Thursday, July 13, 2006

Shiny happy people?

I've heard about the Lonely Planet, but the Happy Planet? More specifically, the (Un)Happy Planet Index? It's the first time I've heard about it. It's an index of the happiest nations on the planet, compiled by the New Economics Foundation ("economics as if people and the planet mattered").

According to the index, the island nation of Vanuatu is the happiest place on Earth. The Philippines comes in rather high at number 17, Singapore at 131, Thailand at 32, Japan at 95, Australia at 139, the UK at 108, Netherlands at 70, the UAE at 154, and the US at 150. At the bottom of the list is Zimbabwe.

My first reaction went something like "Well, will you look at that. In spite of all the shit that happens here, we're not doing too bad in the happiness department." But when I went to take a look at how the NEF came up with its rankings, I got a little confused.

"The HPI incorporates three separate indicators: ecological footprint, life-satisfaction, and life expectancy... The HPI reflects the average years of happy life produced by a given society, nation or group of nations, per unit of planetary resources consumed. Put another way, it represents the efficiency with which countries convert the earth’s finite resources into well-being experienced by their citizens."
And I started to wonder whether the NEF made a typo somewhere when they placed the Philippines so high up in the list. Please don't get me wrong; I love my country, i think it's a wonderful place. But I'm not blind to its many faults. I agree with the life expectancy thing: a whole lot of Filipinos live to a ripe old age.

But when it comes to ecological footprint, ehhh... I don't know. I hope they're right. My personal observations concerning deforestation, urban sprawl, pollution, etc. here certainly don't jibe with the idea of how a "country converts the earth's finite sources into well-being experienced by its citizens." The egress of a large part of our labor force to become contract workers abroad kind of makes me doubt the life satisfaction benchmark too.

When it comes to life satisfaction, Switzerland and Denmark are in a tie for number one. The Japanese have the highest life expectancy rate at 82, while Vietnam, Morocco, Bangladesh, and Haiti are some of the countries that are within the boundaries of the ideal ecological footprint range.

The Happy Planet Index has been receiving a lot of press coverage -- both good and bad. Some see it as an affirmation of the idea that a country doesn't need to be materially wealthy to have happy citizens; others think it's pure bull. Happy bullshit, but still bullshit.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.