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Happy Planet Index

by rdf Mon Jul 6th, 2009 at 02:46:25 PM EST

The new version of the happy planet index has just been released:


It is inspired by the work of Herman Daly in that criteria other than GDP are used to create a measure.

In this case the index is based upon the ratio of ( years of happy live) / (ecological footprint).

Developed countries, which ask a lot of the environment do relatively poorly.

Costa Rica is 1
UK is 74
US is 114

Some of their ideas are a bit idealistic, but why not?

I've been trying to figure out how they assessed this - how many people were interviewed, using what tests, etc.

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Tue Jul 7th, 2009 at 03:37:33 AM EST
They used data from Gallup's World Poll and the World Value Survey to assess Happy Life Years and took the ecological footprints from the World Wildlife foundation's Living Planet Report.

It is all in Appendice 2 in the report.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Wed Jul 8th, 2009 at 10:36:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Interesting.  I need to read the entire report instead of just skim over it, but it looks like a politically and ideologically biased assessment that says if you say you are happy, live reasonably close to the standard life expectancy for humans, don't use much in terms of natural resources, and happen to live in a "socially progressive" nation, that's not too crowded and not too industrialized, then life for you is good.  In other words, if I sold my house and moved to the wilderness of Colorado, Montana,eg., lived in  a small cabin on 1.7 hectares where I raised everything I consumed (petted the Deer and antelope along the way), etc., etc.,then I could be Nr 1 on the list as long as my genetics permitted.  Yeah, I know my government would have to grant me national status.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears
by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Tue Jul 7th, 2009 at 04:16:02 PM EST
There is no such thing as an "ideologically unbiased" assessment ...

... that is, there is no way to form such a ranking without deciding what things you are trying to measure and judging what available measures are the best indicators for what you are trying to measure. Both of those will draw heavily upon the way that you understand the world, which is a less loaded way of saying "ideology".

However, if you are happy, live reasonably close to the standard life expectancy, and live in a political economy which lives more lightly on the land, that means that your children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren are more likely to be able to experience the same ... which seems to me to be a defensible position regarding a Happy Life.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Jul 11th, 2009 at 02:09:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So what the HPI is saying about countries which score lower than Haiti is "if you keep at your level of consumption your descendants will be less well-off than you on the other measures"?

The peak-to-trough part of the business cycle is an outlier. Carnot would have died laughing.
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jul 11th, 2009 at 02:11:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
However, since the HPI is based on absolute footprint and not footprint relative to biocapacity, it does not actually say, "if you keep at your level of consumption your descendents will be less well-off than you" ... it says, "if biocapacity was evenly distributed across the world population, ...".

Which is a clear counter-factual, and that counter-factual is what the index of Haiti highlights.

In terms of sustainability, it would seem to make sense to bring the actual sustainability of the national footprint into the ranking ... something along the lines of ...


... though the actual structure of a reasonable index along those lines is not something I've thought through. So if the US is living 50% over our means, Germany is living 50% over its means, and Japan is living 50% over its means, each would have its happiness index scaled down by .67.

Ranking a generally miserable place to live that is consuming beyond its biocapacity highly because their footprint outstrips their biocapacity at such a low absolute footprint they are living beyond such a low per capita biocapacity seems to me to be a flaw in the index.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Jul 11th, 2009 at 02:26:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why not? Well, check the ranking of Iraq. Number 79, well ahead of the US, and about equal to the UK. Life expectancy 57, balanced by a footprint of 1.3. Or Palestine being ahead of Israel (footprint 1.5 vs. 4.8). This suggests a strategy that the U.S. could adopt to improve the HPI of selected countries which I don't really think we want to get into.

The idea itself might make sense, but I think the tradeoff between the inputs has to be wrong to give results like this.

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Tue Jul 7th, 2009 at 04:57:43 PM EST
  1. Netherlands
  2. Malta

  3. Germany
  4. Switzerland
  5. Sweden
  6. Albania

  7. Austria
  8. Serbia
  9. Finland
  10. Croatia

  11. Cyprus

  12. Belgium
  13. Bosnia and Herzegovina
  14. Slovenia

  15. Italy
  16. Romania
  17. France

  18. Slovakia
  19. United Kingdom

  20. Spain
  21. Poland
  22. Ireland

  23. Bulgaria
  24. Turkey

  25. Lithuania

  26. Norway

  27. Hungary

  28. Czech Republic

  29. Iceland

  30. Greece
  31. Portugal

  32. Latvia

  33. Belarus
  34. Denmark

  35. Macedonia

  36. Luxembourg

  37. Estonia

So at 42, life in Haiti beats all of Europe. Haiti's low 59.5 years of life expectancy and low 5.2 life satisfaction is offset by the country's low 0.5 ecological footprint according to the HPI.

Haiti has environmental destruction on a massive scale, but the HPI study gives them a low 'green' ecological footprint. Just a few months ago, the International Crisis Group released a report titled Haiti: Saving the Environment, Preventing Instability and Conflict.

Reversing a decades-long trend of environmental destruction is essential to Haiti's development, social and economic stability and, ultimately, security. Instability and violent conflict are not attributable solely to environmental degradation. But they are made more likely by the latter's interaction with such factors as weak institutions and governance, political fragility, pervasive and extreme poverty, vulnerability to natural disasters, rapid population growth, urban overcrowding and social and economic inequality. Concerted national effort and international support is required to stop deforestation and land erosion; reduce energy shortages and charcoal dependence; address rural and urban pollution, including the absence of a solid waste collection and recycling system; and strengthen an inadequate capacity to cope with natural disasters.

Iraq at 79, according to the HPI, is a happier place than Norway or Denmark. In my opinion, the report is ill-prepared and skewed to a point of being meaningless. The HPI is a joke.

by Magnifico on Tue Jul 7th, 2009 at 05:16:29 PM EST
The report does not say that Iraq is a happier place then Norway or Denmark for the humans living there. Nor does it say that Haiti is ecologically sound, a country can have a low footprint and still live above its ecoogical means. Or a high footprint and still not live above its ecoogical means. It depends on the number of people living there and the amount of resources located there.

What the report measures is some kind of societal effiency in bringing human happiness from the resources used. It might very well be nonsense but not on the grounds you point out in this comment.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Wed Jul 8th, 2009 at 10:48:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Goodbye RDF, you have made this a happier planet.  It is human relationships and the quality of a life lived well that makes people happy in ways that we can't really measure.  But your life is to be treasured.

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Jul 11th, 2009 at 10:59:01 AM EST

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