Do you want the good news first or the bad news?

The good news is that the Greens in government have launched a project to identify more meaningful measures of wellbeing and success, beyond the traditional measure of economic turnover (gross domestic product or GDP).

The bad news is that we're leaving our re-examination of what we need for a healthy life to the last minute.

An upward trend in GDP has been shorthand for economic success for many years when, in reality, GDP is just a measure of turnover, driven by bad activities as effectively as good ones.


Read more: Nicola Patrick: I'm not giving up ... on giving up

The costs of responding to a car accident increase GDP, while a business improving its energy efficiency and spending less reduces it. That just doesn't make sense.

The Indicators Aotearoa project is being run by Stats NZ and is seeking input from Kiwis who want their views to count. It's about creating a new tool based on our values to determine whether we're heading in the right direction as a country.

I'm keen to see us move away from the financial bottom line as being the most important thing. Without clean water, healthy food and happy families, having a big bank balance doesn't mean much.

However, money does help - it reduces stress, provides opportunity, and gives people choices - so I do want to see measures that show how we're sharing our resources and shifting people out of poverty.

A tweet from @shujaxhaider this week said: "Capitalism has existed for less than 1% of recorded history and we might literally destroy the planet under it, but it's the only system that 'works' and we have to keep doing it forever."

We can reinvent the economic system we use - it's our creation. Reinventing fresh water - not so easy.

Another tweet jumped at me, this time from Pamu (Landcorp) head of environment @alison_dewes in which she said: "Economy is a subsidiary of the environment." It seems like a no-brainer to me, but I don't have to look far to find others with a different perspective.

The reality is that we humans appear to be stupidly greedy.

This year's Earth Overshoot Day arrived the earliest ever on August 1. It's the day when our world population, and those of us who live a middle to upper class lifestyle in the developed world are over-represented, is estimated to have consumed more resources than the Earth can renew. We are literally eating into our children's futures.

The frustrating thing to me is that we have options. There are many examples around the world of how we can do things differently - how we can put greater weight on what truly matters and focus government attention there.

Japan legislated for green purchasing in 1994; Sweden pitched a carbon tax in 1995; Bhutan introduced "gross national happiness" in 1998.

Now I'm not convinced these commitments are silver bullets or without flaws, but they are a start - and the sooner we get started, the better.

For a more sobering view, check out the interactive feature on entitled "Losing Earth" by Nathaniel Rich. It looks more deeply at our impacts.

The development of social enterprise is gaining momentum but also comes with some challenges.

There isn't yet a standard for what makes a social enterprise in New Zealand, so there is a risk of less scrupulous people using the marketing appeal of social enterprise to drive sales without delivering the positive impact for people and the planet.

I've been working with some amazing local people on their social enterprise journeys recently - a key tool is available at

If you're one of the wonderful Whanganui people making a difference, please get in touch via our Thrive Whanganui Facebook page.

As Dr Seuss' The Lorax said, often quoted by the late great Dr Chris Cresswell, "unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."

■Nicola Patrick is a Horizons regional councillor, works for Te Kaahui o Rauru, and is part of a new social enterprise hub, Thrive Whanganui. A mother of two boys, she has a science degree and is a Green Party member.