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Costa Rica’s Happy Planet Index

Costa Rica’s Happy Planet

Costa Rica’s Happy Planet Index. Costa Rica citizens say that their country’s emphasis on the environment makes them happier as people.

The Happy Planet Index (HPI) is an alternative measure of human happiness based on development and the environment. Published by the UK’s New Economic Foundation, it has produced reports every three years since 2006, ranking countries around the world in order of how happy their populations are. In 2009 and 2012, the Central American country Costa Rica was ranked highest on the list, with an HPI score of 76 and 64, respectively.

The reasons for Costa Rica ranking so high on this list are plentiful, and it really isn’t surprising that the country is called the ‘Switzerland of the Americas’. Obviously, its pristine white sand beaches and tropical rainforests are among the most attractive in the world, something that would surely brighten up any country, but there are other reasons too. Renowned for its ecological diversity, Costa Rica takes great care of its environment, with much of the country designated with specially protected area status, containing over 9,000 different bird species. In fact, Costa Rica contains five per cent of the world’s biodiversity despite its small area; and its ecological footprint per capita is just one third of the United States. Furthermore, 99% of its energy comes from renewable sources, with an aim to be carbon neutral by 2021 (which it will achieve by mass planting trees). Even government ministers offset the environmental impact of international travel out of their own pockets.

Costa Rica is also internationally recognized as being one of the twenty-two oldest democracies in the world. It was one of the first Latin American countries to grant rights to all people, including women, indigenous communities and even the Chinese minorities. The 1949 constitution also abolished the military, since it was seen as a threat to democracy. Costa Rica now has the highest number of women in political posts of all Latin America, as well as world-renowned public health and education systems.

With a life expectancy on a par with developed countries like the United States and Denmark, Costa Ricans can expect to live to the age of 79.3. Despite its position as the world’s happiest nation, most of the population lives modestly; its GDP per capita is around twenty-five per cent of the USA’s, while its poverty rate is among the lowest in the continent.

The World’s Happiest Nation

Costa Rica citizens say that their country’s emphasis on the environment makes them happier as people. They grow their own vegetables in an organic garden, use the car as little as possible and recycle most products, meaning that their lives are less materialistic and more in tune with nature and life. It’s common in Costa Rica to reply to the question ‘how are you’ with ‘pura vida’ – meaning ‘pure life’. Another popular saying in Costa Rican culture is that ‘no argument should last longer than three days’. So, it is the country’s links with nature, strong friendship networks, and tolerance of difference that make it the world’s happiest nation.