Windmill farm in Costa RicaReleasing a wealth of new data, researchers at Yale and Columbia have ranked 163 countries by their success in meeting ten different environmental goals.  Their report, The 2010 Environmental Performance Index,  is intended to aid policymakers evaluate how well countries are meeting the environmental goals set out in international agreements, but we think “ethical” world travelers would be interested in how some of their favorite destinations fared.  Once again, some of the outcomes are intriguing.  If you don’t know the difference between Mauritius (ranked #6) and Mauritania (ranked #161), you might want to follow along as HTB investigates the findings.

In order to generate the ranking, the researchers analyzed mounds of data and weighted each goal to arrive at a single value capturing each country’s progress.  At a high level, the researchers separated their findings into two categories: 1) Ecosystem Vitality and 2) Environmental Health–or, cutting through the jargon:  1) the quality of the country’s environment itself and 2) the health status of its citizens.  In constructing the ultimate ranking, researches assigned 50% of a country’s EPI score to Ecosystem Vitality and 50% to Environmental Health.

It’s no surprise that in general a country’s EPI correlates with its economic standing.  Wealthier countries tend to have higher scores.  However, wealth is not the sole determinant of the score: Costa Rica outperforms most developed countries while the United States ranks 61st in spite of its tremendous wealth.

The EPI researchers found that many countries fall outside of their peer group.  They conclude that government policy, while not necessarily as powerful as economic, demographic and geographic factors, influences the EPI score to a significant degree.  To the extent that human will power is directed toward promoting a healthy environment, this is a hopeful message.

The EPI is arguably the most thorough study to date of environmental performance on an international scale.  HTB intends to mine the riches of EPI by digging into the details to produce more insights that we can share.    But don’t wait for us. See for yourself at

Photo info: / CC BY 2.0


About The Author

Chrissy Donovan is a guest contributor to the Healthy Travel Blog. She recently graduated from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, where she majored in mathematics. While in school, she spent a semester studying in Budapest. Here, she learned firsthand some of the differences between American and Hungarian health care when she became alarmingly sick one day (but quickly recovered).

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