Wednesday, February 02, 2005

The Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, has published its 2005 Environmental Sustainability Index which rates the ability of nations to protect the environment over the next several decades. Using 76 data sets, including natural resource endowments, past and present pollution levels, environmental management efforts, and a society’s capacity to improve its environmental performance, the study develops 21 indicators of environmental sustainability.

While it appears that no country is on a fully sustainable trajectory, at every level of development, some countries are managing their environmental challenges better than others.

The study finds that the factors that corelate most highly with a high overall score are civil and political liberties, government effectiveness, political institutions, and participation in international environmental agreements.

Sam Pizzigati, author of "Greed and Good" takes the analysis one step farther, suggesting that there is also a strong relation between income inequality and a high sustainability score.

The top two nations on the environment list, Finland and Norway, just happen to be among the most economically equal nations in the world, as is the fourth-best nation on the list, Sweden.

Uruguay [number 3 on the list], meanwhile, has been Latin America's most economically equal country for most of the last century.

The United States, among the worst-performing developed nations on the environmental list, also happens to be the developed world's most unequal nation.

The new environmental rankings don't track the world's inequality rankings rung by rung, but that may be because researchers still lack, as they noted in their new report, all the “reliable data” they need.

It appears that social justice and environmental sustainability go hand in hand.


At 1:28 AM, Blogger lars said...

I admit I am very sceptical about the link between income inequality and high sustainability score that Pizzagati. If income inequality leads to lower sustainability, why does South America do so well in the sustainability index? South America is the most income unequal region on earth. Brazil is one of the most unequal countries on earth yet it is in the top ten in the sustainability index.

Any ideas? I think I'll email Mr. Pizzagati and see what I get for an answer.

At 9:04 AM, Blogger Tim said...

Thanks for that link. That was very timely. I have to admit that at this point it's more wishfull thinking with me that inequality relates to sustainability, but I will take a look at the numbers more closely.

At 5:09 PM, Blogger lars said...

I received an excellent response from Sam Pizzigati with his thoughts on inequality and the sustainability index. (I was impressed with his thoughtfulness and humility.)
If you'd like a copy, send me an email and I'll forward it to you.

At 10:28 AM, Blogger Tim said...


I'd love to see what Sam had to say. My email is I get comments made here in my email but I don't seem to be able to respond to them.

I heard Sam speak not to long ago and he was very interesting; he is a font of information. I would highly recommend his book "Greed and Good."



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