Category and Indicator Topics Considered in Indian River County Work Groups:
Indian River Lagoon: water quality, wildlife, fishing, recreational uses, wetlands, Seagrass beds conserved as feeding grounds and nurseries for sea and lagoon life
Economic value of the lagoon
Invasive species in the lagoon
Acquiring and protecting land along the shore
Conservation lands, parks
Water available for urban uses…and
For agricultural uses
Conservation of natural areas in parks, refuges
Connecting natural areas, ecosystem processes
Access to land and water resources – hiking, canoes, boat launches, beach access
Connecting functioning ‘green’ systems
Sustainable agricultural practices
Health of orchards, vegetable crops and cattle herds
Linking development with agricultural conservation
Making farming profitable
Future of citrus groves
Future of cattle ranches
Community planning to connect cities and rural areas
Use of new urbanism ideas
Infill and mixed uses
Open spaces in urban areas
Art, sculptures in community spaces
Developing, keeping a skilled workforce
Education opportunities for all from K to old age/lifelong learning
Health – children, adults
Culture and Arts
Diversity of businesses and jobs
Incomes, quality jobs
Strengthening the manufacturing base
Strengthening the agricultural base
Strengthening the tourism and recreation base
Livable wages and income disparities
‘Buy local’ campaign to support local businesses and farms
Second homes/snowbird population
Energy (reliable, affordable service) and energy conservation measures
Specific Concerns of our Minority Communities
Access to services – medical, professional, libraries, cultural, shopping
Electric and water services
Governance: When defining what is a ‘sustainable’ county, do we:
Share a long term vision,
Have leaders who collaborate,
Have an informed and involved public,
Is there full cost accounting, with alternatives considered?
Is there timely, reliable data on all aspects of life?
Are sustainability indicators developed and used?
Is there a natural systems databank available and used?
Do we use a broad range of planning tools?
Is there a linking of regional and community values and actions?
Can we measure social capital, for example, assessing voter participation, or use of public libraries?
Criterion and Indicator defined:
- A category of conditions or processes by which a sustainable community may be assessed
- A criterion is characterized by a set of related indicators which are monitored periodically to assess change
- A quantitative or qualitative variable describing an aspect of a criterion, that can be measured, modeled, or described and which, when observed or estimated periodically, demonstrates trends
We have been using traditional indicators for a long time. Here is how we have usually responded to three questions about indicators or measures in common use today:
1. How is the economy doing?
- Examples of measures or indicators: Jobs created, employment and unemployment rates, wages, GDP, stock market indexes, bankruptcy rates, business start ups, industrial productivity, exports and imports, government/federal deficits, inflation rates, value of the dollar against the yen and euro, price of oil, and many more.
2. How is the environment doing?
- Examples of measures: air quality, water quality, fish kills, water consumption, acres in development, acres in preserved open space status, acres of parkland, forest and farm conditions, loss of biodiversity, fish tonnage caught, species in decline.
3. How is society doing?
- Examples of measures: public health measures, mental health measures, education, schools and colleges, technical education, crime statistics.
The challenge is to develop comprehensive lists of indicators not only within these three categories but indicators which link these three categories.
Rather than a piecemeal approach, what we need is a view of the community that takes into account the links between the economy, the environment and the society.
Sustainability indicators are different from traditional indicators, which usually measure changes in one part of the community as if they were entirely independent of the other parts.
Here are three examples of indicators – traditional and sustainability indicators – within the three big categories that show how values and systems are connected:
Traditional: median income; per capita income relative to the US average;
Sustainability: Numbers of hours of paid employment at the average wage required to support basic needs.
Traditional: Number of registered voters;
Sustainability: Number of voters who vote in an election; number of voters who attend town meetings.
Traditional: Total water use in a community; per capita water use in the community; safe yield per person;
Sustainability: Water used per person compared with the safe yield per person, looks at water use in terms of supply and demand. It combines data to present a clearer picture of the issue.
Here’s why we look at these indicators in an integrated way: “We can ask ourselves: ‘Can an economy be considered healthy if air quality is considered poor, waterways are polluted, people are living in poverty and crime rates are soaring?....Although it is tough to quantify, environmental and social conditions are integral components of a region’s economic health and cannot be omitted.”
What Makes a Useful Indicator?
Characteristics of effective sustainable community indicators:
- An indicator is something that helps you understand where you are, which way you are going and how far you are from where you want to be;
- An effective indicator alerts you to a problem before it gets too bad and helps you recognize what needs to be done to fix the problem;
- Indicators in a sustainable community point to areas where the links between the economy, society and environment are poorly understood;
- Indicators allow us to identify issue areas and help show the way to improve those areas;
- Addresses carrying capacity of community capital;
- Relevant to the community – they show you something about the system you need to know;
- Understandable to the community, understood by people who are not experts;
- Usable by the community, useful to decision-makers;
- Shows the links among the economy, environment and society;
- Focus on the long range view;
- Advance local sustainability but not at the expense of others;
- Based on reliable and timely data, you can trust the information the indicator provides, gives information while there is still time to act.