You’ve probably had the same experience: You had a great day doing something you love, with people you love and barely spent a dime. Maybe it was a picnic in the park with friends or a pick-up basketball game. And then there are probably times you spent a lot of money on buying something that you thought would make you happy, but ultimately it just made you feel it was a waste. What makes us happy is not necessarily expensive and expensive things don’t necessarily make us happy. Often even if expensive things made us happy that might be offset by the thought of losing the money that was spent to buy it. The same approach can be applied to environment damage created by activities as the cost side of the equation.
Gifford Pinchot calls this the HappoDammo Ratio.
Pinchot gives an example of a day spent playing Frisbee golf in a park followed by a dip in a lake and some hiking:
We played 36 holes and then decided to go to for a swim. At Haig Lake we took off our clothes, swam to an island half a mile away, ran around on the cliffs, were chased by yellow jackets, dove back in and swam back to our clothes.
As I put them back on, I realized that we had had a very happy afternoon and done a tiny fraction of the environmental damage done by a typical afternoon of golf followed by a dip in the club pool. No bulldozers were used to make the Linnaea course. No trees were cut down; no sand hauled in; no pesticides, herbicides or fungicides or irrigation were used. I guessed that we had achieved at least the same level of happiness with less than one thousandth of the environmental damage.
The implications of the HappoDammo ratio are at the core of the everyday choices that we as individuals, families and as a society make. Consider the last week through the HappoDammo ratio. How happy were you? How much damage did you cause to the environment? Think about your vacation plans for this Summer? How far are you traveling? How much happier will that trip make you versus another option closer to home?
Pinchot also thinks there is a message for the current environmental movement:
The HappoDammo Ratio provides a powerful creative paradigm. For environmentalists it suggests a shift:
From: Recommending sacrifice for the good of nature and future generations.
To: Advocating for greater happiness today as well as in the future.
This is a far more appealing proposition…
So as you make decisions, start thinking of the HappoDammo ratio.