Monday, January 31, 2005

Plenty of Water and Ice, Still no Hockey

Canadians pining for the return of NHL hockey have a new set of statistics to pour over. The 2005 Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI), published in collaboration with last week's annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, provides a relative ranking of environmental stewardship in 146 countries reflecting how well individual nations can protect our environment over the coming decades.

The composite index accounts for various criteria including natural resources, pollution levels, and the society's capability to protect and enrich both local and global environmental assets. The ESI is part of the larger Environmental Performance Measurement Project, involving experts from both Yale and Columbia universities, whose goal is to provide a solid analytical foundation for environmental decision makers. According to the 2005 ESI, Canada looks to have clinched a playoff berth.

"The Nordic countries, Uruguay, and Canada occupy the top ranks and have consistently done so in previous ESI rankings (ESI 2001; ESI 2002). Other than Uruguay, these nations are highly developed countries endowed with natural resources, strong economies, and low population densities. As industrialized countries, they have substantial pollution stresses, but generally manage their environmental challenges well."

That Canada measures up well against other countries with regards to responsible environmental management is no surprise. However, our score is inflated by an abundance of natural resources, especially water, and simultaneously dragged down by ineffectual work on the global stage. In particular, the prevailing trade winds leave us at he mercy of our smoggy neighbour to the south. Judging from the ads for the One-Tonne Challenge with spokesperson Rick Mercer, the government is taking steps in the right direction.

Canadians should be encouraged by a sixth place finish in the ESI, even if it's only the second most exciting league of nations to recently hit Davos, Switzerland. While the five-day annual meeting of the World Economic Forum produced little in the way of tangible results, at least they're talking, unlike the NHL and the player's union. Until we get our hockey back the 2005 ESI provides more than enough statistics for Canadians to think about, but note that when noxious emissions mix with hockey the results make everyone the wrong shade of green.