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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

BEST PLACES IN THE WORLD (PART 19: Honorable Mention--Iceland and Australia)

Three months ago I was getting close to completing my serialization of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity.  I got distracted by my around the world adventure, but today continue with this final chapter, scrolling through the honorable mentions of the best places in the world.  Two more today, and one, Iceland, has since gone bankrupt, plus, there was that eruption of  Eyjafjallaj√∂kull, so you can eliminate them from contention.  They also had this pioneering Hydrogen Economy program with Shell Oil, which, of course, has been pushed off into the future.

I might comment that Jared Diamond, author of Collapse, has written that Australia has huge environmental challenges.  However, the continent is so large, and population bases so miniscule, that enclaves of self-sufficiency should remain attractive, especially if the entire world economy collapses.


As the 2007 UN Human Development Index rates Iceland as #1, you can’t leave out this pioneering country. In 1944, it separated from Denmark and became a representative democracy. More than 30,000 of the 313,000 total population were born abroad, and there has been a recent surge of immigrants because of a labor shortage. While Icelandic is the spoken language, English is widely used.

It ranks next to Andorra with a life expectancy of 82 years. Their GDP/capita of $63,000 puts it at #4 (U.S. is #9) by the IMF. It is a welfare state with high taxes. There is no standing army, but they participated in the Afghan War. While by my standards it is cold, even if it is just south of the Arctic Circle, the weather is surprisingly temperate because of the Gulf Stream.

Bjork, that singer who wore what looked like a swan for her dress at the 2001 Oscar ceremony, comes from Iceland. The dress was auctioned off for charity, so it served a useful purpose.

Two centuries ago a quarter of its population died from a volcanic eruption, thusly providing for natural steam and geothermal energy. There is also abundant hydropower, so 70% of the energy used is renewable. Iceland has partnered with Shell Oil towards a hydrogen economy.



Australia is a continent in itself, with an indigenous population that can be traced back almost 50,000 years. First settled by Europeans as a British penal colony in 1788, the Commonwealth was formed in 1901. It remains a constitutional democracy, with Elizabeth II as Queen of Australia.

Today, with a population of 21 million, it has a GDP/capita of around $42,000 (better than the UK, Germany and France in purchasing power parity) and is ranked #3 in the United Nations’ Human Development Index of 2007, beaten only by Iceland and Norway. The U.S. was #12.

I’ve been through much of the country, and can say that there is a uniting spirit that transcends the disparate topography and diverse cities. One troublesome future has to do with Jared Diamond’s hinting about a collapse because of the unpredictable rainfall. There remains, though, a continuing and ambitious immigration program should you wish to relocate there.

I might add that the 2010 UN comparison showed the following:

  1.  Norway 0.938 (steady)
  2.  Australia 0.937 (steady)
  3.  New Zealand 0.907 (increase 17)
  4.  United States 0.902 (increase 9

So Australia remains near the top.  (Note, though, that the USA is #4, best I've ever seen, for I don't recall our ever being in the top ten.)  On my recent trip to Norway, however, I noticed several strains to their greatness, as for example, there seemed to be a beggar at each corner in town, it was snowing (meaning it was very, very cold) and everything costs so much.  Well, the latest survey of most expensive cities has the following list:

January 2010 Rank Country, City (October 2009 Rank)[Change in Rank]

1) Japan, Tokyo (1) [0]

2) Switzerland, Geneva (3) [-1]

3) Brazil, Brasilia (12) [-9]

4) Switzerland, Zurich (5) [-1]

5) China, Hong Kong (2) [3]

6) Norway, Oslo (10) [-4]

On my recent global odyssey, I stayed in Tokyo, Zurich, Shanghai (not Hong Kong) and Oslo, and, yes, Tokyo and Zurich are ridiculous, but Norway is certainly in their league.

Next:  China.

The Dow Jones Industrials jiggled up a bit, plus 13 to 11,372, while world markets generally dropped. Gold sunk $18/toz to $1832 and crude oil is at $88/barrel.


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