Life expectancy of
Ecological footprint of
The USA is a wealthy country, with the eighth highest GDP per capita of all countries included in the HPI rankings. Its economy is based on trade, fossil fuel production and the world’s second largest manufacturing industry. Despite the USA’s financial wealth, it ranks a dismal 108th out of 140 – suggesting that the USA’s material wealth isn’t being translated efficiently into sustainable wellbeing for its residents.
What’s going well in the USA?
The USA ranks relatively highly for both life expectancy and wellbeing. However, its life expectancy score is lower than other wealthy nations. Many smaller economies also outperform the USA, like Spain, which achieves a life expectancy of 82 compared to 79 in the USA, with half the Ecological Footprint.
Countries like Costa Rica prove that high life expectancy and wellbeing is possible with less than half the Ecological Footprint of the USA. The Costa Rican economy is twice as efficient at generating long, happy lives in terms of the resources it consumes.
What’s not working?
The US has a problem with economic inequality. Poverty has increased as a result of the recession in 2008; in 2010, 1 in 6 Americans lived below the poverty line. On top of that, its inequality of outcomes score is one of the highest among Western industrialised countries, meaning that wellbeing and life expectancy are only high for some.
However, the most significant factor in the USA’s low HPI score is it’s astonishingly large Ecological Footprint –the fourth largest of all 140 countries included in the rankings. Having backed out of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the USA re-joined UN-led efforts to tackle climate change in 2007 and 2010. It has since taken a hard line on what is required by much poorer countries in terms of tackling climate change, while resisting ambitious commitments for its own emission reductions.
Domestically, 30 states have passed laws requiring greater use of renewable energy by electric power plants but the USA must do much more to decouple its economy from fossil fuels if it wants to seriously reduce its Ecological Footprint.
Photo credit: CC rcadby14