We’re number 49!

According to this year’s  Environmental Performance Index by Yale and Columbia Universities, the United States is the 49th most environmental country on the planet.    This puts us smack in the middle of environmental performance world wide.  Not a comfortable place.

The top countries are:

The worst performers?  In from least to, well, less least they are: Iraq, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, South Africa, Yemen, Kuwait, India, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Libya, Eritrea, and Tajikistan.

The Map available from the main Environmental Performance Index Website.  the map shows a clear trend of the Americas, Europe, and Southeast Asia doing well – and the rest of the world lagging behind.

How did we get beaten?

Much of the top 10 have been constant performers: Iceland, Switzerland, France, Costa Rica, Austria, Britain and New Zealand.  Switzerland and Latvia have enacted policies to improve air quality and fight climate change.  Costa Rica wrote environmental protection into their constitution.  Norway and Luxemborg were noted for good environmental governance.  In comparison, most of the countries at the bottom of the pack are plagued by bad governance.

I teach the divisions (and similarities) between the developed and developing worlds.  Last week, we examined the correlation between rising energy use, rising standards of living, and falling population growth.  Realistically, as other countries develop, they will use more energy and likely pollute more unless there is a massive technology transfer from the developed world.  In order to have that transfer, the US (among others) needs to innovate and keep their own energy use down.

Image from the United Nations Developmemt Programme’s 2004 World Energy Assessment.

In short, I’m still rooting for Team USA.  I hate it when we’re 4th in any international contest, let alone 49th.  We can do better than that, let’s goooooooooooo USA!  And get real with some sustainability measures.