It’s usually best to avoid listicles. No one needs to know the top 10 popsicle flavors from 1997 or the 25 worst celebrity tweets about peanuts. But a ranking of how well countries are doing to protect the environment? Now that’s a listicle we can get behind here at Grist.
Yale’s 15th annual Environmental Performance Index comparing 180 countries’ performance on “high priority environmental issues in two areas: protection of human health and protection of ecosystems” just came out, and it’s mostly what you’d expect: Countries up top tend to be heavily Nordic; countries at the bottom tend to be heavily unstable.
The top five are Finland, Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, and Slovenia. Finland already gets two-thirds of its electricity from renewables or nuclear power and plans to get 38 percent of its total energy from renewables by 2020. Iceland gets 85 percent of its energy from renewables and has great air quality. Sweden has great water quality and plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent of 1990 levels by 2020. And Denmark has great water quality, as well as high marks for biodiversity.
But Slovenia? The central European nation might seem out of place in the top five, but it’s apparently kind of a boss when it comes to biodiversity. And with the third largest forest-to-land ration in the European Union, it’s doing a bang-up job of forest preservation.
The next five on the list are Spain, Portugal, Estonia, Malta, and France. The U.S. is way down at 26 — right below Canada, which is precisely where we like to be.
The bottom five countries are Afghanistan, Niger, Madagascar, Eritrea, and Somalia for a lot of the reasons you might expect: illegal hunting and poaching, poor air and water quality, deforestation, failure to protect biodiversity, over-fishing.
Check out this write-up by some of the researchers over at Scientific American for more details on the best and worst performing countries. Or go watch this nice little video. Then, I promise, you can go read that listicle about whether or not your relationship is doomed.