Does Using Energy Cheer You Up?

Think about the reasons that you use energy. At first you might think that you consume power and goods in order to keep you alive and sustain yourself. However, humans could survive with only a small amount of locally grown food, and minimal heating. In fact, most of our energy consumption simply serves to make life better; more comfortable and more enjoyable.

Therefore, the ratio of happiness to power consumption is a useful metric to measure. It isn't the most quantifiable thing, but the New Economics Foundation (Nef) attempt just that with their Happy Planet Index (HPI). They recently published a report that measures people's opinions on how happy they are, their life expectancy and their carbon footprint in order to see if more energy usage means happier citizens. It doesn't.Iceland wins with the highest ratio of well-being to emissions. The UK comes 21st, and it would be fascinating if the US was included. Of course, the fact that some countries have differing levels of sustainable power sources may skew the results somewhat. Nic Marks of Nef said, "countries like Iceland... demonstrate that living within our environmental means doesn't mean sacrificing human wellbeing. By learning from the differences between European countries and copying best practices, we believe it will be possible to both greatly reduce our carbon footprint and increase our wellbeing."

This is something that we have looked at before here on TreeHugger, and continues to fascinate me. Reducing the energy consumption of activities that we enjoy or need is vital, but perhaps there are large areas of consumption which aren't even improving our quality of life. Cutting these out will require more in depth thought than considering which light-bulbs to buy, it will mean a soul-searching analysis of our culture, housing, recreation and aspirations. ::BBC

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