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Green Happiness

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

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