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 user 2006-07-12 at 12:18:00 pm Views: 37
  • #15962

    Happiness doesn’t cost the Earth

    People can live long, happy lives without consuming large amounts of the Earth’s resources, a survey suggests.

    The 178-nation “Happy Planet Index” lists the south Pacific island of
    Vanuatu as the happiest nation on the planet, while the UK is ranked

    The index is based on consumption levels, life
    expectancy and happiness, rather than national economic wealth
    measurements such as GDP.

    The study was compiled by think-tank the New Economics Foundation (Nef).

    Size doesn’t matter

    One of the authors, Nef’s Nic Marks, said the aim of the index was to
    show that well-being did not have to be linked to high levels of


    Population: 209,000

    GDP/capita: $2,900 (£1,575)

    Climate: tropical

    Resources: forests, fish

    Economy: agriculture, tourism

    Environmental issues: deforestation and clean water

    Source: CIA Handbook 2006

    “It is clear that no single nation listed in the index has got
    everything right, but it does reveal patterns that show how we might
    better achieve long and happy lives for all while living within our
    environmental means,” Mr Marks said.

    The small island state of Vanuatu is situated in the middle
    of the South Pacific Ocean, and has a population of 209,000. Its
    economy is built around small-scale agriculture and tourism.

    Latin American nations dominate the top 10 places in
    the index, while African and Eastern European nations fill most of the
    bottom 10.

    Among the world’s largest economies, Germany is ranked 81st, Japan 95th, while the US comes in at 150th.

    Richard Layard, director of the Well-Being Programme at the London
    School of Economics’ Centre for Economic Performance, said that the
    index was an interesting way to tackle the issue of modern life’s
    environmental impact.

    “It reminds us that it is not good enough to be happy today if we are impoverishing future generations through global warming.

    “Over the last 50 years, living standards in the West have improved
    enormously but we have become no happier,” Mr Layard told the BBC.

    “This shows we should not sacrifice human
    relationships, which are the main source of happiness, for the sake of
    economic growth.”

    Although Vanuatu tops the happiness index, it is ranked
    207th out of 233 economies when measured against Gross Domestic Product

    Simon Bullock, economics co-ordinator for Friends of
    the Earth, which helped compile the data, said the findings showed that
    happiness did not have to cost the Earth.

    “The UK economy hoovers up vast quantities of the
    world’s scarce resources, yet British people are no happier than
    Colombians, who use far fewer,” he said.

    “The current crude focus on GDP is outdated, destructive and doesn’t deliver a better quality of life.”

    Nef is calling for the adoption of a “global manifesto for a happier
    planet” that will list ways nations can live within their environmental
    limits and increase people’s quality of life. The recommendations

    • Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger

    • Recognising the contribution of individuals and unpaid work

    • Ensuring economic policies stay within environmental limits

    The index builds on a report that Nef published earlier this year that
    warned if annual global consumption levels matched the UK’s, it would
    take 3.1 Earths to meet the demand.