Forget Moving to Canada! The Answer Could Be Uruguay

Since I’m always in the market for good news, a Guardian article caught my eye. Its title: “Uruguay Makes Dramatic Shift to Nearly 95% Electricity from Clean Energy”. I quote:

In less than 10 years, Uruguay has slashed its carbon footprint without government subsidies or higher consumer costs… [Renewables] provide 94.5% of the country’s electricity [and] prices are lower than in the past relative to inflation….

Now the biggest item on the import balance sheet is wind turbines, which fill the country’s ports on their way to installation. Biomass and solar power have also been ramped up. Adding to existing hydropower, this means that renewables now account for 55% of the country’s overall energy mix (including transport fuel) compared with a global average share of 12%.

There are no technological miracles involved, nuclear power is entirely absent from the mix, and no new hydroelectric power has been added for more than two decades. Instead, … the key to success is rather dull but encouragingly replicable: clear decision-making, a supportive regulatory environment and a strong partnership between the public and private sector.

Very impressive, right? But how about this paragraph:

Despite its relatively small population of just 3.4 million, Uruguay has earned a remarkable amount of global kudos in recent years. It enacted groundbreaking marijuana legalisation, pioneered stringent tobacco control, and introduced some of the most liberal policies in Latin America on abortion and same-sex marriage.

That led me to Wikipedia, of course:

Uruguay is ranked first in Latin America in democracy, peace, lack of corruption, quality of living, e-Government, and equally first in South America when it comes to press freedom, size of the middle class, prosperity and security. On a per capita basis, Uruguay contributes more troops to United Nations peacekeeping missions than any other country. It ranks second in the region on economic freedom, income equality, per capita income and [Foreign Direct Investment]. Uruguay is the third best country on the continent in terms of [the Human Development Index], GDP, innovation and infrastructure. It is regarded as a high income country (top group) by the UN, the only one in Latin America. Uruguay is also the 3rd best ranked in the world in e-Participation.

The Economist named Uruguay “country of the year” in 2013 acknowledging the innovative policy of legalizing the production, sale and consumption of cannabis. Same-sex marriage and abortion are also legal, leading Uruguay to be regarded as one of the most liberal nations in the world, and one of the most socially developed…

Other points to consider:

Nestled on the Atlantic between Argentina and Brazil, the country features mostly rolling plains and low hills, with a coastline of 410 miles. Rio De Janeiro is reachable by ferry.

Located entirely within a temperate zone, Uruguay has a climate that is relatively mild and fairly uniform nationwide. Extreme temperatures are rare.

Uruguay is a representative democratic republic with a presidential system. There is universal suffrage. A 2010 poll of Latin American countries found that Uruguayans are the most supportive of democracy and most satisfied with the way democracy works in their country. 

A former left-wing militant who had spent almost 15 years in prison during the country’s military rule became President in 2009.

The Uruguayan Constitution allows citizens to repeal laws or to change the constitution by popular initiative, which culminates in a nationwide referendum. This method has been used to stop privatization of public utilities; defend pensioners’ incomes; and protect water resources.

Since 2009, gay people have been allowed to serve openly in the military, which has a total enlistment of 23,000.

Between 2007 and 2009, Uruguay was the only country in the Americas that did not technically experience a recession. As of 2008, extreme poverty had dropped to 1.7% of the population. 

Uruguay is the only country in Latin America that has achieved quasi-universal coverage of access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation. 

Ninety percent of Uruguayans are of European descent. Uruguay’s rate of population growth is much lower than in other Latin American countries. More than half of the population lives in Montevideo, the country’s only large city.

Uruguay is the least religious country in the Western Hemisphere, except for Canada. Uruguayan culture is strongly European. Its influences from Spain and Italy are especially important.

Freedom of speech and media are guaranteed by the constitution. There are more than 100 private daily and weekly newspapers, more than 100 radio stations, and some 20 terrestrial television channels. Cable TV is widely available. 

Education is secular, free and compulsory between the ages of 4 and 17. In 2009, Uruguay became the first country in the world to provide a laptop for every primary school student.

English is common in the business world. Its study has risen significantly, especially among the young.

And last but not least:

Since 2008, immigrants have had the same rights and opportunities as born citizens, assuming they can prove a monthly income of $650.

A beach at Punta del Este, Uruguay

Plus, it’s a lot closer to the U.S. than New Zealand is!