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Date: 2022-06-30 Page is: DBtxt001.php txt00004431

Metrics
Calvert-Henderson Quality of Life Indicators

Environment Indicator

Burgess COMMENTARY

Peter Burgess

Environment Indicator

This indicator seeks to embrace the interactions between human society and our economic processes and the natural world, its resources, and other species. Naturally, such a task is too enormous to do more than find within the model some key 'surrogate' indicators as proxies for such a vast area. We are learning more about our environments locally and about planetary ecosystems, the crucial role of biodiversity, and human effects on the ozone layer and climate. The Living Planet Report 2004, co-authored by our Advisory Board member Mathis Wackernagel, uses his Ecological Footprint analysis -- an important new tool showing further degradation of planetary life-supporting ecosystems (www.ecofootprintnetwork.org). The clash between orthodox goals of GDP-measured economic growth and climate change sharpened in 2003 as the US refusal to ratify the Kyoto Treaty led other countries to renege. Russia ratified Kyoto in 2004. As more research quantifies the social and environmental costs of GDP-measured growth, economic and environmental measures of efficiency tend to converge.

While our Environment Indicator recognizes these broad concerns, we focus attention on indicators closest to the lives of a majority of US citizens. Air and water quality became our focus, since people cannot survive without acceptable air and water quality. The public outcry concerning rollbacks in US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards for arsenic in water and for power plants' air pollution suggests a growing awareness of health risks from such pollution. This became clear as the anthrax and other bioterrorism threats were encountered and the EPA became key in assessing and countering such threats to national security. The National Research Council's 1999 report, Nature's Numbers, also notes 'Greater emphasis should be placed…on measuring actual human exposures to air and water pollution' (Recommendations 4.3 and 5.9). Through these lenses we can understand better the causes of degradation and pollution and the many steps needed to reverse these threats. As our systems approach reveals, many other domains of quality of life, such as infrastructure design, energy use, shelter, health, employment, public safety, and national security, all impinge on our environment for better or worse. As lessons are learned about homeland security, the role and funding of the EPA may increase - even though the Bush Administration is pushing greater deregulation and relaxed pollution standards.

Sheer population increases show by most forecasts a rise from today's 6 billion to between 8 and 10 billion people on our planet early in this new millennium. However, the huge global gap between rich and poor still shows that per capita consumption of energy and resources in the United States is some 50 times greater than that of 2 billion of the world's poor and undernourished. Thus, the most potent threat to the environment is waste and over-consumption, with the United States as the world's chief polluter. Many other countries are still trying to model their own development on this unsustainable US pattern, although many, including China and Brasil are now pursuing 'technological leapfrog' strategies to avoid the wasteful mistakes of the primitive industrial methods of the past. As we see in our other indicators, the potential for redesigning our infrastructures and production methods using better information and 'greener technologies' can also benefit the world's climate and ecology as well as our own quality of life. If the USA leads in these clean development strategies, as for example the City of Chicago has pledged, other countries may well follow.



The text being discussed is available at
http://www.calvert-henderson.com/overview-environment.htm
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