...on the New Economics Foundation's Happy Planet Index!
See the rankings here (PDF, page 63) - they come 39th. Other highlights include Jamaica (3rd) - with one of the highest murder rates in the world - higher than Sweden (53rd) and Mexico (23rd) higher than the United States (114th) - apparently no one told the millions of Mexican immigrants in the States. In a measure that is supposed to show how we can live happily while not harming the planet, bizarrely the Saudis (13th) do much better than we do (74th).
This index is always absurd, I wrote a response for the TPA website last year. That doesn't mean it should be ignored, though. In the Happy Planet Index we see the priorities of the environmental movement in action. The New Economics Foundation aren't embarassed about the index's results and major groups like Friends of the Earth have signed up to the "Happy Planet Charter". Results like those above are what you get if you combine a complete disregard for material prosperity with fetishising resource efficiency, and that's what the environmental movement do.
What's alarming, then, is the extent to which such radical ideas are now regarded as mainstream. The Conservative Quality of Life Policy Group came pretty close to actually endorsing the index, apparently backing out at the last minute and just endorsing its methodology. Friends of the Earth and other groups who share the same objectives are an accepted part of party and Government decision making. The Climate Change Act, which legally obliges governments to do something that could well cost more than three quarters of our entire national income in 2050, is at heart based on the same absolutism.
The Optimum Population Trust's contempt for the value of human life is another example of this trend. Sir David Attenborough recently joined them and is quoted in their press release saying: "I’ve never seen a problem that wouldn’t be easier to solve with fewer people, or harder, and ultimately impossible, with more." This is simply anti-human.
Ideas that would be seen as absurd (Burma is a better example of how to order a society than Sweden, Britain or the United States) or threatening (imagine someone on the far 'right' saying that we would be better off without a large chunk of the human population) can be mainstream when they wrap themselves in the green banner. That is why the debate over environmental policy has to be taken so seriously, and why governments and parties scared of the 'green' or 'environmental' lobby risk being driven to real insanity.