Socio-Environmental Development Index
for the State of Bahía
Leonardo Araújo, Elaine Fernandes and Patrícia Rosado
INTRODUCTION ( ...continuation )

There have been some attempts in specialized literature to devise indices that include environmental questions, with varying degrees and forms of association. However, according to Hales and Prescott-Allen (2005), in practice, the only Sustainability Indices that carry weight on an international level are those recognized by the World Wide Fund for Nature (wwf) and the World Economic Forum (wef), assessed by two of the most important academic institutions in the area, the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy and the Center for International Earth Science Information Network, at the University of Columbia.2

On closer inspection, these indices are limited in that within their structure they do not take into account the peculiarities and different characteristics of countries. This study therefore seeks to fill the existing gap between the need to identify the relevant problems associated with the socio-environment and the possible alternatives that facilitate more sustainable and equitable development.

This article is organized in four sections, as well as the introduction. In the next section, the interrelationship between quality of life and environmental quality is put in context. In the second, the method of analysis is summarized. In the third, the results are discussed. In the fourth section, some final considerations are presented.


According to Sen (2008), countries development strategies must consider actions that create an economic, social, political and cultural climate favorable to its individuals. This is because an individual’s development depends on economic opportunities, political freedom, social and educational issues, and stimulus to their initiatives. In this way, an individual’s quality of life is intimately related to opportunities provided by collective performance.

Sachs (2007) considers Sen, maintaining that sustainable development should highlight environmental questions as well as economic and social issues. This means, for example, that quality of life and equity should become the central objectives (the ultimate goal) in the development model. Similarly, economic growth and efficiency are essential, for it is unlikely that quality of life can improve fairly if the economy does not possess the conditions to grow economically. Environmental conservation or ecological care is another extremely important factor. In the absence of adequate environmental conditions, it is not possible to guarantee quality of life and social equity for future generations.

Gallopín (1982) concludes by emphasizing that environmental conditions are closely related to quality of life, for this is seen as resulting in the health of an individual and their sense of satisfaction.

With the aim of showing the relationship between the previously mentioned variables representing quality of life and environmental quality, Bojö et al.(2001) devised the schematic representation shown in Figure 1. Figure 1 shows the effects of environmental quality (third line from top to bottom) on quality of life (rectangles) and the effects of both on wellbeing.

Figure 1. Schematic Representation of the Dimensions of Environmental Quality and Quality of Life.
Source: Adapted from Bojö et al. (2001).

The human being affects the environment, is affected by it and is part of it through all that is produced artificially. Quality of life and environmental quality are directly related, for pollution of the air, waters and ground, as well as the extinction of ecosystems, directly affects the wellbeing of individuals. The state the various dimensions of the environment are found in can therefore be called environmental quality. If the environment, which encompasses humanity, its practices and customs, is damaged in any way, there is a reduction in quality of life. Quality of life affects environmental quality because it is a component of it (Sachs, 2007).

2 For more information see Prescott-Allen (2005).