The Happy Planet Index (HPI) is a scale that shows the ecological efficiency with which human well-being is distributed around the world. It shows that high levels of resource consumption do not reliably produce high levels of well-being: the nations that score well show that achieving long, happy lives without over-stretching the planet’s resources is possible.

The resulting global index of the 143 nations for which new, improved data is available, reveals that the world as a whole has a long way to go. Some countries are more efficient than others, but every country has its problems and no country performs as well as it could.

Nine of the top ten nations in the HPI are in Latin America. The index also shows that middle-income countries and South East Asian countries tend to be the closest to achieving a sustainable well-being. It is interesting to note that half of the ten small island nations are in the top 20 per cent of the HPI rankings: this suggests that a more immediate contact with physical limits can successfully encourage ecological efficiency.

The happy planet charter, launched alongside the latest HPI report in July 2009, provides some key goals to help the planet attain good lives that do not cost the earth. You can also calculate your own HPI score by taking the online survey to measure your life expectancy, life satisfaction and ecological footprint.