A Socio-ecological Approach to Measure Progress for Ontario’s Transition to a Green Economy: The Use of the Happy Planet Index
Government tends to look at economic growth and GDP as the primary measure of wellbeing in society. However, GDP does not consider many environmental impacts which have critical short and long-term economic effects. Due to this miscalculation about the concept of wellbeing, governments may downplay the ecological implications of growth and its contribution to inequality and poverty. Alternative measures to GDP exist to address the social and environmental aspects needed for a sustainable society. Alternative means are usually evaluated at the national level, but due to the Canadian political separation of powers and responsibilities, provincial governments have more responsibilities for environmental and social policy. This research paper explores the Happy Planet Index (HPI) in Ontario for over ten years, evaluating to what extent the Happy Planet Index addresses flaws in a GDP-based policy framework in Ontario. HPI is an eco-efficiency indicator which measures sustainable well-being, enabling policymakers to create effective policies towards the achievement of long, happy, and sustainable lives. HPI incorporates social and environmental variables which can be used by the provincial government in policy evaluation. The index includes three indicators: life satisfaction, a subjective measure of wellbeing that looks from the individual’s perspective on how people rank their happiness and life satisfaction; health-adjusted life expectancy, the average number of years that an individual is expected to live in a healthy state, or the average lifetime someone is expected to live; and ecological footprint, which measures a person’s consumption of nature.