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Helena Norberg-Hodge

Helena Norberg-Hodge
Born February 1946
Occupation linguist, writer, activist
Helena Norberg-Hodge in 2009.

Helena Norberg-Hodge is founder and director of Local Futures/International Society for Ecology and Culture and producer and co-director of the award-winning documentary The Economics of Happiness. She is an analyst of the impact of the global economy on cultures and agriculture worldwide, a pioneer of the localisation movement, and the articulator of the core ideas of Counter-development. Based in the US and UK, with subsidiaries in Sweden, Germany, Australia, and Ladakh, Local Futures' mission is to examine the root causes of our social and environmental crises, while promoting more sustainable and equitable patterns of living in both North and South. Its major activities include The Economics of Happiness[1] and The Ladakh Project,[2] as well as lectures, film screenings, workshops and international conferences.


  • Education 1
  • The Economics of Happiness 2
  • Ladakh 3
  • Publications 4
  • Films, television and online media 5
  • Lectures, workshops and presentations 6
  • Recognition 7
  • Affiliations 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


Norberg-Hodge was educated in Sweden, Germany, Austria, England and the United States. She specialised in linguistics, including studies at the doctoral level at the University of London and at MIT, with Noam Chomsky. Fluent in seven languages, she has lived in and studied numerous cultures at varying degrees of industrialisation, giving her a unique international perspective.

The Economics of Happiness

Helena Norberg-Hodge is co-director and producer of The Economics of Happiness, a 68-minute documentary made by Local Futures in 2011. The film describes a world moving simultaneously in two opposing directions. On the one hand, government and big business continue to promote globalization and the consolidation of corporate power. At the same time, all around the world people are resisting those policies, demanding a re-regulation of trade and finance—and, far from the old institutions of power, they’re starting to forge a very different future. Communities are coming together to re-build more human scale, ecological economies based on a new paradigm – an economics of localization.

The Economics of Happiness has been shown around in the world and been featured in more than twenty film festivals. It won Best in Show at the Cinema Verde Environmental Film and Arts Festival in Florida and Best Director Award at the EkoFilm Festival in the Czech Republic.


Helena's experiences in Ladakh were crucial in enabling her to understand the impact of conventional development and globalisation on people and the environment. Ladakh, also known as Little Tibet, is a remote region on the Tibetan plateau. Although it is politically part of India, it has more in common culturally with Tibet. Helena first went to Ladakh in 1975 as part of a film crew. The Indian government had recently made a decision to open the region to development, yet the traditional culture was still very much intact. Previous to the 1970s, Ladakh had experienced little change from year to year, from generation to generation. Now, however, external forces began descending on the Ladakhis like an avalanche, causing massive and rapid disruption. There were changes at every level—environmental, cultural, economic, social, psychological; conventional development leaves nothing unaltered. The profound changes in the way people thought and how they interacted with each other were reflected in the Ladakhi landscape. She describes these changes: "When I first arrived in Leh, the capital of 5,000 inhabitants, cows were the most likely cause of congestion and the air was crystal clear. Within five minutes' walk in any direction from the town centre were barley fields, dotted with large farmhouses. For the next twenty years I watched Leh turn into an urban sprawl. The streets became choked with traffic, and the air tasted of diesel fumes. 'Housing colonies' of soulless, cement boxes spread into the dusty desert. The once pristine streams became polluted, the water undrinkable. For the first time, there were homeless people. The increased economic pressures led to unemployment and competition. Within a few years, friction between different communities appeared. All of these things had not existed for the previous 500 years."

Norberg-Hodge went on to found Ladakh Ecological Development Group (LEDeG) and the Women's Alliance of Ladakh (WAL).


She is the author of Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh, based on her first-hand experience of the effects of conventional development in Ladakh. Ancient Futures has been described as an "inspirational classic" by The Times and together with a film of the same title, it has been translated into 42 languages. She is also co-author of Bringing the Food Economy Home and From the Ground Up: Rethinking Industrial Agriculture.

