How do you measure the progress of a nation?  There are a number of criteria to consider, such as health, wealth, and basic human freedom of its citizens.  But the Happy Planet Index measures health, happiness, and that new standard in our environmentally-conscious world, the sustainability of the nation.    They have just released their 2016 report, and Costa Rica has ranked #1 … again!

The Happy Planet Index ranks each nation on a formula that includes the longevity and well-being of the citizens, how well both of these are distributed in that country, and then measures the results against that nation’s ecological footprint.  Using this formula, nations where the citizens live happy and long lives while not costing the environment, the Happy Planet Index ranks the results on the most successful countries.

The results are not what you might expect, and in some instances, are actually surprising.  The wealthier Western nations are not even in the top ten on the rankings.  Those very progressive Nordic countries, like Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, that usually come in at the top on other rankings because of their healthy lifestyle didn’t make it on the top ten either.  The top ten countries for this year’s Happy Planet Index shows that those countries where their citizens enjoy a long and good life within sustainable limits, are all to be found in the Asia Pacific and Latin America.  As the creator of the Happy Planet Index, Nic Marks says, Latin America may be the future, rather than North America or Western Europe.

For the third time now, Costa Rica has been listed on the Happy Planet Index as the top ranked happiest and most sustainable country in the world.

Does make you wonder what Costa Rica continues to do right?  This Central American country has the highest level of well-being for their citizens on the entire plant.  The life-expectancy in Costa Rica is even higher than the US, with their expectancy topping in at 78.5 years.  But the fact that Costa Rica uses only a fraction of their natural resources, while also providing a healthy and happy life for their citizens is what places this country at the top of the Happy Planet Index.

So how does Costa Rica do it?  They have a proven and long-standing commitment to their natural environment.  Only 1% of their electric needs are met from non-renewable resources, and 99% of their energy comes from renewable resources.  In fact, Costa Rica has made a public commitment to become carbon neutral by 2021.   Costa Rica made history in 1939 when they disbanded their army, and then used those financial resources to invest in their health and education programs.

While those wealthier countries in the West may rank higher when it comes to the life expectancy and well-being of their citizens, the toll on the environment has been costly.  For example, United States lists in the lowest ranking due to their detrimental ecological footprint.

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