Sustainable Happiness

Dr. Catherine O’Brien took the principles of positive psychology and wrapped them around the concept of environmental sustainability. The result is “Sustainable Happiness,” a contribution to both fields and a novel concept in of itself:

“Sustainable Happiness is happiness that contributes to individual, community and/or global well-being and does not exploit other people, the environment, or future generations.”

Dr. O’Brien, a professor in the department of education at CBU, developed the concept “with the aim of stimulating discussions regarding the relationship between our pursuit of happiness and sustainability.” CBU is the first university to offer courses on sustainable happiness.

The research paper in which Dr. O’Brien first described the concept of sustainable happiness focuses on transportation, particularly school travel planning, and how “children’s view of transportation reminds us that transportation is not only about ‘moving people and goods’. It’s about wonder, discovery, joy and happiness.”

That’s right, “reminds” us! Because as this Globe & Mail article points out, “many of the conclusions of happiness studies seem obvious. It’s just that we have forgotten.”

You can remind yourself with this online course: The course was developed by O’Brien and her colleagues Rick Foster and Greg Hicks (authors of several books including “How We Choose to be Happy”). The website was designed by O’Brien’s husband Ian Murray, and coded by yours truly.

Canadian Network for Environmental Education and Communication Awards

Dr. Catherine O’Brien was recently awarded the Canadian Network for Environmental Education and Communication Award for Outstanding Post-Secondary Individual. The award honours innovative contributions to environmental education programs, especially those that “foster a greater understanding of ecological principles, environmental issues and environmental ethics.”

Working from her home base in Nova Scotia, she has worked at every scale touching audiences from the international level right down to the individual. Dr. O’Brien has had major impacts in the academic community through her extensive cross-sectoral research and her accomplishments include teaching efforts around Sustainable Happiness (a concept developed by O’Brien in 2005). Her main focus has been on children’s transportation options to school. As part of a national School Travel Planning pilot project, Dr. O’Brien works with primary and secondary schools, developing systems to collect data concerning students’ sentiment towards their travel mode to and from school. This is based on previous research that indicates that the way children travel to school relates to their moods and dispositions.”