Photo: Hans Splinter
IT WON’T SURPRISE MANY AMERICANS TO HEAR that we’re not number one when it comes to our environmental record. But it might not be particularly pleasant to hear that not only did we rank behind the Scandinavian countries, but behind some of the Balkans, Baltics, and even one Asian country. We’re in an embarrassing 26th place. Perhaps even more surprising is that Canada, a perpetual high-ranker on these lists, didn’t do particularly well either: Canada is in 25th, just edging out the US.
The ranking comes from a report done by researchers at Columbia and Yale, and it takes into account nine criteria divided into two categories: under environmental health, there’s water and sanitation, air quality, and health impacts (which measures how our health is likely to be harmed by environmental problems). Under ecosystem vitality, countries are ranked considering agriculture, biodiversity and habitat, forests, water resources, climate and energy, and fisheries. You can check out the website here for a full breakdown of each criterion by country.
The report, called the Environmental Performance Index, is done annually, and is designed to both to encourage “productive competition” between countries, and also let countries know where they lag the most. It’s part of a larger trend to try and quantify environmental health so countries can come up with smarter environmental policies.
The US ranking is a result of a few areas in which we are particularly dismal: we came in 84th (out of 180) in fisheries, 90th in biodiversity and habitat, and 105th in forests. Our highest overall ranking is in health impacts, in which we come in 19th. The good news, though, is that in the last 10 years, the United States has drastically improved in air quality and biodiversity and habitat, and at the very least, hasn’t gotten worse in any of the nine criteria.
Here are the top 50 rankings overall:
11. New Zealand
12. United Kingdom
26. The United States of America
27. Czech Republic
42. Costa Rica