Nef (the new economics foundation) has recently released “The Happy Planet Index: 2012 Report,” nef’s third global report based on one of the leading global measures of ‘sustainable well-being’, the Happy Planet Index (HPI).
HPI is a measure of progress that uses global data on experienced well-being, life expectancy, and Ecological Footprint to generate an index revealing which countries are most efficient at producing long, happy lives for their inhabitants, whilst maintaining the conditions for future generations to do the same. This efficiency is expressed in the number of Happy Life Years (life expectancy adjusted for experienced well-being) achieved per unit of resource use.
The results in this year’s report show that we are still not living on a ‘happy planet’ (similarly as the results in the past reports -published in 2006 and 2009 – suggested). At the present time, no country is able to combine success across the three goals of high life expectancy, high experienced well-being and living within environmental limits. The positive news is that at least some countries, like Costa Rica, are coming close.
In fact, Costa Rica tops the Happy Planet Index for the second time in a row. It has the second highest life expectancy in the Americas, experienced well-being higher than many richer nations, and a per capita Ecological Footprint one third the size of the USA’s. Norway, in 29th place out of 151 countries, is the highest ranking Western European nation, just behind New Zealand in 28th place. The UK ranks 41st and the USA ranks 105th out of 151 countries.
Nic Marks of nef highlights that “overall, the HPI reflects the fact that while the challenges faced by rich resource-intensive nations and those with high levels of poverty and deprivation may be very different, the end goal is the same: to create long and happy lives that don’t cost the Earth.” He also notes that “if things are to improve we need new official measures of progress” [italics added]. This is why nef came up with the Happy Planet Charter alongside the report to underline the urgent need for better measures of progress. More information on this can be obtained at the Happy Planet Index website.