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Macalester College

Publication Date

Fall 2013

Program Name

Panama: Tropical Ecology, Marine Ecosystems, and Biodiversity Conservation


Global climate change is perhaps the most pressing issue our world faces today. Greenhouse gas emissions reductions are urgently needed, however, there is currently a lack of action due to the fear that a reduction in the ecological footprint will lead to a reduction in GDP and happiness levels of a society. Increasing GDP and economic progress are equivocated with increasing happiness and overall well-being of society. However, based on the literature I discuss in this paper, instead of GDP, an objective measurement of happiness is a better indicator of success. In this paper, I investigate the ecological footprints (in order to quantify consumption) of university students in David, and compare their footprints to happiness level data; through this analysis, I am able to determine if a reduction in consumption (as measured by ecological footprint) equivocates a reduction in happiness. This information is useful because if a reduction is not equal to a reduction in happiness, as the indicator of GDP would suggest, there are important individual and policy implications. I further examine the Happy Planet Index of these subjects, analyzing how well university students in David can produce happy, healthy, sustainable, lives. In this paper, I first briefly review the literature regarding the relationship between ecological footprints and happiness. Next, I describe the methods I use in order to research my question and complete my objectives, and analyze the empirical data I gathered. I explore the ecological footprints of university students in David, as well their happiness levels, and examine the relationship between the two variables. I also examine their Happy Planet Indices, and compare this index to national and international data. I conclude with a discussion of the data, addressing potential strengths and weaknesses of my study, and outline areas for future research.


Community-Based Research | Environmental Health and Protection | Environmental Indicators and Impact Assessment | Growth and Development | Place and Environment | Sustainability


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