The Gross Domestic Product is a tally of all the goods and services made in the country. It does not take into account the well-being of citizens, the success or failure of our government, or the quality of anything really – it is purely a tally of numbers. Somehow this number has been accepted as measure of the quality of our society.
The economy is a tool which we use to facilitate our happiness, well being, and develop our society. However, our metric for determining our success in this arena takes none of these things into account. GDP is a poor measurement of our well-being, our happiness, or our development – it’s just a number.
That is why there are other scales in existence now. The New Economics Foundation puts together the Happy Planet Index and just recently they released a updated report: the Happy Planet Index 2.0. In this comprehensive report 143 countries (99% of the world’s population) were examined for three separate indicators: ecological footprint, life-satisfaction and life expectancy.
These indicators are put together to determine how well the country can convert the worlds finite resources into well being for its citizens. Those ranking high provide happy, long lives for their people with a minimum impact on the planet. Countries ranking low fail in one or more of these categories.
At the top of the list is Costa Rica, with most of Central America and the Caribbean in the top 20. Costa Rica succeeds with an average life expectancy of nearly 80 years and an ecological footprint that is a quarter of the US. Not only do they live long lives in Costa Rica, they live satisfying lives – and on less than $2-a-day. Even coming in first, Costa Rican’s still have a footprint that is the equivalent of 2.3 Earths, so they ranked the highest but still fail to get a perfect score.
It probably doesn’t come as a surprise, but the three largest countries – China, India, and the USA – have all seen their positions decrease on the index since 1990. In fact, the United States is ranked 114th out of 143 (that means nearly 80% of the world’s countries outperforms us)!
This report is very well written and contains a lot of good information. I suggest you take a look, and re-evaluate the way we approach our economy. Surely if increasing GDP has the side effect of decreasing our life-satisfaction and life expectancy at the cost of our environment we should re-think our addiction to growth.