Nothing to be proud of - Australia ranked 139th of 178 nations

July 12, 2006

The Friends of the Earth and New Economics Foundation report – the Happy Planet Index - ranks Australia 139th of 178 nations and reveals for the first time that happiness doesn't have to cost the Earth, but many countries are treating it as though it does.

The Happy Planet Index is an index of human well-being and environmental impact that moves beyond crude ratings of nations according to national income, as measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP), to produce a more accurate picture of the progress of nations. This indicator is based on the amount of the Earth's resources nations use, and the length and happiness of people's lives.

Friends of the Earth Melbourne campaign co-ordinator Cam Walker said the report shows that people can live long, happy lives without using more than their fair share of the Earth's resources.

“The new ranking of  environmental impact and well-being reveals a very different picture of the wealth, and poverty, of nations, and unfortunately Australia doesn’t fare too well,” Mr Walker said.

“We continue to consume resources at unsustainable rates, produce greenhouse pollution at ridiculous levels despite having the technology to significant reduce our footprint on the environment. We are clearfelling our forests at unsustainable rates, and depleting our water resources.

“To be ranked 139th of 178 countries is not something Australia should be proud of, but what is does show is that we have the opportunity to force governments to make significant policy decisions to minimise and potentially reverse the damage to the environment,” Mr Walker said. “It also reinforces something many of us already know – that simply increasing the quantity of what we own does not make us happier”.

Mr Walker said the index strips the view of the economy back to its absolute basics: what we put in (resources), and what comes out (human lives of different length and happiness).

The report The Happy Planet Index: An index of human well-being and environmental impact can be found at: http://www.neweconomics.org/gen/z_sys_PublicationDetail.aspx?pid=225

MEDIA ENQUIRIES: Friends of the Earth  on 0419 338 047