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Environmental Change & Management: Human Wellbeing & Development

woman in brown coat carrying child in orange and white striped polo shirt

Source: Joice Kelly (2021)

Environmental management needs to not only take into consideration the land, but also humans and their wellbeing. There are a number of factors involved in human wellbeing, including social, political, economic, environmental and technological, and these can be mapped through the Human Development Index (HDI). Read through the resources below to learn more about what influences human wellbeing and how to measure it.

Human Development Index (United Nations Development Program, n.d.)

The HDI was created to emphasize that people and their capabilities should be the ultimate criteria for assessing the development of a country, not economic growth alone. Read through this website to learn more about HDI.

New measures of wellbeing (The Government of Sweden, 2017, August 1)

‘New measures of wellbeing’ is a framework of 15 indicators of economic, environmental and social dimensions of quality of life. The indicators, intended to complement GDP as a measure, will be an instrument for monitoring trends in people’s quality of life and the long-term sustainability of the economy. Read through this report to learn more.

Measuring well-being and progress: well-being research (OECD, n.d.)

In recent years, concerns have emerged regarding the fact that macro-economic statistics, such as GDP, don't provide a sufficiently detailed picture of the living conditions that ordinary people experience. While these concerns were already evident during the years of strong growth and good economic performance that characterised the early part of the decade, the financial and economic crisis has further amplified them. Addressing these perceptions is of crucial importance for the credibility and accountability of public policies but also for the very functioning of democracy. Societal progress is about improvements in the well-being of people and households. Assessing such progress requires looking not only at the functioning of the economic system but also at the diverse experiences and living conditions of people. The OECD Framework for Measuring Well-Being and Progress in this link is based on the recommendations made in 2009 by the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress to which the OECD contributed significantly. It also reflects earlier OECD work and various national initiatives in the field. This Framework is built around three‌ distinct components: current well-being, inequalities in well-being outcomes, and resources for future well-being.

Geographies of human wellbeing (Geography Teachers Association of Victoria, 2013)

Human wellbeing is the recognition that everyone around the world, regardless of geography, age, culture, religion or political environment, aspires to live well. Wellbeing is not necessarily bound by income, rather, it is an individual’s thoughts and feelings about how well they are doing in life, contentment with material possessions and having relationships that enable them to achieve their goals. Many factors impact upon an individual’s ability to live well including war, conflict, social fragmentation, inequality, poverty, malnourishment as well as access to resources. Read through this resource to learn more.

World Happiness Report 2021

The World Happiness Report 2021 focuses on the effects of COVID-19 and how people all over the world have fared. Our aim was two-fold, first to focus on the effects of COVID-19 on the structure and quality of people’s lives, and second to describe and evaluate how governments all over the world have dealt with the pandemic. In particular, it attempts to explain why some countries have done so much better than others.

Happiness index - country rankings (The Global Economy, n.d.)

The average for 2020 based on 150 countries was 5.51 points. The highest value was in Finland: 7.84 points and the lowest value was in Afghanistan: 2.52 points. The indicator is available from 2013 to 2020. Below is a chart for all countries where data are available. Read through the website to see the rest of the rankings.

Millennium Development Goals Reports (United Nations, n.d.)

This annual report presents the most comprehensive global assessment of progress to date, based on data provided by a large number of international organizations within and outside the United Nations system. The aggregate figures in the report provide an overview of regional progress under the eight goals and are a convenient way to track advances over time. The report is coordinated and published by the Statistics Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

Millennium Development Goals (United Nations, 2018, February 19)

The United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are 8 goals that UN Member States agreed to try to achieve by the year 2015. The United Nations Millennium Declaration, signed in September 2000, committed world leaders to combat poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation, and discrimination against women. The MDGs are derived from this Declaration. Each MDG had targets set for 2015 and indicators to monitor progress from 1990 levels. Several of these relate directly to health. Read through this article to learn more about these goals.

Improving wellbeing (Oxford University Press, n.d.)

