|Thanks to Dr. Paul Ray for distributing this through our State of the World Forum discussion list:
As the G8 prepare to meet in Italy this week, the second global ranking of the ecological efficiency with which the world’s nations deliver long and happy lives for the people who live there – the ‘Happy Planet Index’ – reveals a surprising picture of the relative wealth and progress of nations.
The report, The Happy Planet Index 2.0: Why good lives don’t have to cost the earth, published today, Saturday 4 July 2009, by nef (the new economics foundation) presents the results of the second global compilation of the Happy Planet Index (HPI). The new Index is based on improved data for 143 countries around the world, representing 99 per cent of the world’s population. The report, with a foreword by the ecological economist, Herman Daly, shows that globally, we are still far from achieving good lives within the Earth’s finite resource limits. And, although there are signs of hope, overall we are still heading in the wrong direction.
The HPI provides the first ever analysis of trends over time for what are supposedly the world’s most developed nations, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The results are not promising:
“As the world faces the triple crunch of deep financial crisis, accelerating climate change and the looming peak in oil production we desperately need a new compass to guide us. Following the siren’s song of economic growth has delivered only marginal benefits to the World’s poorest whilst undermining the basis of their livelihoods. What’s more, it hasn’t notably improved the well-being of those who were already rich, or even provided economic stability. Now we must use the Happy Planet Index to break the spell and chart a new course for a high well-being low-carbon economy before our high-consuming lifestyles plunge us into the chaos of irreversible climate change” says Nic Marks, founder of the centre for well-being at nef.
By stripping the economy back to its meaningful outputs (lives of varying length and happiness) and the ultimate inputs (the Earth’s finite resources) the HPI is the definitive efficiency measure. It provides a clear guide to what ultimately matters to us – our well-being in terms of long, happy and meaningful lives – and what matters for the planet – our rate of resource consumption.
In fact, the countries that are meant to represent successful development are some of the worst performing in terms of delivering well-being within the Earth’s limits:
No one country listed in the HPI 2.0 achieves all three goals of high life satisfaction, high life expectancy and one-planet living. But the differences between nations show that it is possible to live long, happy lives with much smaller ecological footprints than the highest-consuming nations. And there may be other positive pay-offs. For many in the West, the struggle to increase incomes has come at the expense of our social capital and mental health. The challenge for the West, the report says, is not to continue increasing our monetary incomes, but to ensure meaningful lives, and strong social ties. Often, achieving these aims means reducing the focus on consumption, and freeing up time for other pursuits.
The HPI shows that good lives that do not cost the Earth really are possible. Comparisons show that long, happy lives can be achieved with far lower levels of resource consumption:
“The economy, communities, lifestyles and aspirations of a happy planet will be very different to those that lock us into our current ecological inefficiency. The Happy Planet Index suggests that the path we have been following is, without exception, unable to deliver all three goals: high life satisfaction, high life expectancy and one-planet living. Instead we need a new development model that delivers good lives that don’t cost the Earth for all. We should look to the Happy Planet Index to guide us in that endeavour” says Saamah Abdallah, nef researcher and the report’s lead author.
The report sets out a ‘Happy Planet Charter’ calling for an unprecedented collective global effort to develop a new narrative of human progress, encourage good lives that don’t cost the Earth, and to reduce consumption in the highest-consuming nations as the biggest barrier to sustainable well-being. The charter calls for:
In times of great crisis, come great opportunities. According to the Happy Planet Index, now is the time for societies around the world to speak out for a happier planet, to identify a new vision of progress, and to demand new tools to help us work towards it. The HPI is one of these tools. But if it is to be effective it must also inspire people to act.
Click here for the entire 64 page report.
Visit the Happy Planet Index website to measure your own HPI and to support our Charter for a Happy Planet.