The (un)Happy Planet Index 2.0
new economics foundation | August 13, 2009
In the final year of the first decade of the third millennium, humanity stands at a crossroads. Depending on the choices we make now, future generations will either look back at our time with anger or with gratitude. Currently, we are set on the former course. Should we continue our reckless over-consumption of resources and destruction of the environment, driven by an insatiable appetite for economic growth, our descendants will face a world of scarcity, uncertainty and conflict.
However, over the last few years the first signs have emerged that we may be able to find a different path, one which future generations will look back on with gratitude and relief. That path, should we take it, will not only ensure we halt catastrophic environmental damage, but will also support good lives for all. A path where our understanding of progress and prosperity takes account of the needs of humans, and the needs of the planet. In short, it will lead us towards better, more meaningful lives that do not cost the Earth.
The first Happy Planet Index (HPI) was launched by nef (the new economics foundation) in July 2006 to help steer us along this path. It presented a completely new indicator to guide societies, one that measures the ecological efficiency with which happy and healthy lives are supported. Even then, its message resonated with hundreds of thousands of people around the world—the report was soon downloaded and read in over 185 countries worldwide. Now, in 2009, with the world facing the triple crises of economic turmoil, impending peak oil and continually bleaker predictions of the impacts of climate change, the message of the HPI is more timely than ever before. We need to strive for good lives that do not cost the Earth and we need indicators that can help get us there.
HPI 2.0 takes advantage of new and improved data for 143 countries around the world, to determine which countries are closest to achieving sustainable well-being. It also looks back over time to see how we've been faring over the last 45 years—and looks forward to see where we need to get to.
It reveals that most countries are woefully far from where they need to be. Indeed the largest countries of the world appear to be moving in the wrong direction; as with the first HPI report, the graffiti on the front cover is therefore still appropriate. However, there are exceptions—countries that appear to be supporting good lives for their citizens whilst living close to their fair share of the world's resources. Based on the data at the national level, and at the individual level, it appears that good lives that do not cost the Earth really are possible. So, alongside this report, we are launching a charter calling for governments, organisations and individuals around the world to work towards making this possibility a reality.
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