Anna Bruce-Lockhart writes: Is life on this planet getting better? When it comes to the progress of nations, how do you measure what matters most? There’s wealth, there’s health, there’s basic human freedoms. These criteria, and others, make regular appearances in a variety of international rankings, from the Better Life Index to the Sustainable Economic Development Assessment and the World Happiness Report.
But a new study takes a different approach. The Happy Planet Index, which has just published its 2016 edition, measures health and happiness not in isolation but against a crucial new gold standard for success: sustainability.
The formula goes something like this: take the well-being and longevity of a population, measure how equally both are distributed, then set the result against each country’s ecological footprint.
In this calculation, the most successful countries are those where people live long and happy lives at little cost to the environment.
So which countries are they?
They’re not the wealthy Western countries you’d expect to see, or even the progressive Nordic ones that normally bag the lifestyle laurels. Instead, a list of the top 10 (the index ranks 140 countries overall) shows that when it comes to people’s ability to live good lives within sustainable limits, Latin American and Asia Pacific countries are ahead of the crowd. [Continue reading…]