10 National Goals to Put the United States
On A Path Toward Sustainable Development
The road to sustainable development begins with national goals. Below
are 10 draft goals that express the shared aspirations of the
President's Council on Sustainable Development (PCSD). Accompanying
them are "Indicators of Progress," yardsticks to measure progress toward
each goal. In most cases, the PCSD indicators point in a general
direction but do not call for exact targets or milestones. In a few
cases, the indicators are new concepts that are not now easy to measure
and require more work before they can be used as true yardsticks.
A HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT
Ensure that every person can enjoy the benefits of clean air, clean
water, and a healthy environment.
Possible Indicators of Progress: Measurements of a healthy environment
are usually specific to a medium (air, water, land, food), or to a
region. The PCSD feels that existing tools lack adequate measures of
how environmental and health risks are distributed among economic and
racial sectors of society.
- Toxic Materials: Decrease in the amount of long-lived and
other toxic materials released into the environment as pollutants or waste.
- Life Expectancy: Increase in the life expectancy rate, covering
various economic and demographic groups.
- Infant Mortality: Decrease in infant mortality rates,
developed for various economic and demographic groups.
- Safe Drinking Water: Decrease in the percentage of the U.S.
population whose drinking water does not meet national safe drinking water standards.
- Clean Air: Decrease in the percentage of population living
in cities that fail to meet air quality standards for one or more pollutants.
Sustain a healthy U.S. economy, which grows sufficiently to create
meaningful jobs, reduce poverty, and provide the opportunity for a high
quality of life for all in an increasingly competitive world.
Possible Indicators of Progress: Together with the more traditional
measures of economic prosperity, such as the Gross Domestic Product and
the unemployment rate, it is also useful to understand how wealth is
maintained and distributed. The following indicators attempt to measure
how economic prosperity is protected for future generations as well as
how it is shared among different sectors today.
- Economic Performance: Growth in GDP per capita.
- Income Equity: Ratio of the income of the top 20 percent of
the U.S. population compared with that of the bottom 20 percent.
- Poverty: Decrease in the number of children living below the
- Savings Rate: Increase in the per-capita savings rate.
- Environmental Wealth: Development by the federal government
of new measures that reflect resource depletion and environmental costs.
- Productivity: Increase in the level of per-capita production
per hour worked.
Ensure that all Americans are afforded justice and have the
opportunity to achieve material, environmental, and social well-being.
Possible Indicators of Progress: Democratic nations have long wrestled
to ensure that citizens are treated in a fair and just manner. In the
United States, equal protection under the law is a constitutionally
sanctioned right endowed upon all Americans. Measuring how well a
society allows for equal opportunities throughout its population is
extremely complex. Equally challenging is measuring "generational
equity"--how well the current generation safeguards future opportunities
for its children and grandchildren. Instead of attempting to measure
such fundamental ideas in just four or five specific indicators, the
PCSD has attempted to weave the concept of equity into each element of
CONSERVATION OF NATURE
Protect and restore the health and biological diversity of ecosystems
and ensure the availability of natural resources for future generations.
Possible Indicators of Progress: Measuring the health of natural
systems is difficult because they are complex, vary over time and space,
and have effects that can be local, regional and/or global. Most of the
following indicators focus on local and regional systems, reflecting the
Council's work on watersheds, communities, and regional ecosystems.
Additional measures are needed to reflect how well the nation is
contributing toward worldwide efforts to protect global resources.
- Vulnerable Ecosystems: Decrease in the number of ecosystems
that are vulnerable due to degradation caused by land use patterns.
This includes resources such as forests, grasslands, wetlands, and
- Conservation Status: Decrease in the amount of lost natural
systems or number of species. This includes:
- Soil loss due to erosion and chemical/biological changes in natural
systems and other lands such as agricultural lands;
- Loss of wetlands;
- Number of threatened and endangered species;
- Amount of remaining old growth forests in the United States; and
- Number of rivers listed as threatened or endangered.
- Nutrients and Toxics: Decrease in the amount of released
nutrients and toxic pollutants that endanger or harm waters.
- Exotic Species: Decrease in the ecological risks caused due
to the introduction and spread of exotic species.
Create an ethic of stewardship that encourages individuals and
institutions to take responsibility for the economic, environmental, and
social consequences of their actions.
Possible Indicators of Progress: Wise management of the wealth of
natural resources within the United States is the key to ensuring that
they will be available for future generations. Measuring resource use
is an important way of knowing how efficiently they are being used in
order to meet the material needs of daily life and economic prosperity.
