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Human Sustainable Development Index
The Human Sustainable Development Index, known as the HSDI for short, is an index for measuring the same things as the Human Development IndexW (HDI) but also takes into account the one thing that the HDI fails to – the environment.
The index includes per capita carbon emissions. And the findings change the ranking of many countries that score well on the HDI, bumping them down on the HSDI because many of their development activities are not sustainable. For example, the United States is ranked 4th on the HDI but falls to 28th on the HSDI, while Australia goes from second place to 26th place and Canada moves from 6th place to 24th. On the other hand, some countries move up. Sweden moves from 10th to 2nd place and Switzerland moves from 11th to 3rd place. The team that developed the HSDI noted that oil-producing and oil-intensive countries dropped the most on the rankings.
Although the HDI has been an iconic indexing tool, the problem with the HDI rests with its inability to encourage sustainable development and to link humans to nature. The HSDI seeks to remedy this by including the environment by way of carbon emissions and thereby being a more complete indicator.
Carbon emissions as an environmental indicator
The team who developed the HSDI acknowledge that there are other elements than carbon emissions that could go into the environmental aspect of the indicator, such as biodiversity and pollution. However, the HDI has been successful because of its simplicity and the HSDI seeks to replicate this simplicity by focusing on one iconic element, namely carbon emissions. (In the case of the HDI, longevity serves as the health barometer.) The fact that carbon emissions are so intricately tied up in production and consumption means that they serve as a clear indicator of the costs of quality of life in any given nation.
Standard of living
Importantly, the HSDI reveals that the standard of living equated with lower carbon emissions is a good standard of living. Life in countries such as Norway, Sweden, New Zealand, Switzerland and France (the top five countries ranked on the HSDI) all have excellent standards of living that are on par with the oil-addicted nations. While the index does not claim that these countries are perfect in what they're doing, they do show that it's possible to live with more moderate carbon emissions and still have a decent standard of living. Moreover, this proves that the pursuit of happiness is not something that is in opposition to a sustainable economy.
Cuba as the only real sustainable economy
Even with the top ranked countries doing so well on the HSDI, there seems to be only one country that has a truly sustainable economy when measured against ecological footprints per capita. Cuba achieves this without access to the latest green technology.
Sources and citations
- Why the U.N.’s Development Index is destroying the future
- 2010 Human Sustainable Development Index (creative commons material)