An orange smoke-filled sky is seen above Estacada, Oregon, on September 9, 2020, as fires burn nearby.
DEBORAH BLOOM/AFP via Getty Images
The onslaught of wildfires in California serves as a wake up call for many Americans when it comes to climate change, with some people deciding to permanently leave the state.
More people could relocate in the coming years due to climate change, an investigation by ProPublica reveals.
Most climate-related moves and displacement happens within a country, but moving abroad is also a possibility.
Which country are expats happiest in, when it comes to the overall environment, as well as environmental policy? InterNations, a resource website for expats, interviewed some 15,000 people who left their country of birth to find out.
The top countries are Finland, Sweden, and Norway.
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The massive wildfires tearing through the Pacific Northwest — and the resulting air pollution that is so thick it’s spread across the entire US — is a climate change wakeup call for millions of Americans.
For some Californians, the wildfires are enough for them to exit the state. It’s a glimpse of what economists, scientists, and insurance professionals alike say could be in our future: climate change migration, according to an investigation by ProPublica.
While the United Nations says most climate-related displacement is within a country’s borders, some, especially the affluent, may consider moving to another country for bluer skies and cleaner air.
InterNations, a resource website for expats, surveyed some 15,000 people who chose to leave their country of birth. Analysts asked them to rate their new home country on a variety of environmental factors, including their perception of the air quality, how strongly they think the government is tackling climate change, and rating local recycling and waste management efforts. Each factor was weighted and then countries were given an overall ranking.
The US ranked 30th out of the 60 countries where people were surveyed, coming just behind Bahrain and before Panama. The low ranking was mainly because expats think the federal government does not care enough about climate change.
These are the top 10 most eco-conscious countries, according to expats.
An American living in Luxembourg said the "access to nature for hiking and bicycling" was a big benefit of living there.
DEA / W. BUSS / Getty Images
View the overall natural environment positively: 92%
Are happy with the air quality: 78%
A Russian expat mentioned the "clean water and air" as some of her favorite things about Canada.
DEA / G. CARFAGNA/De Agostini via Getty Images
View the overall natural environment positively: 96%
Think the Canadian population is interested in environmental issues: 71%
Some 90% of expats rated the water and sanitation in the country positively.
INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images
View the overall natural environment positively: 90%
Are happy with the availability of environmentally friendly goods and services: 86%
7. New Zealand
Some 79% of expats agree the population is very interested in environmental issues, vs. 48% globally.
View the overall natural environment positively: 96%
Agree the government takes climate change seriously: 85%
A South African expat said that "the Danish are environmentally conscious. Organic food and products are easily available, and they are good with recycling."
Mikkel Berg Pedersen/Ritzau Scanpix/Reuters
View the overall natural environment positively: 87%
Are happy with the quality of country’s water and sanitation services: 93%
Respondents mentioned the beautiful parks that pepper major cities as a huge plus.
FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images
View the country’s natural environment positively: 83%
Are happy with the air quality: 91%
A Philippine expat said that the country is "the most organized, the most environmentally friendly, and the most beautiful country" he has lived in so far.
David Visnjic/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
View the country’s natural environment positively: 97%
Are happy with the country’s waste management and recycling efforts: 91%
A Ukrainian expat said that "the beautiful nature, the clean air and tap water, and the focus on the environment" are what she enjoys most about life in Norway.
MO/Tim De Waele/Corbis via Getty Images
View the overall natural environment positively: 93%
Agree the government takes climate change seriously: 89%
Some 93% of expats rate the availability of clean energy and the ability to save energy positively.
HENRIK MONTGOMERY/TT News Agency/AFP via Getty Images
View the overall natural environment positively: 95%
Are happy with the availability of environmentally friendly goods and services: 88%
Finland came in 1st place for a variety of factors, including its air quality, waste management, and the government's perceived commitment to the environment.
View the overall natural environment positively: 98%
Are happy with the air quality: 95%
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For years, many have considered healthcare in Finland to be among the best in the world. This “decentralized, three-level, publicly funded” universal health care system is so successful because of its funding sources at both the national and local levels and because of the system’s focus on disease prevention.
While Finland’s healthcare system is similar to other Nordic countries in that it offers universal coverage, the Finnish system focusses more on the local care distributed through municipalities, with National Health Insurance. Organized and delivered primarily at the local level, much of Finland’s healthcare centers around municipalities. This decentralized system also serves to improve healthcare for each citizen. Currently, there are around 6,000 residents per municipality in Finland and 348 municipalities total. The municipal taxes these residents pay go directly towards their healthcare.
In 2015, Finland spent 9.4% of its GDP on health, which is an increase from 8% in 2005 but still falls slightly below the E.U. average of 9.9%. Nonetheless, health spending per capita in Finland exceeded the average in the E.U., meaning that Finland, on average, spends more on health per capita than other E.U. nations. This is an important consideration when understanding why Finland’s healthcare system is so successful: it spends less overall, but more on each individual citizen.
Physical and human resources help to drive health care prosperity in Finland. Since 2000, the number of doctors and nurses has risen dramatically. The ratio of nurses to population is the second-highest in the E.U. after Denmark while the ratio of doctors is 3.2 per 1,000 constituents. While the number of hospital beds has decreased, this allows Finland to have a “higher number of diagnostic and treatment equipment per capita” than other nations in the E.U., giving Finland some of the best-equipped hospitals in the E.U.
Changing Societal Behaviors and Attitudes
Beyond tangible improvements including funding and improved resources, societal attitudes around health have possibly allowed healthcare in Finland to succeed. Smoking rates have sharply fallen since 2000, becoming the third-lowest among all E.U. countries. Meanwhile, Finland had the fourth-highest rate of binge drinking, the rapid consumption of six or more alcoholic drinks, in the E.U. in 2014.
In 2014, Finland developed a goal of creating a Smoke-Free Finland by the year 2040 in order to reduce societal and behavioral risks. The country plans to accomplish this goal with a gradual increase in taxes on tobacco products as well as using unbranded packaging, making its products less tempting to the consumer. This goal will also involve the imposition of smoking bans in certain environments so as to encourage smokers to at least pause their behavior while in “smoke-free habitats,” like beaches, residential housing and playgrounds. In addition, the plan will offer better healthcare to those planning on quitting.
The government is working to reduce alcohol consumption as well. A state monopoly has made the availability of alcohol in grocery stores scarce, with 5.5% as the maximum alcohol-per-volume that stores can sell.
Finland’s efforts to prevent diseases, particularly long-term prevention of cardiovascular diseases, have served to greatly reduce premature mortality and increase life expectancies. Active community-based prevention in North Karelia, a province of Finland, began in 1972. Since 1977, active preventive work has spread nationwide. North Karelia’s community-based approach served as a model for the integrated prevention of noncommunicable diseases. It focused on intervention through education, changing others perceptions on target risk factors and good health behaviors nationwide. North Karelia saw drastic reductions in deaths from cardiovascular diseases and lower general cholesterol levels.
This decentralized system with a focus on cost-effectiveness and prevention of diseases enables Finland to have one of the best healthcare systems in the world. Finland’s calculated spending on health and overall focus on the bettering of its society allows most citizens to have positive perceptions of health and of healthy behaviors. The access each citizen has to healthcare ensures that every Finnish person can receive care when they need it.
– Olivia Fish
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