On the use of headline indices to link environmental quality and income at the level of the nation state
Morse, S. (2008) On the use of headline indices to link environmental quality and income at the level of the nation state. Applied Geography, 28 (2). pp. 77-95. ISSN 0143-6228
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1016/j.apgeog.2007.07.010
This paper deconstructs the relationship between the Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI) and national income. The ESI attempts to provide a single figure which encapsulates environmental sustainability' for each country included in the analysis, and this allied with a 'league table' format so as to name and shame bad performers, has resulted in widespread reporting within the popular presses of a number of countries. In essence, the higher the value of the ESI then the more 'environmentally sustainable' a country is deemed to be. A logical progression beyond the use of the ESI to publicise environmental sustainability is its use within a more analytical context. Thus an index designed to simplify in order to have an impact on policy is used to try and understand causes of good and bad performance in environmental sustainability. For example the creators of the ESI claim that ESI is related to GDP/capita (adjusted for Purchasing Power Parity) such that the ESI increases linearly with wealth. While this may in a sense be a comforting picture, do the variables within the ESI allow for alternatives to the story, and if they do then what are the repercussions for those producing such indices for broad consumption amongst the policy makers, mangers, the press, etc.? The latter point is especially important given the appetite for such indices amongst non-specialists, and for all their weaknesses the ESI and other such aggregated indices will not go away. (C) 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.