By Sarah “Steve” Mosko
E-The Environmental Magazine, 23-Mar, 2023
Irvine Community News & Views, 27-Mar, 2023
SoCal Water Wars, 31-Mar, 2023
Fullerton Observer, Early Apr, 2023 (p.14)
Once again, the United States has failed to make it into the top 10 of the world’s happiest countries.
Since 2012, the United Nations releases annual survey results comparing how people in different countries rate their overall quality of life. The data are obtained through a World Gallup Poll and published every March in the World Happiness Report (WHR). This year, America ranked 15th.
The survey assesses quality of life on a 0-to-11-point scale where 0 equates with the worst possible life and 11 is the best possible. America’s best showing (11th place) was in 2012, and its worst (19th) was in 2019. “Happiness” and “quality of life” are used interchangeably in the WHR.
Finland ranked #1 in happiness the last six years, with the Scandinavian countries and Switzerland claiming the top 3+ spots every year.
People may conceptualize aspects of quality of life in concrete terms, like health status, access to food, shelter, education, and medical care, personal safety, strength of ties to family and community, and personal freedoms. The World Health Organization more abstractly defines quality of life as “an individual’s perception of their position in life in the context of the culture and value systems in which they live and in relation to their goals, expectations, standards and concerns.” As such, if a society undergoes shifts in its value system, a person’s perception of their position relative to those values will also be pressured to change.
So, what happens to perceived quality of life when a society’s value system shifts in the direction of undermining that which makes life on earth sustainable? A case can be made this began in mid-20th century in America. It helps explain both America’s lackluster happiness ratings and, more globally, the path that led humanity to a climate crisis.
This narrative starts with the end of WWII.