Measuring a Happy Planet



madlyinlovewithlife, via Flickr

Can you measure happiness? Are happy countries more successful? Liz Waid and Joshua Leo look at one project answering these questions.

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Transcript


Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Joshua Leo.

Voice 2 

And I’m Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand - no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 3 

“You could not imagine how terrible life was many years ago. I could not enjoy a single peaceful night, or even a meal, without running to a safe place. Now we have nice food to eat, good clothes to wear. And we do not have to see our family members or friends killed. What else could we ask for?”

Voice 1 

Nguyen Thi Vinh is 80 years old. She lives in Vietnam. She survived conflict and many difficult years in her country. But today, she feels that her life is very good. She is happy!

Voice 2 

In 2012, her country, Vietnam, was ranked second in the Happy Planet Index. This report tries to judge the success of many countries around the world. Today’s Spotlight is on the Happy Planet Index. Which country do you think is the happiest?

Voice 1 

The Happy Planet Index combines a country’s environmental actions with the well-being of its citizens. It is the first index to measure environmental care and the level of peoples’ happiness together. The Happy Planet Index is created by the New Economics Foundation. This British group wants to encourage sustainable development. These financial policies encourage good economic development - development that protects the environment and helps people.

Voice 2 

The Index combines three separate things. First, the NEF looks at how satisfied a country’s people are. Second, it looks at the average life expectancy of a country - how many years, on average, people live. And finally, the NEF looks at how many natural resources a country uses and how much waste it produces.

Voice 1 

For the year 2012, Costa Rica was ranked first on the list. People in Costa Rica have good life expectancy. They report satisfaction with their lives. And the country has a good environmental record.

Voice 2 

Surprisingly, rich countries are not the highest on the list. These countries often do not have a good environmental record. They use too many of the earth’s resources. Very poor countries are often the lowest. People in these countries do not have long lives. And they usually do not report as much happiness.

Voice 1 

The NEF gives each country a number between zero and 100. One hundred represents the greatest level of happiness and success. And zero represents the level of least happiness. The closer to one hundred a country is, the better it is doing.

Voice 2 

The NEF believes that a country’s goal should be around 89. That would mean that citizens would be living past the age of 80. Citizens would be healthy and not living in poverty. And finally, citizens and governments would not be using many natural resources like trees, oil, and coal.

Voice 1 

The index is easier to understand when you compare two similar countries. Germany and the United States are wealthy nations. According to the NEF, people’s sense of life satisfaction is almost exactly the same for Germany and the US. And the average age at death is nearly the same too. But, Germany uses about half the resources that the US uses. So, Germany is higher on the Happy Planet Index. The NEF believes that Germany is the more successful country.

Voice 2 

Another example would be to compare two very different countries. The UK uses many of the earth’s resources. Vietnam uses much fewer resources than the UK. But people in the UK are not happier than people in Vietnam. Vietnam is the second nation on the Happy Planet Index. The UK is number 41. According to the Happy Planet Index, Vietnam is more successful than the UK.

Voice 1 

The NEF developed the Happy Planet Index to replace other ways to measure the success of countries. In particular, it could replace Gross Domestic Product, or GDP. GDP measures a country’s economic activity. Often, governments see an increase in GDP as a sign of success. However, many experts agree that GDP is too limited. It only measures economic activity - it does not measure sustainable, healthy development, or the happiness and success of its citizens. Nic Marks is the creator of the Happy Planet Index. On the NEF website, he explained the difference between the two measurements.

Voice 4 

“Measurements of economic activity simply do not tell us enough. They do not tell us about societies’ goals of creating good lives for their citizens. The index measures what really matters. That is, long and happy lives now, and the hope for good lives in the future. For too many years, we have depended on incomplete measures of progress. These measures concentrated only on economic activity, like gross domestic product. Rich and poor nations face different problems, but their final goal is the same.”

Voice 2 

However, many people also criticize the Happy Planet Index. They say that it does not accurately show the success of a country. It uses information from many different sources, including the United Nations, and an environmental organization, the WWF. Some people say that this information may not be correct.

Voice 1 

The biggest argument is over the measurement of well being, or happiness. This measurement comes from global survey research. The researchers asked people to describe their life satisfaction using numbers from one to ten. Someone who was satisfied and happy with their life might say that their life satisfaction was seven. Someone who was unhappy might say two. However, the researchers did not also include other information to test the conditions of people’s lives. Many things can affect happiness, and people can still be happy living in difficult conditions. The Happy Planet Index does not measure poverty, human rights, or security.

