And, the Happiest Country in the World Is ...
By Andrea Germanos
Norway now holds the title of the world's happiest country, according to a new report that also outlines how Republican proposals to gut safety nets, enact tax windfalls for the rich and attack public education—as well as bipartisan failures in terms of the global war on terror and campaign finance—are making happiness further out of grasp for those in the U.S.
The finding comes via the fifth edition of the World Happiness Report, which ranks 155 countries on the variables of income, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on, perceived freedom to make life choices, freedom from corruption and generosity. It was produced by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, a United Nations initiative and was released Monday, the International Day of Happiness.
Norway now holds the number one spot, booting Denmark from the ranking it held for three of the past four years. Norway came in at number four last year.
Joining Norway in the top ten slots are, in order, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Finland, Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden. It's the same group that made up the top ten countries last year.
Like the other top four countries, Norway ranked high in caring, freedom, generosity, honesty, health, income and good governance.
At the other end of the spectrum sit Rwanda, Syria, Tanzania, Burundi and the Central Africa Republican, which rank lowest on the happiness index.
The World's Happiest and Greenest Countries https://t.co/WJZLao2jTY @ScienceNewsOrg @greenpeaceusa— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1486593306.0
According to lead author John Helliwell, also an economist at the University of British Columbia in Canada, Norway is "a remarkable case in point."
"By choosing to produce oil deliberately and investing the proceeds for the benefit of future generations, Norway has protected itself from the volatile ups and downs of many other oil-rich economies. This emphasis on the future over the present is made easier by high levels of mutual trust, shared purpose, generosity and good governance. All of these are found in Norway, as well as in the other top countries," Helliwell said.
As for the U.S., it has slid down one spot from last year, coming in at number 14 and the country, the report says, is "a story of reduced happiness."
Study co-author, economist and Sustainable Development Solutions Network Director Jeffrey Sachs wrote that the U.S. suffers not from an economic crisis but a "multi-faceted social crisis."
It is made clear, he writes, by "worsening public health indicators"; "plummeting" trust in government; and "astronomical" income inequality, with "the rise of mega-dollars in U.S. politics" and the "deterioration of America's educational system" helping to fuel "destruction of social capital."
Further abetting that destruction has been the country's reaction following the Sep. 11 attacks, which, Sachs wrote, "was to stoke fear rather than appeal to social solidarity" and begin "an open-ended global war on terror, appealing to the darkest side of human nature."
Though the country's "social crisis is widely noted, [...] it has not translated into public policy." Rather, he continued:
Almost all of the policy discourse in Washington, DC centers on naïve attempts to raise the economic growth rate, as if a higher growth rate would somehow heal the deepening divisions and angst in American society. This kind of growth-only agenda is doubly wrong-headed. First, most of the pseudo-elixirs for growth—especially the Republican Party's beloved nostrum of endless tax cuts and voodoo economics—will only exacerbate America's social inequalities and feed the distrust that is already tearing society apart. Second, a forthright attack on the real sources of social crisis would have a much larger and more rapid beneficial effect on U.S. happiness.
Addressing the crisis entails enacting campaign finance reform; reducing inequality by expanding the social safety net and funding of health and education; "improv[ing] the social relations between the native-born and immigrant populations"; moving beyond the post-9/11 fear campaign (which he writes, President Donald Trump's "Muslim bans" have been a manifestation of); and making a commitment to improved quality education for all.
"As demonstrated by many countries, this report gives evidence that happiness is a result of creating strong social foundations," Sachs said to the Associated Press. "It's time to build social trust and healthy lives, not guns or walls. Let's hold our leaders to this fact."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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