Those long faces with deep frown lines that you always meet at the mall and in taxies are among the things Botswana is best known for. The country has been ranked unhappiest in the world according to the New Economics Foundation’s Happy Planet Index.
The organization ranked all of the countries in the world from data culled from the Gallup World Poll, asking people how they felt their lives measured up on a scale of one to 10. Botswana has been ranked bottom out of 151 countries surveyed in 2012.
The new HPI results show the extent to which 151 countries across the globe produce long, happy and sustainable lives for the people that live in them. The overall index scores rank countries based on their efficiency, how many long and happy lives each produces per unit of environmental output.
The Happy Planet Index (HPI) is an index of human well-being and environmental impact that was introduced by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) in 2006. The index is designed to challenge well-established indices of countries’ development, such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and the Human Development Index (HDI), which do not take sustainability into account.
The HPI is the first ever index to combine environmental impact with well-being to measure the environmental efficiency with which country by country, people live long and happy lives. It doesn’t reveal the ‘happiest’ country in the world, rather it shows the relative efficiency with which nations convert the planet’s natural resources into long and happy lives for their citizens. Nations that score well show that achieving long, happy lives without over-stretching the planet’s resources is possible.
The Index also shows that there are different routes to achieving comparable levels of well-being. High levels of resource consumption do not necessarily produce high levels of well-being, and that it is possible to produce high well-being without excessive consumption of the Earth’s resources.
Botswana has consistently fared badly since the index was introduced in 2006 when the country was ranked 167 out of 178 countries. The second compilation of the global HPI, published in July 2009, shows that Botswana is still far from achieving sustainable well-being ranked 141 out of 143 countries.
Botswana slipped further down in the 2012 survey, where it has been ranked 151 out of 151 countries. The HPI is based on general utilitarian principles ÔÇö that most people want to live long and fulfilling lives, and the country, which is doing the best, is the one that allows its citizens to do so, whilst avoiding infringing on the opportunity of future people and people in other countries to do the same. In effect, it operationalises the IUCN’s (World Conservation Union) call for a metric capable of measuring ‘the production of human well-being (not necessarily material goods) per unit of extraction of or imposition upon nature.
Human well-being is operationalised as Happy Life Years. Extraction of or imposition upon nature is proxied for using the ecological footprint per capita, which attempts to estimate the amount of natural resources required to sustain a given country’s lifestyle. A country with a large per capita ecological footprint uses more than its fair share of resources, both by drawing resources from other countries, and also by causing permanent damage to the planet which will impact future generations.