• Slider Image
The Happy Planet Index
Determining a Nation’s Success by Measuring Happiness and Well-Being …
NOT It’s Productivity

Activists tend to present a nightmarish vision of what’s going to happen, focusing on the worst-case scenario. We use fear to grab people’s attention.

…Any psychologist will tell you that fear in the organism is linked to flight mechanism. It’s part of the fight and flight mechanism, that when an animal is frightened — think of a deer. A deer freezes very, very still, poised to run away. And I think that’s what we’re doing when we’re asking people to engage with our agenda around environmental degradation and climate change. People are freezing and running away because we’re using fear. – Nick Marks, Happy Planet Index


As statistician Nick Mark points out in this TED talk, Martin Luther King did not say, “I have a nightmare,” when he inspired the civil rights movements. Instead, he said, “I have a dream.” What if we stop thinking that the future will be a nightmare and, instead of focusing on worst-case scenarios, we focus on solutions that improve human life within the context of our planet’s limits?  And, what if we measured happiness in terms of what matters most: social justice, sustainable living, and people’s well-being, instead of GDP?

Measuring Success by Happiness
Why do we measure a nation’s success by its productivity – instead of by the happiness and well-being of its people?  In his talk, Nick introduces another measure, the Happy Planet Index (HPI), This index measures what matters: sustainable wellbeing for all. It tells us how well nations are doing at achieving long, happy, sustainable lives, instead of using economics and resource use (because a happy life doesn’t have to cost the earth).

Which countries rank highest in the HPI? You might be surprised.  The greatest happiness is NOT found in North America or Europe – it’s Latin America!  In fact, Costa Rica had the highest HPI in 2011 when this video was made, and has maintained that status.  Mexico ranked #2 in 2016 out of 140 countries evaluated.  This compares to the 108 ranking (out f 140 countries) given to the United States!

What are the measures of happiness in Costa Rica, that keep its Happy Planet Index so high?  Costa Rica:

  • Has one of the highest life expectancies in the world, living longer than people in the U.S.
  • Has one of the highest literacy rates in the world.
  • Has social connectedness.
  • Abolished their army in 1949, investing instead, in social programs (health, education and pensions).
  • Amended its constitution in 1994 to include a right to a healthy environment for its citizens.
  • Was one of the first to countries to commit to becoming carbon neutral by 2021.
  • Generates 99% of their electricity from renewable sources.
  • Uses taxes collected on the sale of fossil fuels to pay for the protection of forests.
  • Has a per capita ecological footprint that is just 1/3 that of the U.S.

This short video concludes with five positive actions each of us can take to improve well-being without costing the earth. Watch it. It’s well worth your time!

Tell us what you think

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.