themselves as somehow separate from nature. As such, particular worldviews develop that fail to develop a proper environmental ethic, viewing nature as something to be harnessed and defeated, rather than something to be cared for. Such instrumental and anthropocentric thinking drives a particular ontology that fails to account for the dependency that humans have on thriving ecosystems.


Ingold, T. (2000). The Perception of the Environment: Essays on livelihood, dwelling and skill. London and New York: Routledge.

Moore, J. (2011). Ecology, Capital, and the Nature of our Times: Accumulation & Crisis in the Capitalist World-Ecology. Journal of World-Systems Research, 17 (1): 107-146.

Moore, J. (2015a). Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital. London: Verso.

Moore, J. (2015b, December 3). New Books in Environmental Studies [Podcast Interview]. Retrieved from http://itunes.apple.com

Spatial Fixation in Bhutan

A number of researchers have reflected on Harvey’s (1982) concept of the ‘spatial fix’ in which Capitalism seeks new frontiers of accumulation. This spatial fix can be manifested in both new spaces, but also in structural changes that allow new opportunities for accumulation. However, the ‘fix’ should only be seen as temporary, as the strategy is not able to deal with the contradiction inherent to Capitalism, in that continual growth is being promoted by the use of finite resources (Büscher & Fletcher, 2015).

In terms of research in Bhutan, the spatial fix concept has application both in terms of physical space as well as the ‘Green Economy’ discourse. Bhutan has often been orientalized as ‘the last Shangri La’ and has served as the subject of western imagineries promoting much interest in Bhutan’s virgin territory as the age of exploration has come to a close. While Bhutan has predominately operated as an isolated state, this has served well to protect both cultural and ecological uniqueness from expanding capitalist markets that tend to be consumptive in nature. However, non-consumptive forms of capitalism have taken root in the kingdom, very much in line with the Green Economy, and what Buscher & Fletcher (2015) refer to as ‘roll-back’ strategies. This is exemplified in recent policies related to Protected Areas in which National Parks must seek strategies to ‘fund themselves’ through Ecotourism type strategies. As such, the Royal Government, as a cautious player in globalizing forces, has also created avenues for forms of accumulation to take root in what could be considered a spatial fix of the larger Capitalist agenda, which is constantly seeking new frontiers as it approaches material limitations.

In addition to territorial spaces, the concept of the ‘spatial fix’ is also useful for analysing the Gross National Happiness (GNH) discourse. GNH in many ways reflects the ‘Green Economy’ discourse and can be seen as an extension, and further greening, of Sustainable Development. The 4 pillars that serve as the base to GNH remarkably resemble the pillars of Sustainable Development as they seek 1) Environmental Conservation 2) Cultural Preservation 3) Socio-Economic Development and 4) Good Governance. In many ways GNH can be seen as a cultural adaptation of the Sustainable Development concept, or a reframing in terms of Buddhist values, and is perhaps just another of Tienhaara’s (2014) varieties of ‘Green Economies’ that find common ground with Capitalism. With the ‘spatial fix’ in mind, the GNH discourse can be evaluated in terms of how it further promotes a capitalist style agenda. However, Shear’s (2014) work stands as word of caution to a purely negative critique. The ‘Green Economy’ and GNH discussions should not be seen as destined spaces for reinforcing hegemonic capitalist values, but should also be seen as spaces where imaginaries come into play and have room to explore alternatives beyond capitalism. In this framing, more productive explorations can be made into the possibilities that GNH creates for conceptualizing new economic structures.


Büscher, B. and Fletcher, R. (2015). Accumulation by Conservation. New Political Economy, 20(2): 273-298.

Harvey, D. (1982). The Limits of Capital. Oxford.

Shear, B.W. (2014). Making the green economy: politics, desire, and economic possibility. Journal of Political Ecology, 12: 194-209.

Tienhaara, K. (2014). Varieties of green capitalism: economy and environment in the wake of the global financial crisis. Environmental Politics, 23(2): 187-204.