The Happy Planet Index

Happy Planet Index (2006 data) - Green is Highest Rating, Brown is Lowest.

How should we evaluate the success of our economy? The primary method now is GDP, or Gross Domestic Product, but that measures wealth creation not real well-being. In fact it assumes that creating wealth creates well-being without any regard to who is getting wealthy and who's not.

Bhutan pitched an alternative, Gross National Happiness, all the way back in 1972. A couple Nobel Prize-winning economists are behind the idea, but it never really caught on as an official measure for any other countries. French President Nicolas Sarkozy did say last year that he intends to adopt some aspects of it. But for now, Bhutan may be happy, but it is also lonely when it comes to economic measures. Part of the problem is there's no consensus on how to measure happiness, though we're getting better at it. And all that new academic work on the topic is helping data junkies make a compelling new case for new alternatives to GDP.

The New Economics Foundation is pitching an updated idea: The Happy Planet Index.

"The index combines environmental impact with human well-being to measure the environmental efficiency with which, country by country, people live long and happy lives."



Statistician Nic Marks's data show us we are getting less efficient at creating well-being. We're using more and more planet to create less and less happiness. What we should do instead, he says, is:

  • build more social relationships
  • get more physically active
  • increase our awareness, or mindfulness, both locally and globally
  • engage our curiosity and keep learning
  • give or donate time or money to others
  • \n

In a way, he's making an economic, data-fortified argument for behaving Buddhist.

That makes total sense really. The Buddhist worldview was the inspiration for King Jigme Singye Wangchuck of Bhutan in the first place, when he originally proposed Gross National Happiness decades ago. If only he had access TED cameras, powerpoint and 30 years of well-being statistics at the time.

Image: Super Cyclist, from Wikimedia Commons

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Sin City is doing something good for its less fortunate citizens as well as those who've broken the law this month. The city of Las Vegas, Nevada will drop any parking ticket fines for those who make a donation to a local food bank.

A parking ticket can cost up to $100 in Las Vegas but the whole thing can be forgiven by bringing in non-perishable food items of equal or greater value to the Parking Services Offices at 500 S. Main Street through December 16.

The program is designed to help the less fortunate during the holidays.

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For more than 20 years. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has served the citizens of Maine in the U.S. Senate. For most of that time, she has enjoyed a hard-fought reputation as a moderate Republican who methodically builds bridges and consensus in an era of political polarization. To millions of political observers, she exemplified the best of post-partisan leadership, finding a "third way" through the static of ideological tribalism.

However, all of that has changed since the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Voters in Maine, particularly those who lean left, have run out of patience with Collins and her seeming refusal to stand up to Trump. That frustration peaked with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

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Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign looks to be getting a huge big shot in the arm after it's faced some difficulties over the past few weeks.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading voice in the Democratic parties progressive, Democratic Socialist wing, is expected to endorse Sanders' campaign at the "Bernie's Back" rally in Queens, New York this Saturday.

Fellow member of "the Squad," Ilhan Omar, endorsed him on Wednesday.

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The U.K. is trying to reach its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, but aviation may become the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.K. by that same year. A new study commissioned by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) and conducted at the Imperial College London says that in order for the U.K. to reach its target, aviation can only see a 25% increase, and they've got a very specific recommendation on how to fix it: Curb frequent flyer programs.

Currently, air travel accounts for 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions, however that number is projected to increase for several reasons. There's a growing demand for air travel, yet it's harder to decarbonize aviation. Electric cars are becoming more common. Electric planes, not so much. If things keep on going the way they are, flights in the U.K. should increase by 50%.

Nearly every airline in the world has a frequent flyer program. The programs offer perks, including free flights, if customers get a certain amount of points. According to the study, 70% of all flights from the U.K. are taken by 15% of the population, with many people taking additional (and arguably unnecessary) flights to "maintain their privileged traveler status."

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