July 11, 2006

Happy isle tops happy planet index

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - The tiny nation of Vanuatu, one of
the "happy isles of Oceania," has topped a new index that
measures quality of life against environmental impact, with
industrial countries, perhaps unsurprisingly, faring badly.

The UK-based New Economics Foundation (NEF) aimed to
measure the environmental efficiency of global progress with
its "Happy Planet Index" report, which it said painted a
different order of world wealth but showed all countries could
do better.

"The Happy Planet Index strips the view of the economy back
to its absolute basics: what we put in (resources), and what
comes out (human lives of different length and happiness)," the
NEF said.

The Group of Eight (G8), an unofficial forum of the heads
of leading industrialized nations meeting on July 15-17, failed
to make the top 50. Host Russia came in at 172 in the
178-nation survey, with the United States at 150 and the UK at
number 108.

The NEF, an independent group that did the index jointly
with UK-based green campaign group Friends of the Earth, said
the report showed high levels of resource consumption do not
reliably produce high levels of well-being.

"The order of nations that emerges may seem
counter-intuitive. But this is because policy makers have been
led astray by abstract mathematical models of the economy that
bear little relation to the real world," said NEF's policy
director Andrew Simms.

NEF said Central America was the region with the highest
average score, combining good life expectancy of 70 years with
an ecological footprint below its globally fair share, while
island nations scored above average and Switzerland came top in

Out of Asian nations Vietnam came highest at number 12 and
Singapore was ranked lowest at 131. African countries made up
seven of the bottom 10, with Zimbabwe coming last.

Vanuatu is part of a vast sprawling Pacific archipelago
described as "the happy isles of Oceania" by author Paul

The full Happy Planet Index is available at