Building a Pillar of Happiness with the Simplest Scientific Tools
November, 2010 workshop
On November 12, 2010, Global Institute for BioExploration (GIBEX) set out on a mission to Bhutan, a small country nested within the Himalayas between India and Tibet. The country is marked by a surprisingly recent emergence into the international sphere after centuries of isolation, from which their government has taken a careful, calculated approach toward integrating modern global technologies within their preserved cultural framework. This modernization process is led by the concept of “gross national happiness” (GNH), a visionary concept for measuring the quality of life in the country by a more holistic sense of the happiness of its people in contrast to gross domestic product (GDP). The four pillars of GNH include good governance, preservation of cultural values, environmental conservation, and sustainable development.
As international supporters of conservation, sustainable development and GNH as a whole, GIBEX offers Bhutan rapid, simple, reliable tools, termed “screens-to-nature” (STN) technologies, for the detection of promising bioactivities from natural resources. During a 4-day training workshop at the National Biodiversity Center (NBC) of Bhutan, GIBEX trainers Josh Kellogg (North Carolina State University) and Brittany Graf (Rutgers University) provided instruction and hands-on training in plant collection, documentation, extraction, and bioassay by employing the STN technologies. Plant extracts prepared from traditionally used medicinal plants demonstrated a range of bioactivities, including antibacterial and antioxidant properties, indicating that these natural resources are well-worth future research, development and conservation efforts that may benefit environmental and human health.
The simple tools offered by the GIBEX training program provide the start-up capacity to build a comprehensive bioprospecting program based at the NBC. This program, although in its initial stages, has already begun fostering a positive community of research, learning and collaboration among scientists, administrators, foresters, traditional medical practitioners, and agriculturalists in Bhutan. As the robustness of the program grows over time, the NBC aims to clearly demonstrate the economic value of Bhutan’s endemic natural resources through research and product development, thereby driving nationwide conservation and sustainable development.
With the critical long-term vision of GNH in mind, the GIBEX workshop was not only a task with an immediate endpoint, but a nucleus for future growth, enriched by the privilege to build and sustain the holistic happiness of the people in Bhutan.
By Brittany Graf