Life expectancy of
Ecological footprint of
Ecuador is a land of volcanoes and rainforest straddling the equator, with extremely diverse ecology. Despite only being about the same size as the UK, Ecuador hosts 15% of the world’s known bird species. Ecuador’s GDP per capita is little more than a tenth of the size of the USA’s, with an economy based on exports of oil, bananas, shrimp, and other primary agricultural products.
Ecuador outperforms most countries with similar levels of GDP on all components of the Happy Planet Index. Life expectancy is 11 years longer than in Namibia, which has roughly the same GDP per capita. Wellbeing in Ecuador is higher than in Italy, where GDP per capita is more than 7 times larger. And although Ecuador’s Ecological Footprint is more than the level considered to be sustainable, it is smaller than the footprint of HPI #1, Costa Rica.
What’s going well in Ecuador?
This is the first time that Ecuador has entered the top 10 in the Happy Planet Index, reflecting a substantial transformation in the country over the last decade. In 2008, the Ecuadorian government adopted Buen Vivir or ‘good living’ as its guiding philosophy, placing wellbeing and sustainability at the heart of Ecuador’s development – representing a striking departure from the prioritisation of economic growth that guides most governments.
Since adoption of Buen Vivir, Ecuador has seen a dramatic reduction in crime, poverty and economic inequality. Public spending on education and health has increased rapidly, and Bloomberg ranked Ecuador 13th in the world for the efficiency of its healthcare system.
Ecuador is also the first country in the world to adopt rights for nature. It has a national living wage and 55% of its electricity comes from renewable sources. Alongside the UK, Ecuador is a world leader in measuring the wellbeing of its residents.
What’s not going so well?
While inequality and poverty have fallen, they are still high, and Ecuador’s investment in its future has relied heavily on oil exports which, as well as contributing to global carbon emissions, have put the Yasuni rainforest, a key ecosystem, under threat because of the temptation to drill for oil for export. Ecuador is making the shift from an oil-exporting economy to one based on knowledge and eco-tourism, but it still has far to go.
Photo credit: CC ffigon