Things won’t be the same tomorrow as they were yesterday. The old will be still older. Migration? More intense. Relative prices? Determined in China and India. Inequality? Greater than ever, as will resistance to globalization. But, above all, the world will change due to global warming.
Scientists are warning us that the point of no return between the past and the future is drawing close. Climate change may well be more abrupt than had been previously thought and it is possible that we will be powerless to stop it. Faced with this outlook, some researchers seem to be changing their tune from one of disaster prevention, to ways of adapting to new conditions.
Adaptation requires knowledge. That’s why Yale and Columbia Universities produce the EPI – Environmental Performance Index. The EPI summarizes 25 indicators of environmental health, air pollution, water resources, biodiversity, natural resources and climate change policies.
Of the 149 countries included in the index, Switzerland is ranked as the best performer, the country that also ranks first in the World Database of Happiness, compiled by Erasmus University Rotterdam, in the Netherlands. American journalist Eric Weiner, armed with the information from Rotterdam, visited seven countries and wrote The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World.
According to Weiner, Moldavia is devoid of happiness. He says that happiness lives happily alongside the high suicide rate in Switzerland; that it is government policy in Bhutan; that in England, it passes for no more than a dubious American invention. On the other hand, despite Americans believing that happiness is an inalienable right, his country has a low index considering its levels of income. Is this fact incompatible with the premise that the rich are happier than the poor?
It may be incompatible, but it is definitely incontestable, at least according to the map from A Global Projection of Subjective Well-being: A Challenge to Positive Psychology? by Adrian White, professor at Leicester University. European countries come at the top of his list, whilst those at the bottom consist of poor countries immersed in conflict, such as the Congo. Other countries that fare less well are those with high population densities and levels of pollution, such as India and China.
New Zealand, with a population of 4 million people and 40 million sheep, fares well, taking 18th place in a list of 178 nations. Can it be a coincidence that its EPI rating is among the best in the world?
The economist’s answer would be to draw up a graph relating the two indices, showing that the higher the EPI rating, the happier the country’s population. Some of the least fortunate countries are those with serious environmental problems, such as Chad and Niger. The graph also allows for the observation that, despite its wealth, the US has a lower happiness index than poorer countries, as its EPI rating is mediocre. Latin America, with its natural resources, has a regular EPI rating and a population that, on average, can be found between extreme happiness and utter despair.
Environment Performance Index (EPI) Vs. Subjective Well-Being
Sources: “Environmental Performance Index, Rankings and Scores”, http://www.yale.edu/epi/files/2008EPI_Rankings_1page.pdf, and White, A. (2007). “A Global Projection of Subjective Well-being: A Challenge to Positive Psychology?” Psychtalk 56, 17-20.