Every time disaster strikes the world community, such as the earthquake in Haiti or the global economic crisis, a great many people become envious of Costa Rica, which has a reputation as one of the happiest countries in the world.
The sources of happiness in the Central American country, the BBC reported recently, are the facts that its army was abolished back in 1949, 90 percent of its energy comes from renewable sources, and its citizens have a high life expectancy of 78.5 years.
Costa Rica has a population of just 4.2 million on 51,000 sq. km of land, about half the size of Korea, and its per capita GDP of US$10,000 stands at around 80th in the world. However life expectancy and life satisfaction levels in the country are among the highest in the world, flouting the perception that happiness correlates with income.
The Happy Planet Index, compiled and released by the New Economics Foundation last year, put Costa Rica at the top among 143 countries, and the World Database of Happiness gave it 8.5 points out of 10, over runner-up Denmark which scored 8.3 points.
The nation's commitment to the environment is also among the reasons it tops the happiness charts. In a Jan. 7 article titled "The Happiest People," New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote, "Costa Rica has done an unusually good job preserving nature, and it's surely easier to be happy while basking in sunshine and greenery than while shivering up north and suffering 'nature deficit disorder.'" Costa Rica introduced a carbon tax in 1997, and it ranked third in the world in the 2010 Environmental Performance Index published last month by Yale and Columbia universities.