Volume 43, Number 170,
July-September 2012
Socio-Environmental Development Index
for the State of Bahía
Leonardo Araújo, Elaine Fernandes and Patrícia Rosado

Quality of life is derived from the exposure of individuals to adverse circumstances, maintaining a direct relationship with factors such as a healthy and productive environment, the provision of aesthetically pleasing and recreational spaces and the involvement of individuals in decision making. This concept is further related to opportunities for satisfying human desires and aspirations. Quality of life goes beyond meeting the basic needs of the individual (food, health, shelter, clothing, education, employment and involvement) and depends on cultural values (Leff, 2004). It is therefore impossible to understand if environmental quality is a part of quality of life and likely to be the most important aspect of development. However it can be concluded that development depends on good management of the environment (Sachs, 2007). In this respect, the impact that human beings have on the environment and the impact of the environment on quality of life is increasingly more complex, both in quantitative and qualitative terms (Leitte, 2000).

Quality of life depends on environmental quality in that it seeks to achieve balanced and sustainable development.3 The aim of quality of life as a concept is to break down the homogenous parameters that define wellbeing and create opportunities to establish new indices capable of expressing the costs of growth with cultural values and the potential of nature, as well as complementing objective measures with subjective perception. In this way quality of life opens up perspectives for reflecting on social equity, within the spheres of ecological and cultural diversity (Leff, 2004).

In summary, the significance of quality of life leads to the values that regulate social behavior. These values are not only associated with income levels or distribution of wealth, but also criteria such as reproductive health, quality of motherhood and fatherhood and finally mechanisms of environmental self-management. Deterioration of environmental quality usually gives rise to the pathological state of recurring diseases associated with poverty4 (such as cholera and dengue), which come from contaminated air, ground, water resources and the use of toxic resources such as pesticides.

In the face of worsening environmental problems, political action should favor methods that promote environmental awareness among the population through education. Furthermore, understanding of environmental issues should be based within the socio environmental dimension, and in particular take cultural factors into account. These in turn require informed decisions to be made in shaping public policies. The great challenge is to pursue the goals of quality of life and environmental quality in such a way that both are mutually reinforced.5


Area of Study

The State of Bahía, with 415 municipalities occupying an area of 567.692,669km2, is located in the northeast region of Brazil, with a total of eight neighboring states. According to data from the year 2000, Bahía is the fourth most inhabited Brazilian state, with a population of 13.070.250 inhabitants and a population density of 54 Inhab/km2. Bahía’s share of gdp in the Northeast is 36% and more than half of exports (ibge, 2009).

Data Source

The data used in this research relates to all the municipalities in the State of Bahía for the year 2000. The following variables were taken from the demographic census database 2000: persons who live in residences with refuse collection (X1); persons who live in residences with running water (X2); persons who live in residences with a general sewage or rainwater drainage network (X3); persons who live in residences with electricity (X4); percentage of persons living in residences without an automobile (X5) (a change was made to the last variable “percentage of persons living in residences with automobile” subtracting this percentage from 100); income per capita(X6); life expectancy at birth (X7); attendance at school (X8).

The variable industrial sector contribution to municipal gdp (X9) for the year 2002 was obtained from the Superintendency of Economic and Social Studies of Bahía (sei, 2009). Finally, information relating to the woodland and forest areas that cover the municipality were obtained in the ibge agricultural Census (2006). This value was divided by the municipal area to obtain the percentage area of the municipalities covered in native vegetation (X10).

3 The wced worked with these developments between 1984 and 1987 to create an agenda that would enable global change. The result was the publication of Our Global Future (The Brundtland Report) which discussed the most critical issues relating to development and the environment. The report conceptualized the term sustainable development, which it maintained should respond justly to the needs of the present, without compromising possibilities for survival and prosperity for future generations (Brundtland, 1987).

4 Studies such as those by Ekborn and Bojö (1999), Barbier (200) and Parikh (2002) show the link between poverty and the environment.

5 Some research can be found in national and international literature relating to the construction of indices that incorporate environmental conditions. For more information see Veiga (2008).

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