Voice 2 

The Happy Planet Index may not be the best way to measure the success of a country. But the NEF is using it to show that economic success is not the only thing that matters. Happiness matters too!

Voice 1 

There are more than 150 countries in the index. Would you like to see where your country is on the Happy Planet Index? Visit our website for a link to the list: www.radioenglish.net.

Voice 2 

The writers of this program were Rebekah Schipper and Christy VanArragon. The producer was Rena Dam. The voices you heard were from the United Kingdom and the United States. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, ‘Measuring a Happy Planet’.

Voice 1 

You can leave your comments on our website. Or you can email us at radio@radioenglish.net. You can also find us on Facebook - just search for spotlightradio. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

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Question:

Do you feel satisfied with your life? Do you think your country is a happy place?

Comments


Avatar Spotlight
Rain Bows
said on July 25, 2012

Interesting article.
I would say my country is in the scale from 1 to 10, it is a 5.
Half good and half bad, but we are getting better.

Greetings to all of you,

Manta-Ecuador.

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kenhieuloilam
said on July 26, 2012

We wish good things. Difficult times make us sadnesses. We hope about good things. We hope about a beautiful, good world. We go in time of life. We wish happiness. Difficulties, challenges and sufferings do not make us hopeless. Advantages support us. We aim to good things. We develop the life. We develop good things. We wish to reach perfection. We wish true happiness.

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blue diamond
said on September 02, 2013

wow! Vietnam is the second country of the Happy Planet Index!!!!! I’ve already known it in 2012, but with this program, I’m proud of my country <3 Yup, we’re Vietnamese and we have a wonderful life :)

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P-toonia
said on September 24, 2013

Well, So to prove that we should read the list of question that make a satisfied live! But thanks to make knowing about this.
Sometimes, when someone lives in a happy place is because the major of the town… wants to live a place like this… and make a good place for all

Portoviejo, Ecuador

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Luckyman...
said on October 05, 2014

thanks for great article. i’m glad to hear my country is the second happy planet in the world.

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Mss Flamboyant
said on October 06, 2014

It is only my opinion but I really do not understand which is relationship between using or wasting natural source with happiness. It is a index which shows about environment or economics better than happiness. There are many definitions about happiness as well as there are many sources make us happy. But to me there are some basic conditions to measure happiness or not. The first thing I want to highlight here is that human rights. Even I am a citizen of Vietnam I do not really satisfy with Vietnamese’s rights such as security, health care and press freedom. Even when you live in Hanoi capital where has many robbers, thieve, druger. Furthermore hospitals are always overcrowded, brie is happening daily. Although government is trying to improve many things but it is difficult to solve because it is our culture and it last long time. Although there are some disadvantages in developing countries but Vietnamese are trying to live better and better and become positive people.

raul348's avatar
raul348
said on January 20, 2016

Good speech, but in my opinion; the happy index is a little fool.
I say this because a determined country only will be happy if their governments make a good jobs with their policies. And the citizens accept the facts that they do it. The citizens are happy when they have a good wage, good health service , right to have a place where to live and they don’t spend money if they don’t have it.

For this reason, I think people who live in a country need to live in peace and calmy. The famous index is only a number that ecomist have created to mesure particular things. Only this!

Raul from Spain

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nguyenthuy
said on January 20, 2016

to be stand at second in happy planet index is the glad news for me as a Vietnamese. However, I hope that all people in my country feel really happy with their life more than just the rank. There are many things to do to improve our environment and quality of life in Vietnam. Standing in this list is kind of proud but I will be proud more if when I go to street or wherever I will not see anyone in poverty, sickness and homeless. People will live in peaceful, united nation and satisfy with their life, always go forward and look toward future. there are have many definitions about happiness and in my view, it is so. Thank you !

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Lan Can
said on June 25, 2019

I remember a sentence to be happy. “If you do not have what you want, love what you have”. :)

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Honneur
said on June 25, 2019

Yes, I am a happy man. I hit almost every target I’ve ever had in my life. It can not be said that my country is a happy country because in the last 30 years we have had the worst governments that a country could have. Corruption, lack of accountability, incompetence and theft have been the trademark of these governments. Then the country is unhappy, despite the fact that some of the inhabitants could achieve their goals at the cost of much individual sacrifice and effort.