Environmental Indicator Efforts
The growing field of environmental indicators and sustainability criteria are drawn upon heavily for the Calvert-Henderson Environment Indicator, including data on planetary ecosystems, the crucial role of biodiversity, and effect of human activities on the ozone layer and climate. We recommend the following for anyone who wishes to delve further into this topic:
Global and National Ecosystems
The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment focuses on ecosystem services, the effect of changes in ecosystem services on human wellbeing, how ecosystem changes may affect people in future decades, and possible options at local, national, or global scales to improve ecosystem management. The report is the result of an international process involving experts from over 95 countries. It was released in 2005 and is expected to be repeated every 5-10 years.
The Living Planet Report, coauthored by our Advisory Board expert, Mathis Wackernagel who is also the co-creator of the Ecological Footprint, describes the changing state of global biodiversity and the pressure on the biosphere arising from human consumption of natural resources. It is built around two indicators: the Living Planet Index, which reflects the health of the planet’s ecosystems; and the Ecological Footprint, which shows the extent of human demand on these ecosystems. The report provides a quantitative measure of the human use of ecological resources by countries and communities around the world.
The Heinz Center’s report on the State of the Nation’s Ecosystems is a comprehensive report on the condition of the lands, waters and living resources of the United States. The report was first issued in 2002 and has been partially updated each year since then. The next full report is expected out in 2007. Developing the report has been a broad based, nonpartisan effort funded by foundations, corporations and the US federal government and done with input from a wide variety of experts from universities, government agencies, corporations, and environmental organizations. The report also highlights key gaps in data that must be filled to allow a complete picture of ecosystem conditions.
A comprehensive look at environmental quality in the US can be found in the US Environmental Protection Agency’s State of the Environment report released as a draft in 2003 with a new report due out in 2007.
The EPA’s Air Trends web site is a comprehensive source of information on air quality data for the United States. The US Air Trend Reports section includes pdf versions of annual air quality reports dating back to 1994 and includes information on ordering reports from years prior to 1994. The Where You Live section of the site uses interactive maps to show location specific trend information for the six criteria pollutants and shows where monitoring is occuring. The Green Book portion of the EPA web site has detailed information about the regulations on the criteria pollutants and information about nonattainment areas, those places were air quality standards are routinely not met.
The EPA also has extensive information on water quality. The best place to start is on their Surf Your Watershed web site. Reports such as the National Water Quality Inventory and the National Coastal Condition Report can be found on the EPA’s Water Quality Reporting site.
Another source of information about water quality is the US Geological Survey. Their National Water-Quality Assessment Program and related Data Warehouse site include extensive information on water quality issues.
The Heinz Center’s report on the State of the Nation’s Ecosystems, mentioned above, is the most comprehensive report on the condition of the lands, waters and living resources of the United States. One source of nformation that the Heinz Center drew on was the work of the four Sustainable Resource oundtables for the US, which are developing a better understanding of the information needed for sustainable management of our natural resources. The four Roundtables are: the Roundtable on Sustainable Forests, the Sustainable Rangelands Roundtable, the Sustainable Water Resources Roundtable, and the Sustainable Minerals Roundtable. Based on the work of the Forest Roundtable, the US Forest produced a National Report on Sustainable Forests in 2003.
Information about the amount of water used in the US can be found at the USGS 50 Years of Water Use site. The USGS National Water Information System web site contains information about stream flows including some real time stream flow information. Where all that water comes from is the content of the US National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center which, despite the name, actually includes a lot of information about what happened in the past.
The US Department of Agriculture’s National Resource Conservation Service has maps and data on a wide array of natural resource information including the National Resource Inventory, which has information on land use and natural resource conditions and trends on U.S. non-Federal lands. The USDA also maintains the National Agricultural Statistics Survey with information on crops and economics related to farming. Another source of data from the USDA is the Economic Research Service.
An excellent source of information on climate change and its effects on ecosystems is the Union of Concerned Scientists’s Global Warming web site, which includes maps showing what climate migration may do to ecosystems in the US.
Corporate/Business Environmental Efforts
The Corporate Registry web site has copies of and links to the reports of companies in many industries on their environmental efforts. The types of reports include Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), sustainability, environmental and social reports. Many of the reports use the Global Reporting Initiative or GRI standard for reporting. The development of GRI was lead by Ceres, a network of investors, environmental organizations and other public interest groups working with companies and investors to address sustainability challenges such as global climate change. The Ceres web site has a number of useful reports on corporate and investor environmental and sustainability activities.
Traditional Infrastructure, Smart Growth and Green Infrastructure
The Department of Transportation Bureau of Transportation Statistics has extensive information about how people and products move about the country and the amount of energy required to move them. Information about the roads that are used to transport the people and products can be found in the Federal Highway Administration’s Highway Statistics reports.
Roads are part of the grey infrastructure in a community. The other important type of infrastructure is the green kind. The US Forest Service and the Conservation Fund maintain a web site sepecifically on Green Infrastructure, which is an interconnected network of protected land and water that supports native species, maintains natural ecological processes, sustains air and water resources and contributes to the health and quality of life for America’s communities and people.
There are several good sources of information on smart growth – ways that communities can develop with less impact on our natural resources.The Smart Growth Network maintains the Smart Growth online web site. The Smarth Growth America holds an annual meeting for a coalition of organizations working on smart growth. The US EPA has a Smart Growth web site with information about grants available to communities. Finally, the Sprawlwatch Clearinghouse has links and lists of publications about smart growth and green infrastructure.
At the global and national scale, two excellent sources of information on ecological footprinting are The Living Planet Report and the Ecological Footprint mentioned above. At a local level, a number of communities have developed local footprint measures with Santa Monica and Sonoma County as examples.
Solid and Hazardous Waste and Emissions
The US EPA has several programs that collect and provide information on waste streams in the US. The Municipal Solid Waste program has information on general waste or garbage from residences and businesses in communities as well as links to information about recycling. The Toxics Release Inventory provides information about waste streams from industries