“Spirit of the Magic Mirror, arise from deep space. Between wind and darkness I call you! Speak! Show me your face.”
So ordered the Wicked Queen to her magic mirror in the tale of Snow White, before demanding to know who, that day, was the fairest of them all. With the disastrous consequences that we all know.
We also know that rankings always represent a simplification of reality, but they do have the advantage of giving us an immediately understandable snapshot of a given situation.
Fortunately, the EPI indicator developed by Yale University to identify the most environmentally friendly economies is based on more transparent and objective criteria than those applied by the Magic Mirror.
It is a weighted and aggregated index which considers 11 categories:
- Air quality
- Health and drinking water
- Heavy metals
- Waste management
- Biodiversity & habitat
- Environmental services
- Climate change
- Pollutant emissions
- Water resources
Denmark came in first place, thanks to a mix of public policies capable of systematically internalising the challenges posed by climate change.
Canada is the best at protecting its exceptional biodiversity, while Singapore sets an example when it comes to sustainable fishing and wastewater recycling. The UK and France, on the other hand, excel in creating protected areas. A special mention also goes to Sweden, for its particularly virtuous management of solid waste (keyword: recycling!)
Although rankings are by definition designed to bait the competition, the EPI isn’t just a contest between countries to look good in front of the international community, but a tool for observing performance trends from one year to the next, identifying the areas where progress has been made along with those that still need more work.
That said, we must also mention that the countries occupying the top 40 places in this ranking are also all classified as “high income” by the World Bank.
As if to say, dear Magic Mirror, it’s easy to tell me they’re the fairest of them all when they’ve spent all their savings on beauty treatments.
Infrastructure costs are just one of the reasons why wealthier nations tend to perform better in terms of sustainability. From reducing air pollution to water treatment, from controlling hazardous waste to managing public health, all of these measures have huge costs and require long-term thinking in order to bring real benefits for citizens.
Precisely because we don’t want sustainability to remain a “thing for the rich”, we strongly believe in the effectiveness of agroforestry systems – the method we use to plant trees. A method capable of bringing both environmental and social benefits.