happiness
Susie Cagle

We know that paying attention to the news about climate and the environment is unlikely to leave you in a sunny mood. That’s as it should be. But we also know that if you let the green news get you too blue, you’ll never summon the spirit to do anything about it.

That’s why we’ve decided to make Happiness our theme of the month here at Grist for April. (And apologies for the slightly late start, but, you know, we had to get our taxes out of the way first.)

Don’t fret that we’ve gone feel-good soft; we’re not trading in our critical edge for the warm-and-fuzzies just yet. But we think that there are plenty of compelling questions to explore where the fields of “happiness studies” and sustainability overlap — at the intersection of Bliss and Green, if you will.

We started asking these questions a couple of years ago with David Roberts’ groundbreaking essay “The medium chill,” which described trading in relentless ambition for “satisficing” — “stepping off the aspirational treadmill, forgoing some material opportunities and accepting some material constraints in exchange for more time to spend on relationships and experiences.”

As part of our Happiness Month, Roberts will revisit this topic. (Although he protests that he’s already said his piece on the matter, we know that once he dives in again we’ll have to rip his digits from the keyboard to get him to move on.)

But that’s not all. Claire Thompson will reconsider the whole medium chill idea from the perspective of the millennial generation. We’ll present interviews with happiness experts like Eric Weiner (The Geography of Bliss), Dan Buettner (Blue Zones), and Gretchen Rubin (The Happiness Project).

And we want to involve you: We’ll post a happiness survey from the folks at the Happiness Initiative that will let us compare data from Grist readers with data from the broader population. Finally, our reporter/artist-illustrator Susie Cagle will sketch portraits of Grist readers, catching them in the act of doing the one thing they do for sustainability that makes them happy.

So stick around for the happy hours ahead! And tell us what other topics and stories in this direction you’d like to see us tackle.