The nef have done us proud and given us the Happy Planet Index 2.0.
You\’ll not be surprised to hear that they\’ve changed their measurement techniques. Version 1.0 had Vanauatu as the top place on the planet. Clearly and obviously they couldn\’t allow the likes of me to make cheap shots about penis sheaths and worshipping the Duke of Edinburgh as a Living God as their prescription for the Good Life. So, a change in methods and a change in what is the Good Place.
Costa Rica actually, and I\’m sure it is a nice place to live. But let\’s see what else they say:
Meanwhile, the problems that plagued us before, risk becoming even more acute: more than half the world’s population lives on less than $2.50 a day; inequality continues to rise even in richer countries.
And yet, with crisis comes opportunity. The dogmas of the last 30 years have been discredited. The unwavering pursuit of economic growth – embodied in the overwhelming focus on Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – has left over a billion people in dire poverty, and has not notably improved the well-being of those who were already rich, nor even provided us with economic stability.
What glorious writing! No, seriously, there should be a prize for this sort of stuff. Absolutely no mention at all of the fact that the last few decades have seen the greatest reduction in poverty in the history of the entire species. Hundreds of millions of people have risen up out of that $2.50 a day poverty. Global inequality has fallen, whether you measure Concept II (by country, weighted by population) or Concept III (global population as a whole).
Of this we get not a whisper. Way to be open and transparent, no?
How can one compare the impact of using a gallon of oil with a gallon of water, or a tonne of potatoes with a tonne of potassium?
Well, price is a pretty good indication of the resources being used. Not perfect, but pretty good.
The best available approach is currently the ecological footprint, developed by ecologists Mathis Wackernagel and William Rees, and championed by a range of organisations including the Global Footprint Network and WWF.54 The EU statistical agency Eurostat is considering incorporating the ecological footprint into its sustainable development indicator set,55 whilst the Welsh Assembly Government has already adopted it as one of five headline indicators of sustainability.
The ecological footprint of an individual is a measure of the amount of land required to provide for all their resource requirements plus the amount of vegetated land required to sequester (absorb) all their CO2 emissions and the CO2 emissions embodied in the products they consume. This figure is expressed in units of ‘global hectares’. The advantage of this approach is that it is possible to estimate the total amount of productive hectares available on the planet.
And what you\’re not told there, nor are you by Mathis Whackerdoodle, the CO2 absorbed by the food grown for you to consume is not counted as part of the recylcing of the CO2 of your lifestyle. So there\’s gross double counting.
Oh, yes, nuclear power is ascribed a footprint the same as coal, rather than the around and about hydro or wind power (and much lower than solar PV) that it actually has.
Improving living standards in poorer countries can only be achieved in parallel with declining resource consumption in richer ones.
Jesus Sam (yes, Sam Thompson, sometime reader of this blog, is one of the authors). That\’s ludicrous even by your standards. You\’re the people arguing that consumption of resources doesn\’t lead to higher living standards in the real and meaningful manner: so how on earth can improving living standards require more use of resources?
It doesn\’t even make sense in neo-liberal terms: GDP measures added value, remember, not resource consumption.
This gets even fucking worse:
It only attained its quasi-mystical role when GDP was placed atop the podium of indicators with the development of the United Nations System of National Accounts, in 1947. At that time, focusing on productivity growth made sense.
Productivity is not, as these lentil knitters seem to think, producing more. Nor is it consuming more, nor using more resources. It is, in fact, the opposite of that last. It is producing more from the same resources….or producing the same from fewer resources.
The notion of GDP growth almost seems to have a halo around it. It has reached the status of motherhood and apple pie.
Yes you twats! GDP is \”value added\”! That\’s exactly what we want! whether we use more resources, the same, or fewer, we still want to add the maximum value to them we can!
Is there something about being a vegetarian prodnose that destroys brain cells?
But this feature of the system sets it at odds with a widely noted fact about human nature – that once our basic material needs are comfortably met, more consumption tends to make little difference to our well-being.
And research shows that living in a society without growth makes us unhappy…..
In the same year, Eurostat, the European statistical agency commissioned a consortium of experts, including nef, to consider the feasibility of a well-being indicator for Europe.
Yup, these people are being paid by the European Union to peddle this tripe to….the European Union. As \”experts\” for the Lord\’s sake.
Statistical tests reveal the mean life satisfaction, life expectancy and HPI scores of small islands to be significantly higher than non-islands – whilst their income levels do not diverge in the same way.133 These results should come as no surprise to anyone who has read Karl Polanyi’s increasingly popular, classic work The great transformation. In it he presents various types of social and economic organisation on islands as evidence against some of Adam Smith’s more sweeping assumptions on the central role of markets.134 Complex forms of ‘gift exchange,’ in which people partly meet their needs not through markets mediated with cash, but through the giving and receiving of gifts, operated over vast areas, reveal a system that not only meets people’s needs in a challenging environment but bonds society together by emphasising economic relationships based on cooperation and reciprocity, rather than individualistic competition.
Pathetic. Smith did note the ease of using cash in mediating markets: but he certainly didn\’t try to say that gift exchanges were not markets. This is a fairly desperate grasping at straws by these people.
And their suggestions:
We might, for example, only work three or four days a week (Box 5) and in turn, take advantage of this shift to reduce unemployment by sharing work more equitably.
Lump of labour fallacy. Morons.
With potentially more time on our hands, might we think of a future in which we invest more in civil society – perhaps by volunteering or participating in democratic decision-making? Or maybe we would use the opportunity to achieve greater reciprocity within communities and in the delivery of public services, ensuring public money is able to achieve more with less?
Excellent! Let\’s work less for pay and more for nothing!
Meanwhile, perhaps the priority for technological development will be to cut down on the inefficient use of non-renewable resources?
Anyone remember how to do that? Ain\’t it a capitalist, free market society?
Oh, and their ranking of happy countries? The right places to live upon this earth?
1. Costa Rica
2. Dominican Republic
8. El Salvador
13. Saudi Arabia
You know, the first thing that leaps out of that list is that if you want to use few resources try and live in a tropical country: not much energy needed for heating is there? And a poor one so no one has A/C. The other one is live in a Spanish influenced one.
Siestas, that\’s it, that\’s the secret to a long, happy and non polluting lifestyle.
By Jove, I think we\’ve cracked it there. Nope, really, the nef has found out (and I bet you could indeed construct from their numbers a chart showing a correlation between siestas and a high HPI) that the way to save the planet is that we all have an afternoon nap.
Would have been a rather shorter report if they\’d just told us that in the first place.