Read through this chapter from Oxford Big Ideas Humanities 10 to learn more about improving wellbeing on a global scale.

Geography of human wellbeing: a diverse and connected world (World Vision, n.d.)

This information booklet from World Vision discusses the role that Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) play in increasing global wellbeing.

Population size, density, & dispersal (Khan Academy, n.d.)

This website looks at what an ecological population is and how scientists define and measure population size, density, and distribution in space.

How do we measure wellbeing? (The Conversation, 2017, January 24)

Opinions differ on the definition of well-being. Yet there’s a growing consensus that it cannot be reduced to material consumption and that other aspects of life, such as health and good social relations, are essential to being well. Increasing well-being is generally accepted as one of the essential components of social progress, but if different aspects of life all contribute to well-being, can or should we construct an overall measure of it? Read through this article to learn more.

Development and health (BBC, n.d.)

The site has been divided into two main areas – Development and Health. You can work your way through the site using the links on each page or by using the navigation bar on the left of the screen.

Interconnections and human wellbeing (World Vision, n.d.)

This chapter looks at an economic development strategy and addresses the Year 9 unit Exploring interconnections and the Year 10 unit Global geographies of human wellbeing. The case study explores the interconnections between Australian consumers and Indonesian cashew farmers.

Hunger Map

Every day, hunger affects more than 700 million people. This live map from the UN highlights where hunger is hitting hardest around the world.

Gap Minder

Gap Minder is a data visualisation program that demonstrates gaps in different wellbeing indicators across different countries. You can edit the tool to compare between different countries and different indicators.

How's Life? Wellbeing indicator (OECD, n.d.)

How’s Life? Well-being is the one-stop shop for the 80+ indicators of the OECD Well-being Dashboard, providing information on current well-being outcomes, well-being inequalities and the resources and risks that underpin future well-being. The 11 dimensions of current well-being relate to material conditions that shape people’s economic options (Income and Wealth, Housing, Work and Job Quality) and quality-of-life factors that encompass how well people are (and how well they feel they are), what they know and can do, and how healthy and safe their places of living are (Health, Knowledge and Skills, Environmental Quality, Subjective Well-being, Safety). Quality of life also encompasses how connected and engaged people are, and how and with whom they spend their time (Work-Life Balance, Social Connections, Civic Engagement). The distribution of current well-being is taken into account by looking at three types of inequality: gaps between population groups (horizontal inequalities); gaps between those at the top and those at the bottom of the achievement scale in each dimension (vertical inequalities); and deprivations (i.e. the share of the population falling below a given threshold of achievement). The systemic resources that underpin future well-being over time are expressed in terms of four types of capital: Economic, Natural, Human and Social.


WorldMapper is a collection of world maps called cartograms, where territories are resized on each map according to the area of interest. It is useful for understanding relationships between different countries.

Better Life Index (OECD, n.d.)

There is more to life than the cold numbers of GDP and economic statistics – This Index allows you to compare well-being across countries, based on 11 topics the OECD has identified as essential, in the areas of material living conditions and quality of life.

World development indicators (World Bank, n.d.)

The World Development Indicators is a compilation of relevant, high-quality, and internationally comparable statistics about global development and the fight against poverty. The database contains 1,400 time series indicators for 217 economies and more than 40 country groups, with data for many indicators going back more than 50 years.

Children: improving survival and well-being (World Health Organsation, 2020, September 8)

Substantial global progress has been made in reducing child deaths since 1990. The total number of under-5 deaths worldwide has declined from 12.6 million in 1990 to 5.2 million in 2019. Since 1990, the global under-5 mortality rate has dropped by 59%, from 93 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 38 in 2019. This is equivalent to 1 in 11 children dying before reaching age 5 in 1990, compared to 1 in 27 in 2019. Read through the article to learn more about how child mortality impacts population rates.

Births in Australia (Australian Institute of Family Studies, n.d.)

Read through this website to learn about trends in birth rates and fertility in Australia and how they correlate to societal changes.