“Happy” Earth Day Madison!


There is no greater joy than the gift of happiness. And in celebration of Earth Day “Happy” is coming to Madison. To be more specific the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin is hosting a presentation of Roko Belic’s award-winning feature film “Happy”. The movie will be followed by a lively panel discussion on the topic of happiness hosted by yours truly.

After seeing the premiere of this amazing motion picture last year at the Mountain Film Festival in Telluride I knew it just had to play in my hometown. And as it happens this year the Nelson Institute’s 6th annual Earth Day Conference is focused on the critical issues facing the well-being of people around the world. Entitled “Envisioning a Fairer Future: Sustainability, Security and Happiness on a Finite Planet,” this year’s event offers a global perspective on this most personal of subjects.

“Studies have shown that people are happier when they have clean air, clean water and access to open space. Those environmental conditions effect happiness,” said Nelson Institute director of community relations Steve Pomplun. “But if we define happiness by having more stuff, having more money and buying things that can have a big impact on the environment as well. So we wanted to have a focused discussion on this here in Madison.”

The panelist for this conversation on happiness will include “Happy” filmmaker Belic along with UW professor Richie Davidson, founder of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds. We’ll also hear from visiting professor John Francis, author of the book Planet Walker. The group will discuss the role happiness can ultimately play in our current economic recovery and perhaps help us to reexamine what it means to be happy in a world with a growing population and limited resources.

“It may be time redefine happiness along with redefining the environment,” Francis said in a recent interview. “The economy is not a force of nature but it tends to play upon our concept of happiness…If we’re in movement we need to stop and ask ourselves, are we heading in the right direction?”

Happiness is one of those incredibly illusive concepts that defy definition. Especially in our very complex modern society each of us likely struggles every day to discover for ourselves what it means to be happy. And with the limited resources of a planet populated by 7 billion people many might wonder if there can possibly be enough happiness to go around. On April 17th some of the top minds in the world will gather to discuss and share their ideas.

The Nelson Institute was established in 1970 and renamed in 2002 for former Wisconsin governor and U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson, the founder of Earth Day.

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I’m a freelance journalist that specializes in telling stories about outdoor recreation, environmental conservation, acts of charitable giving and practices of sustainable living.