Bookmark and ShareSaamah Abdallah is a researcher at nef‘s Centre for Well-being.

Today sees the launch of the second global Happy Planet Index, which measures how nations are faring in terms of what matters to people – having long, happy, meaningful lives – and what matters to the planet – our rate of resource consumption.  The Happy Planet Index brings these concepts together into a single indicator, a measure of the ecological efficiency with which each nation supports good lives.

Like with the first Happy Planet Index, HPI 2.0 reveals that no country is achieving the triple goals of long life, high well-being, and a sustainable ecological footprint.  Indeed Western countries, usually considered to represent the pinnacle of development, are some of the furthest away from that target.  Out of 143 countries, the highest ranking Western country is the Netherlands in 43rd place – the USA is as low as 114th.

And the countries that score highest?  That are closest to good lives that don’t cost the Earth?  Perhaps surprisingly, they are mostly Latin American countries.  9 out of the top 10 countries in terms of HPI are in South and Central America, or the Caribbean.  The highest HPI score belongs to Costa Rica – a nation famed for being an island of peace in troubled Central America, and which is now leading the green revolution in the developing world, producing a staggering 99% of its electricity from renewable sources.

But even Costa Rica is not quite achieving one-planet living – it’s ecological footprint of 2.3 global hectares per capita is marginally above the 2.1 global hectares per capita that one calculates if everyone on the planet was to have a fair share of the Earth’s resources.  It looks like something quite profound needs to change to achieve good lives that don’t cost the Earth for all.  The first step to doing so is the new HPI Charter which sets clear targets for where we need to get to by 2050.

On the new HPI website you can download the report, sign the charter, and explore some of the data online.  Over the next few weeks, I will be highlighting some of the stories of the HPI in this blog – countries that do particularly well, changes over time, steps we need to take to change the way things are going, and some of the things that are happening already.

Oscar Wilde said ‘a map of the world that does not include Utopia is not even worth glancing at’.  The HPI may not tell us exactly where utopia is, but it at least tells us in which direction we need to travel.