ONE of the best known things about Bhutan, a landlocked kingdom in the Himalayas, is that they use happiness as a gauge on national health.
It is also one of the most environmentally-friendly countries in the world – its Prime Minister, Tshering Tobgay, gave a TED Talk this year regarding the nation’s pledge to remain carbon neutral, which means to have a net zero carbon footprint by balancing the amount of carbon released with an equivalent amount sequestered or offset.
In fact, he said Bhutan is carbon negative: “Our entire country generates 2.2 million tons of carbon dioxide, but our forests, they sequester more than three times that amount, so we are a net carbon sink for more than four million tons of carbon dioxide each year.”
But gross national happiness and being carbon negative are not the only unique things about Bhutan. It was an absolute monarchy until 2008, when the King literally abdicated, made the nation a constitutional monarchy, and handed the reins to his son.
The nation is committed to its unique culture and Buddhist spiritual values. In 1999, a ban on television and Internet was lifted, but with a warning from the former King that they could erode Bhutanese values.
The country’s current monarch, King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, was married in October 2011 in one of Asia’s most beautiful Royal weddings, and the nation’s largest ever media event.
These images attest to some of the timeless beauty of the nation, from its colourful markets and friendly people, to its inherent Buddhist culture.