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Where Does the U.S. Fall on the 'Happy Planet Index'?

"long and happy lives they produce per unit of environmental input."

The darker green the color, the higher the country's HPI. The more red an country is, the worse its HPI score. (Image: Happy Planet Index)

If you had to grade the United States based on its ability to "deliver long, happy, sustainable lives for the people that live" it in, how well do you think it would fare?

There is such a thing as the "Happy Planet Index" that measures different countries in the world based on this metric, taking into account global data including "life expectancy, experienced well-being and Ecological Footprint" in order to gauge how many "long and happy lives they produce per unit of environmental input." In other words, it's an ardent "green" agenda measurement.

In time for the world sustainability summit, Rio20 taking place next week, this year's HPI's have been released. This is the third time the index, a project of the New Economics Foundation, has been published, evaluating 151 countries. The New Economics Foundation, whose slogan is "economics as if people and the planet mattered," was founded in 1996 as a "think-and-do tank" that aims to inspire and demonstrate "real economic well-being."

On a scale of 0 to 100 (100 being the best), the U.S. scored a 37 this year. If we were going to use the HPI to indicate the most "developed" nations, Costa Rica would tick in at the top with its score of 64. There are only 46 countries falling in line after the United States with Botswana coming in dead last at a score of 22.6.

According to the HPI website, wealthier nations often score poorly because of, you probably guessed it, their "large ecological footprints." Latin American countries -- those that are moderately to well developed -- often score highest as they still provide relatively happy, long lives to their residents while maintaining a low ecological impact.

New Scientist created distorted maps of the world's countries to show the difference between wealth and HPI:

The target number by 2050 for all countries, according to the New Economics Foundation, is 89.

Learn more about the HPI from its founder Nic Marks, who describes it as a measurement of "how much well being do you get for your resources?":

What do you think of the Happy Planet Index? Share your thoughts in the comment section.

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