I was finishing a talk last week and enjoying some Q&A with the folks who stayed behind when a youngish man approached me and asked me what I thought of the HPI or Happy Planet Index. He was surprised when I mentioned that I knew nothing about it. So I told him that I would look into it and put my findings into today's blog.
I'll quote the Happy Planet Index website, and let it speak for itself. These folks say that the Index "reveals ecological efficiency with which human well-being is delivered." The index looks country by country to determine where people are living "long and happy lives." The Index doesn't reveal the happiest' country in the world, but it does show "the relative efficiency with which nations convert the planet's natural resources into long and happy lives for their citizens." Maybe we could shorten that to who's green and therefore happy.
These folks say that the U.S. and Sub-Saharan Africa are the worst places on the planet because of overconsumption of the world's natural resources. Presumably, the U.S. rates this designation because we are less than five percent of the world's population and consume many resources. That translates into our standard of living is too high for their liking. Personally, I think a high standard of living is a good thing.
Russia and China faired significantly higher on the Happy Planet Index. I would suppose therefore that major polluting nations with a much lower standard of living are where you should go to live a long and happy life. Never mind the fact that Russians die much earlier than Americans do (life expectancy of 66 years vs. 78). Certainly, that is just an inconvenient statistic.
India, Peru, and Argentina fared better than Russia. If you know anything about India, you know that the water situation is terrible and the environment is a mess. Raw sewage runs in the streets of major cities, yet this is a place with "long and happy lives."
In case you are curious, two of the best nations on the planet (according to this group) are Colombia and Mexico. Picture your last trip to Mexico and now try to figure out why that is a better place to live than the U.S.. Over 1.4 million Mexicans immigrated to the U.S. between 2005 and 2010; we didn't see that many U.S. citizens immigrating to Mexico during those years did we?
There are many skewed views of the U.S. and the world in general, and no lack of whackos willing to push their views. We would do well to remember that despite our problems, this is the land of opportunity. This is where people come to find freedom and to grow as human beings. We can plan for changes in the business environment; we can enjoy a happy life and raise our families; we can breathe the air in freedom and express our thoughts in the open; and we can own land. In the end, I suppose any happiness index is an extraordinarily personal index, and we each make of this life what we can. As for me, I am happy to say "God Bless America."