HAPPY PLANET INDEX July 5, 2009Posted by wmmbb in Humankind/Planet Earth.
The New Economics Foundation has an index, first published in 2006, that combines scores for most countries into a single index combining life expectancy, carbon footprint and subjective life happiness.
As might be expected the winners of such a world league table do not include the usual suspects. In fact far from it. The Happy Planet Index for 2009 identifies the top five successful countries as Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Guatemala and Vietnam. These set of winners contrasts with the 2006 list which had as the leaders: Vanuatu, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica and Panama. What is it about Central American and Caribbean countries that accounts for their success?
Ashley Seager in The Guardian observes:
The report says the differences between nations show that it is possible to live long, happy lives with much smaller ecological footprints than the highest-consuming nations.
The new HPI also provides the first ever analysis of trends over time for what are supposedly the world’s most developed nations, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
OECD nations’ HPI scores plummeted between 1960 and the late 1970s. Although there have been some gains since then, HPI scores were still higher in 1961 than in 2005.
Life satisfaction and life expectancy combined have increased 15% over the 45-year period for those living in the rich nations, but it has come at the cost of a 72% rise in their ecological footprint. And the three largest countries in the world – China, India and the US, which are aggressively pursuing growth-based development models – have all seen their HPI scores drop in that time.
Money is one form of satisfaction, and quantitative measurement, can allow us to lose sight of other possibilities, in particular the social and planetary cost of economic activities. The article in Wikipedia points out the HPI is not perfect, but it has some objective basis. On this basis people who are born in Costa Rica are luckier than those born in Australia.
Costa Rica’s only other distinction that I was aware of was that they did not have an army, although they have armed police. Honduras, by contrast, seems to have an army without a police force. Still the amount of money spent, and proposed to be spent, on defence does not seem to improve the quality of our lives.