The Happy Planet Index 2012

Yesterday the New Economics Foundation released their latest Happy Planet Index results. The index compares countries by measuring the wellbeing of citizens, and comparing it to environmental performance. What you get is an efficiency measure – a kind of ‘miles per gallon’ as creator Nic Marks puts it in the video below.

Some countries deliver good lives for people, but use vast quantities of resources and energy to do it. Others use few resources, but people are unhappy and unhealthy. The countries doing best are those that get the most out of their resources, that achieve high wellbeing with low consumption. Here’s a snapshot of the results, and you can explore them in detail here:

As you can see, the HPI has a different perspective on which countries are successful and which ones are failing. Both underdeveloped and overdeveloped countries come out badly. As a continent, South America seems to be the most balanced, with Costa Rica topping the index. Costa Rica has a higher life expectancy than the US, but each person only uses a third of the resources, and the country has 99% renewable energy.

I like the HPI. I think it’s a very useful way of thinking about progress and what success for a country really means, especially when you compare it to the blunt instrument of GDP. I might come back to it next week.



  1. This was a fascinating read and I’ve reblogged it for my own site. The country where I work – Bangladesh – comes out remarkably well! There is much to chew over here.

  2. Reblogged this on kenthinksaloud and commented:
    This is another post that I felt had to be shared (I know…two in one week – unheard of from me before).

    What’s interesting about this one if you read the data (or better still download it like I did) is that Bangladesh comes out pretty darned well and far higher than the UK. From an ecological point of view there is almost no country to beat it but overall it still does remarkably well.

    Which just goes to show that wealth and abundance does not equate to good and perfect – in any way whatsoever.

    What do you make of this report?

    1. Absolutely, you don’t have to have high-consuming lifestyles do deliver a high standard of living. There are plenty of countries that are doing that, often unexpected places.
      It’s an alternative measure of success, and I think it’s very useful. I would like to see a slightly broader index of wellbeing though. At the moment it just uses reported happiness and life expectancy, and there are other things you could add to that – literacy being a useful one for starters.

      1. Yes I agree – though I suspect the idea is to try and keep the index as simple as possible before we end up with a very complex set of data. I would certainly like tighter information about how the well-being is calculated.

        Nevertheless, it is the first set of statistics I’ve seen that actually tie up with what is being said and slowly reported about the changing dynamics economically, politically and socially around the world. America, I think, will not be top dog for much longer and the sooner we realise this in the West and adjust to new dynamics, the better.

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