Assessing the Environment Domain of the Canadian Index of Wellbeing: Potentials for Leveraging Policy
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This thesis is aimed at understanding the environment domain of the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) and how it can further contribute to communicative strategies that promote strategic sustainable development. Several ways of conceptualizing, describing and measuring the relationship between human wellbeing and the environment have been attempted in the past through a number of wellbeing indices, but none of these have been entirely successful at capturing the intricacies and potential implications inherent in the relationship. This study attempts to cast light on how the environment domain of the CIW can benefit from having a guiding framework to better communicate the pressures placed on the environment and show links to other aspects of societal behaviour and wellbeing. The goal is to contribute to a better conceptualization of sustainable progress and a tool for policy integration. An in-depth literature review was conducted to report on how human wellbeing and the environment have been measured. The empirical basis of the thesis is expert interviews. Six of the interviewees have been involved in the development and application of well-known wellbeing indices. The study also interviewed two regional level planners in Waterloo with deep interest in environmental sustainability. This thesis proposes the Drivers-Pressures-State-Impact-Response (DPSIR) as a guiding framework for the environment domain of the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) with resource use indicators from Material Flow Analysis (MFA). Food and Transportation are then proposed to improve the scope of the domain and the index. From a planning perspective, they represent key political, economic and environmental issues. They are both important to Canadian livelihoods and present direct connections between wellbeing and the environment. By presenting food and transportation indicators using the DPSIR framework and MFA as a tool they become understandable and communicate a strong message about how these systems are affecting the Canadian environment. Other potentially emergent concepts were also presented in this thesis. Further research into many of these concepts, both developing and established, are suggested to further the applicability of the CIW for Canadian policy leverage. This study has the potential to build a universal understanding of what these terms mean and how wellbeing indices can be used to develop a better understanding of the important link between elements of the environment and human wellbeing.