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A London-based think tank has placed Costa Rica at the top of its “Happy Planet Index” for the third time.
This does not mean that Costa Rica is home to the world’s cheeriest people, but rather that the Central American country has reached a balance where its citizens lead relatively long and satisfied lives without an outsized impact on the planet.
Because the index’s formula divides measures of well-being by each country’s ecological footprint, none of the world’s most developed countries figure in the top 10.
Costa Rica is trailed by Mexico and Colombia in this year’s ranking. The tiny south Pacific island nation of Vanuatu and Vietnam round out the top 5.
The index takes a different approach to measuring national well-being. Rather than emphasizing production, which can have a greater impact on the environment, it seeks to reward sustainability.
For example, Bangladesh, which ranks eighth this year, has a significantly lower measure of happiness than others in the top 10, but it is so underdeveloped that its ecological footprint is minimal, producing a high score on the Happy Planet Index.
The index is published by the New Economics Foundation, which says it promotes social justice.