SimPachamama and the Happy Planet Index

LykkeAndersenBy: Lykke E. Andersen

The goal in SimPachamama is to achieve as much human well-being as possible while causing as little environmental damage as possible. This is also the philosophy behind the Happy Planet Index developed by the new economics foundation (nef), which is why we have made the Happy Planet diagram central to the measurement of performance in SimPachamama.

In this short video, Nic Marks, one of the creators of the Happy Planet Index, explains the basic idea behind the Happy Planet diagram and also explains why we need to implement policies that help people move towards the top left corner, with high quality of life and low environmental impacts:


We have adapted these simple, but convincing, ideas to SimPachamama in the Happy Planet panel. On the vertical axis we have a measure of human well-being, which is a function of five different factors that are supposed to contribute to human well-being in the frontier community (private consumption, private leisure, private cattle stock, public investment, and forest cover in the community).  On the horizontal axis we have deforestation per person, since deforestation is by far the main ecological impact of people living on the agricultural frontier. We calculate these indices for five different population groups, ranging from the poorest 20% (blue smiley face number 1) to the richest 20% (blue smiley face number 5).


We have assigned points to the different areas of the Happy Planet panel. The best position, with high human well-being and low levels of deforestation is painted green and any quintile (smiley face) located in this area yields 25 points. Quintiles located in the yellow area with slightly lower human well-being or slightly higher levels of deforestation yields 10 points. The red area, representing either very low levels of human well-being or very high levels of deforestation gives 0 points.

The main objective of SimPachamama is to move all five population groups as close as possible to the green area of the Happy Planet panel, because that area represents “living well in harmony with nature.”

Can you make Pachamama happy? Here is a quick guide that will help you install and play SimPachamama now.


nef (2012) The Happy Planet Index: 2012 report. A global index of sustainable well-being. London: new economics foundation.

*Dr. Lykke E. Andersen is Director of the Center for Environmental-Economic Modeling and Analysis (CEEMA) at the Institute for Advanced Development Studies (INESAD) in La Paz, Bolivia. She can be reached by e-mail at:


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