First of all, thank you to all the organizers and participants of this Cyberseminar. It is the first one in which I am participating and it has been very interesting to read, listen, and consider this topic.
I have a few thoughts, some of which have already been articulated here, that I want to share. I know this seminar is winding down today, perhaps we might want to extend the discussion a few more days?
1. I think the concept of measuring years of good life is outstanding. We have to find a way to shift away from a monetary approach. Our continued addiction to economic growth and growth at all costs is literally killing us.
2. I think the focus on a concept like years of good life is a critical shift we must encourage. Isn't this what we all should be striving for - a good life? That isn't how much money we have accrued or how much stuff we have acquired. How have we lived our lives and have we lived it to its fullest and was it a good life? The paradigm has to shift and I hope that this will help move things in the right direction.
That said, I have some feedback on the approach.
3. The criteria for measuring YoGL are problematic in my eyes.
a) As we talked about in the webinar, the definition of poverty as based on a flush toilet or a solid floor likely miss the mark. Some people choose to live in a more off the grid approach and still have many years of good life. Some people actually have a better life if they have a pit toilet over a flush toilet. The first criterion of possession based assessment of poverty is frankly a western-oriented mentality that continues to perpetuate this economic growth at all costs approach. By measuring based on these types of items, we elevate and value them, thereby perpetuating them. Perhaps a composting toilet is far superior to "modern" sewer systems? How can we ever get to a point where people use these more commonly if we continue to value the flush toilet as a marker of development?
b) As Alex mentioned, gauging someone's physical ability based on their ability to get out of a chair is simply put, ablest and far too simple-minded of a measure. That would mean that Stephen Hawking had no, or diminished years of good life? My friend's husband in Norway who is wheelchair bound but has an aide and a top of the line wheelchair has no or diminished years of good life? I put forward that we need to consider something else or at least find a way to augment data on those who are unable to get up with what kinds of supportive systems (e.g., aides, technology, etc.) that enable them to live their lives and execute routine activities.
c) Again with cognitive abilities. I appreciate that the distinction between those who have access to formal education versus those who don't is called out in the paper. Even still, differences between schooling systems are significant between and within countries (look at Israel and the different schooling systems where the ultra orthodox often "finish" school with no mathematical skills to speak of, and they would say they have a great quality of life and many years of good life). Again, this approach also takes on a traditional approach to cognitive function - book learning is not a cognitive skill. I would suggest that this metric needs to be refined and be made more inclusive and less schooling dependent.
4. The role of the impact of climate change on the quality of one's life is missing. Yes, Wolfgang mentioned that in his reply to a previous comment. I understand that is a difficult thing to measure. And yet, I think it is THE MOST SALIENT point we need to consider moving forward when thinking about the quality of our lives. Someone living in Bangladesh who is fearful of rising sea levels has a different experience with climate change than someone in Nepal who is not at risk of rising sea levels. That fear, that anxiety, is important to recognize and include somehow. Efforts on the part of national governments to address climate change and implement climate mitigation efforts might be a valuable variable to consider.
5. Health and access to PREVENTATIVE/PALLIATIVE healthcare is absent. What good does it do me to live to age 70 if my health is poor and I don't have access to reasonable health care? What good is it to be 50 if I can't get preventative screenings and care to ensure I might enjoy the next 20 years of my life. Again, these environmental impacts mentioned above in 3 is a factor here as well. If life expectancies are lower because of air pollution or higher incidence of cancer due to pollutions, how is that factored into the calculation of my years of good life? Those last years might be miserable!
Fundamentally I think that we have to look at ourselves and our work with a very self-critical eye. When we take approaches that are too Western-oriented (as I think this one is) I would expect that we will receive flawed results. I think we are all aware of the consequences of going down the wrong path when we have followed flawed results.
I applaud the effort and enthusiasm on the part of Wolfgang, Erich, and their fellow authors. It is no small feat to put your work out there to the world and get feedback. I think this effort is extremely important if we are going to move ourselves away from the economically dependent measures and calculations. I believe that we have to do that in order to chart a more sustainable path forward for the globe. I hope that others beyond this community are able to hear and engage with this idea and help us grow it.
Kind regards to all!
Tel Aviv University