I agree with user KevinKing that unhappiness is indeed justified, and I cannot fault the various points he raised that makes South Africans unhappy in general.
However, I found that the Happy Planet Index, is indeed one of those very sketchy and intangible type of studies that are used to promote “green issues”, which in my view does not really correlate to happiness in general.
For example, Americans, Australians and Canadians scored very well in the "experienced well – being" category (This is based on those dreaded samples of phoning 1000 people and asking some questions to determine their general happiness – whatever that may be). South Africans scored badly based on the" experienced well-being scale", (based on the sample), which is probably no surprise.
In terms of Life expectancy, South Africa has a terrible record of only 52.8 years. However countries like the UK, Scandinavia, Canada the USA and Australia scored top marks in this category.
Now if you look at the end results of the study, the USA, Canada and Australia do not come out tops as the happiest nations on earth. In fact the USA is down to number 100 on the list.
Nations that dominate the top of the list are the likes of Costa Rica, Bangladesh, San Salvador, Honduras, Venezuela, Colombia and Kyrgyzstan. I can see myself taking a holiday in Costa Rica, but as for the rest?
Let us be honest, San Salvador, Honduras, Colombia and Venezuela top the list of the most murderous countries on earth. In fact Honduras is almost a warzone with 87 murders per 100 000 people. South Africa averaged around 32 murders per 100 000 in 2010.
I was surprised, however that Honduras, Venezuela, San Salvador and Colombia scored much higher than South Africa in the "well – being category". This means that the sample of 1000 people that were used in this study, were much happier than South Africans, even given the extreme crime rates and the dictatorship of amongst others Hugo Chavez.
But the biggest shocker of the study is that they multiply the "general well – being" with "life expectancy" (which is quite tangible, although I have my doubts regarding the sample of 1000 people used to determine well – being) but then they go and divide it by “Ecological footprint” (Also most likely quite a measurable element on it's own).
Immediately Industrial giants such as the USA, Japan, Australia, Canada and even Scandinavia, falls out of the bus, as they are productive nations that supply a great chunk of commodities worldwide. These nations have infrastructure, technology and a large consumer base. South Africa also has got quite a large ecological footprint, compared to other nations in Africa (and South America), as Industrialization in our nation, has saved us from becoming another African basket case. Botswana also has a high ecological footprint compared to Zimbabwe which has virtually no footprint at all. Honduras, San Salvador, Costa Rica and Kyrgyzstan, those nations that top the list of the happiest nations, have almost a zero ecological footprint. I doubt that these nations just live greener in general; but they are rather incapable of producing and consuming as much as first world nations (and even South Africa).
My problem with the measurement of the ecological footprint is that they try and correlate it to personal happiness. Let us be honest, if you have a country that uses technology, has an infrastructure, produces and drives luxury cars, have big houses and eat more food, your ecological footprint will obviously be high.
Most people on earth would be happy to live in a nation where work is available, production is high and the luxuries of modern living are adequate. That contributes to happiness of an individual and countries that are penalised for it in this specific study, makes this report in my view just another green liberal piece of propaganda.
South Africa is not the best country to live in on earth, we have our issues, but I would much rather remain here than go live in those happy places like Honduras, Bangladesh, Venezuela and San Salvador!
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