Rich Countries Do Poorly on New Environment-Economy Index

VANCOUVER, Canada, February 21, 2012 (ENS) – High-income countries are some of the least healthy and many low-income countries are in better shape, according to a newly created measuring stick – the Eco2 Index – that uses both ecological and economic security as criteria to determine the overall health of 152 countries.

The top five performing countries are Bolivia, Angola, Namibia, Paraguay, and Argentina, while the bottom five performers are Jordan, South Korea, Israel, Kuwait, and Singapore.

Singapore ranked lowest on the Eco2 Index. (Photo by Stephen Cochrane)

Many high-income countries such as Japan, the United States, several European nations and the oil-rich Middle East, performed the worst due to high ecological deficits.

Canada, Australia, parts of southwestern Africa and South America were among the top performers due to large ecological surpluses. South American countries performed well, offering future generations financial, food, water, and energy security.

Using data collected between 1997 and 2007, researchers from the University of British Columbia Fisheries Centre and the Global Footprint Network created the Eco2 Index.

Rashid Sumaila (Photo by Tessa Vanderkop/UBC)

They presented their findings Monday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science at the Vancouver Convention Center before scientists, educators and journalists from 50 nations.

“We hear that countries are suffering financially every day in the news,” said lead scientist on the project, Rashid Sumaila, director of the UBC Fisheries Centre, “but that only tells half the story. Piling up ecological deficits is just as concerning as piling up financial deficits. Both have consequences for future generations.”

Economic figures for the Eco2 Index come from the World Bank and take into account financial deficits, national debt and Gross Domestic Product.

A view of the Bolivian rainforest (Photo by Allison Shawn Conely)

Ecological figures come from the Global Footprint Network, a nine-year-old sustainability think tank headquartered in Oakland, California, They measure resource consumption and waste produced by a country in comparison to its carrying capacity as expressed in locally available resources such as agricultural land and energy.

Globally, over the course of the decade, the Eco2 Index shows that scores fell steadily, caused by growing ecological deficits in many countries.

Singapore, a country that looks good economically, ranked last out of the 152 countries sampled. Despite recording a surplus of 28 percent of GDP in 2007, “its ecological deficits are the worst in the world,” says Sumaila.

Sumaila says low and middle-income countries now are following the lead of high-income nations, liquidating their ecological and economic capital in favor of higher short-term consumption.

“Our actions today may have even greater consequences later on,” Sumaila said. “The Eco2 Index should help countries in planning for the future – they can use this information to identify what they need to work on, whether that’s financial or ecological productivity.

Susan Burns, Global Footprint Network’s senior vice president and co-founder, said in January, “The world now finds itself at a defining moment where ecological constraints are ever more critical as we seek to secure people’s well-being.”

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2012. All rights reserved.

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