Scandinavian countries may top every ranking on human development, but they are a disaster for the environment.
by Jason Hickel
Scandinavians have it all. Universal public healthcare and education that is the envy of the world. Reasonable working hours with plenty of paid vacation. They have some of the highest levels of happiness on the planet, and top virtually every ranking of human development.
The Nordic model stands as a clear and compelling contrast to the neoliberal ideology that has strafed the rest of the industrialised world with inequality, ill health and needless poverty. As an antidote to the most destructive aspects of free-market capitalism, the egalitarian social democracies of Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Iceland inspire progressive movements around the world.
These countries are worth celebrating for all they get right. But there is a problem. They are an ecological disaster.
You might not notice it at first glance. Their air is crisp and fresh. Their parks are free of litter. Waste collection works like a charm. Much of the region is covered in forests. And Scandinavians tend to be environmentally conscientious.
But the data tell a different story. The Nordic countries have some of the highest levels of resource use and CO2 emissions in the world, in consumption-based terms, drastically overshooting safe planetary boundaries.