Corners of paradise

Economists have developed a classification of countries in which to live and set a “happy planet index”. Surprisingly, the better off are not necessarily those that we think …

The famous American way of life will he the world to bankruptcy? To refuse to sign the international Kyoto Protocol on climate change, George W. Bush put forward an argument unstoppable: no question of imposing a change in lifestyle to his compatriots. Today, with Barack Obama, the United States begin to move in the right direction. It was time … In fact, according to the New Economics Foundation (NEF), a British NGO, led by Herman Daly, University of Maryland (United States) should be no less than four and a half planets to sustain the burden the American model of consumption, if generalized, would affect the Earth’s resources! A little more than the Europeans (two or three planets), much more than Latin Americans (one to two planets) or Africans (less than a planet).

Dictatorship of growth

On 4 July, the NEF has published a report on the living standards of people in 143 countries, representing 99% of the world population. This very comprehensive study combines a number of criteria: consumption, quality of life (health), emotional wellbeing, environmental impact … In summarizing these data, researchers at the NEF – economists and specialists ecology – managed to set a new, happy planet index (HPI), or Happy Planet Index (HPI), which allows comparisons between countries and to assess the damage of uncontrolled development on the environment.

Daly and his team call for the end of the “dictatorship of economic growth, measured solely by the increase in added value (gross domestic product and its corollary, the income per capita).

Quality of life is not measured only in terms of financial wealth. The classification of NEF demonstrated. Leading economic power and military world, the United States ranks as the 114th rank. Behind Madagascar (113th) and just ahead of Nigeria (115th) and Guinea-Conakry (116th). Why?

The Americans have a good average annual income of 45 000 dollars, life expectancy at birth high (77.9 years) and be very satisfied with themselves (a score of 7.9 on 10 according to a Gallup International survey), they are wasting too much energy.

To meet its consumption (food, heating, transport …), an American needs 9.4 hectares of land, four times what the planet can support (2.1 ha per capita).

Number one: Costa Rica

However, according to the NEF, each product consumed has an impact on the nature and leaves a “footprint”. Thus, to produce a kilo of fruit, it takes an average of 3.5 m2 of arable land, 50 m2 for a kilo of cheese and 100 m2 for a kilo of red meat. By adding all the goods consumed by an average American, the NEF arrive at the figure of 9.4 hectares. Almost twenty times more than a Congolese (0.5 ha), ten times more than Rwandans (0.8), five times more than Tunisien (1.8) and two times more than French ( 4.9).

Where is the balance? The planet would be “happy” if people consume on average the equivalent of 1.7 hectare, instead of 2.4.

It is possible to live longer by eating less, without harming the environment. Costa Rica offers the best example of democracy, environmental protection and economic development. It is the world number one ranking of the nave, with a life expectancy of 78.5 years, a degree of satisfaction among the population of 8 out of 10 (according to the same Gallup poll) and an average of 2.3 ha . His HPI is 76.1 out of 100.

Of the 143 countries, forty-five only have an HPI exceeds 50, including Morocco (HPI of 56.8, 21st in rank), Tunisia (HPI of 54.3, ranking 29th) and Algeria (HPI 51.2, 40th in rank). Latin American countries are best placed eleven of them are among the first fifteen. Rich countries are in the middle of the pack: the Netherlands in the lead (HPI of 50.6, at 43rd rank), followed by France (HPI of 43.9, 71st place) or Hong Kong (HPI of 41.6, 84th place).

Sub-Saharan African countries are poorly ordered, not because of their ecological footprint, which is low, but because of their living standards. HPI all have a less than 40 out of 100, except the first of them, Djibouti (HPI of 40.4, 87th place). Unsurprisingly, Zimbabwe is the rear of the table (HPI of 16.6, 143e).

Source:  Jeune Afrique

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