This post was written by Charles Bubeck, who was a 2012 intern for Howard County’s Department of Planning and Zoning and Office of Environmental Sustainability. Thanks for all your work!
According to a 2008 (yes, slightly outdated but not much has changed) Yale University study which ranked 149 countries on an environmental “performance” index weighing carbon and sulfur emission, water purity, and conservation practices, the United States was ranked 38. No, not a terrible score, but certainly not good enough. Even more interesting are the countries that placed in the top 4. From the top, it is Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, and Finland. Notice a trend? First off, these are not population-free countries filled with jungles that haven’t been tainted by humans and industry. These are rather industrialized European countries that have another thing in common: they are the happiest people in the world.
When it comes to studies based on quality of life, human rights, or simply how happy people are, these countries are always in the top tier. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development had a report on life satisfaction. The U.S. placed 11, a very high score, yet the four countries I mentioned are all in the top 10. And better yet, these European countries have some of the highest GDP’s in the world, and were least affected by the global recession. Yes, there has been an attitude shift in this country to keep the world clean and strides have been made in awareness and technology, but we still have plenty of work to do. The U.S. should take a hint and see how having a clean environment and going “green” can not only spur an economy and save money down the line, but will also put way more smiles on American faces.Charles Bubeck January 2013