- Material Consumption: Decrease in the amount of material
consumed per capita, based upon the type of material.
- Material and Residual Accumulation: Decrease in the amount
of materials released into the environment through processing loss and
- Virgin Material Use: Decrease in the amount of raw or virgin
material used, per dollar of GDP, by sector.
- Renewable Material Use: Increased market share of renewable,
recoverable, and recycled materials used.
- Water Use: Decrease in the net amount of water used compared
with its regeneration or recharge capacity.
Develop communities that generate educational and economic
opportunities for all residents and promote awareness of and public
participation in governance while enhancing a safe and healthy
Possible Indicators of Progress: Local values and priorities shape the
characteristics that contribute to strong and stable communities.
However, thriving communities across the nation share many common
traits. So do communities at risk. As a result, indicators for
communities need to allow for diversity among communities while still
recognizing national priorities.
- Violent Crime: Increase in the number of people who feel
safe in their neighborhood.
- Public Parks: Increase in the amount of urban green space or
- Public Participation: Increase in the percentage of
registered voters who cast ballots in the past two national elections.
- Investment in Future Generations: Increase in the amount of
community resources dedicated to children, including maternal care, childhood development, and K-12 education.
- Transportation Patterns: Increase in the number of average
mass transit miles per capita.
Enhance the opportunity and ability of citizens, businesses, and
communities to participate in and influence the natural resource,
environmental, and economic decisions that affect them.
Possible Indicators of Progress: Democratic societies rely upon an
engaged population of diverse individuals and institutions. Sometimes
this leads to public discourse that is based more upon competition and
divisiveness rather than on cooperation and consensus. Tracking how
free and pluralistic democracies encourage cooperative decision making
while still allowing for individual leadership and creativity will
require drawing upon knowledge beyond many traditional paradigms. The
best measures may come from studying what characteristics contribute to
building community values, public trust, and government responsiveness.
These are not easy concepts to reflect, and so indicators will evolve as
thinking in this area becomes more concrete and precise.
- Social Capital: Develop new measures that examine citizen
engagement and public trust.
- Citizen participation: Develop methods that measure
community participation in such civic activities as professional organizations, parent teacher associations, sporting leagues, and charity work.
- Collaborations: Develop methods that measure characteristics
that contribute to successful civic collaboration when developing public
Move toward stabilization of U.S. population.
Possible Indicators of Progress: Along with the more traditional
population measurements, such as estimating growth trends and carrying
capacity, it is also necessary to study the role of women within
society. Evidence has shown that as the health and status of women
improve, population pressures also become more manageable. Therefore,
indicators of progress in this area must also measure the social and
economic status of women.
- Population Growth: Decrease in the rate of population growth
in the United States and the world.
- Status of Women: Improved measures of the national and
global social and economic status of women.
- Unintended Pregnancies: Decrease in the number of unintended
pregnancies in the United States.
- Teen Pregnancies: Decrease in the number of teenage
pregnancies in the United States.
Take a leadership role in the development of global sustainable
development policies and adopt standards of conduct and U.S. trade and
foreign policies that further the achievement of sustainability.
Possible Indicators of Progress: By its sheer size, the United States
has tremendous influence over the economies and resources of the entire
planet. Our nation rests upon a tradition of global awareness that has
encouraged leadership and responsibility. While indicators for global
leadership could come in many forms, the following focus on the role of
the federal government.
- Treaty Commitments: Adherence to U.S. commitments under
international environmental and economic treaties.
- International Assistance: Level of U.S. international
assistance, including Official Development Assistance (federal money dedicated to international aid for developing nations) as a percentage of GDP.
- Environmental Assistance: U.S. contribution to the Global
Environment Facility (GEF) and other environmentally targeted
Ensure that all Americans have access to formal education and
lifelong learning opportunities that will prepare them for meaningful
work, a high quality of life, and an understanding of the concepts
involved in sustainable development.
Possible Indicators of Progress: Education for sustainable development
is lifelong through its integration into the formal and non-formal
education system, including teacher education, continuing education,
curriculum development and worker training.
- Information Access: Number of communities with
infrastructure in place that allows easy access to government
information, public and private research, and community right-to-know
- Curriculum Development: New measurements of evaluating
curricula, material, and training, based upon their adherence to the
principles of sustainable development.
- National Standards: Increase in the number of school systems
that have adopted voluntary learning standards for K-12 similar to the
standards developed under National Goals 2000.
- Community Participation: Number of school systems and
communities that have formed programs for lifelong learning both through
formal and non-formal learning institutions.
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