Finding the Happiness


The remote mountain kingdom of Bhutan and the Burning Man festival in Black Rock City; they have more in common than you would expect.

Around the world, micro-economies are carving their own paths to wealth and well-being. Nations like the island of Vanuatu and Los Pueblos Mancommunicados in the hills of Oaxaca are choosing to reject the looming presence of global capitalism and the adverse effects it creates. Filmmaker Dan Porras, communications director of the Christensen Fund, sets out to tell the stories of these peoples who are creating their own unique economic systems. They often strike a careful balance between traditional knowledge and modern development.

12FPS teams up with Porras in his ongoing series, Rules of the House, in which we help to uncover the human spirit behind these stories of resilience, community, and a battle of change versus tradition. In a short documentary on the Kingdom of Bhutan, we learn from local workers and scholars about what it means to create a system that favors happiness over gross domestic product.


Meanwhile at Burning Man, a temporary metropolis on a dried-up Nevada lake bed, people from around the world experience a community that thrives on principles of gifting, radical inclusion and wild self-expression. For one week out of the year, citizens of Black Rock City create an experience at the intersection of creativity and survival: there are no spectators, only participants.

In this densely populated wasteland, participants are not served any advertisements or coaxed into any commercial transactions. Gifting is one of the core principles, meaning that all transactions of food, beverage, clothing or otherwise, are entirely unconditional. Is this gift economy a viable alternative to capitalism, or is it a quixotic utopia? Either way, the tens of thousands who attend for the first time each year learn a new way of thinking about well-being when it comes to material goods and community vitality.

Burning Man

Follow Rules of the House to see more stories on alternative economies near and far, and check out more of Dan’s work at the Christensen Fund website.