Norberg-Hodge has written many articles and book chapters, including:

  • "The Economics of Climate Change" Ecotrust, 23 February 2015
  • "The North-South Divide" The Ecologist magazine, 22 June 2008.
  • "Encouraging Diversity and Sustainability through Localisation" World Women's Forum 2008.
  • "The Economics of Happiness" Resurgence magazine, November/December 2007.
  • "Thinking Globally, Eating Locally" Totnes Transition Town Guide, 2007.
  • "Going Local" Kindred magazine, December 2007
  • "Poverty and the Buddhist Way of Life" Ecology and Buddhism in the Knowledge-based Society, May 2006

Films, television and online media

  • Helena was interviewed on the Dylan Ratigan Show on MSNBC
  • Helena narrates and is featured in Ancient Futures, a film by Local Futures based on Helena's book.
  • Local Futures, the film sequel to Ancient Futures, by Local Futures.
  • Helena is featured in Paradise with Side Effects, a German/French documentary on Local Futures Reality Tours program by Claus Schenk.
  • Helena is featured in The Economics of Happiness, a feature-length film by Local Futures on environmental, social and economic impacts of globalisation, as well as the multiple benefits of localisation.
  • In South Korea, Helena has been interviewed for television by Jungbo Park of the Korea Educational Broadcasting System and Kyung-Joo Suh of the Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation.
  • Several interviews with Helena are featured on, a website devoted to streaming video clips of leading thinkers and activists in environmental and social sustainability.
  • Helena has also been interviewed on Portland's KBOO radio show Pathways, Share Radio UK, the Keiser Report, and the Thom Hartmann Show.
  • Helena was interviewed on revolutionary Russell Brand's online show, The Trews.

Lectures, workshops and presentations

Norberg-Hodge lectures extensively in English, Swedish, German, French, Spanish, Italian and Ladakhi. Over the years, lecture tours have brought her to universities, government agencies and private institutions. She has made presentations to parliamentarians in Germany, Sweden, and England; at the White House and the US Congress; to UNESCO, the World Bank and the IMF; and at Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard, Cornell and numerous other universities. She also teaches regularly at Schumacher College in England. She frequently lectures and gives workshops for community groups around the world working on localisation issues.

Recent presentations include:

  • October 2011- "The End of Growth" with Richard Heinberg. Orion Magazine live online discussion.
  • July 2011-"The Economics of Happiness." TEDx, Christchurch, New Zealand


Over the years, she has received support from many world leaders, including H.R.H. Prince Charles, Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, H.H. the Dalai Lama, and Indian Prime Ministers Indira and Rajiv Gandhi. In 1986, she received the Right Livelihood Award as recognition for her work with LEDeG.[3]

In 1993, she was named one of the world's 'Ten Most Interesting Environmentalists' by the Earth Journal. Her work has been the subject of more than 250 articles in over a dozen countries.

In Carl McDaniel's book Wisdom for a Liveable Planet (Trinity University Press, 2005), she was profiled as one of eight visionaries changing the world today.

On 25 November 2012, she received the 2012 Goi Peace Award from the Goi Peace Foundation in Japan.


Ms. Norberg-Hodge is on the International Commission on the Future of Food and Agriculture, launched with the support of the government of Tuscany. She is also a member of the editorial board of The Ecologist magazine and a co-founder of the International Forum on Globalisation and the Global Ecovillage Network.


  1. ^ The Economics of Happiness
  2. ^ The Ladakh Project
  3. ^ Right Livelihood Laureates

External links

  • Local Futures/International Society for Ecology and Culture
  • Ancient Futures: Learning from LadakhHelena Norberg-Hodge's film -
  • Online interviews with Helena Norberg-Hodge
  • The Ecologist magazine
  • The Right Livelihood Award website
  • The International Forum on Globalizatioon (IFG)
  • Helena Norberg-Hodge, on the portal RAI Economy
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