Community Indicators for Your Community

Real, lasting community change is built around knowing where you are, where you want to be, and whether your efforts are making a difference. Indicators are a necessary ingredient for sustainable change. And the process of selecting community indicators -- who chooses, how they choose, what they choose -- is as important as the data you select.

This is an archive of thoughts I had about indicators and the community indicators movement. Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Knowing Your Data Vital to Preservation

Najwa Lyons in a blog entry on sustainable development says, "Knowing your data is vital to preservation." Our friends in Canada certainly seem to feel that way -- they just released Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators.

From the press release:

Canada's environment continues to face challenges with respect to air and water quality and greenhouse gas emissions, according to the third annual report of environmental sustainability indicators.

The report found that the indicator of exposure to ground-level ozone, a component of smog, has increased over time.

Greenhouse gas emissions remained at nearly the same level in 2005 as in 2004, but are still significantly above 1990 levels and Canada's target under the Kyoto Protocol. However, the report found that the intensity of greenhouse gas emissions—that is, the amount emitted for each unit of economic activity—continued to decline in 2005. Nevertheless, total emissions increased over the 1990 to 2005 period, due to increased economic activity.

As in last year's report, the water quality indicator shows that guidelines for protecting aquatic life were not met, at least occasionally, at many monitoring sites across the country. Phosphorous, a pollutant derived mainly from human activities, was a major concern for the quality of surface freshwater in Canada.

The indicator results are partly due to the growing Canadian population and economy. Between 1990 and 2005, Canada's population increased by 17%, to 32.3 million. This increase, coupled with economic growth, led to greater resource use and waste production, increased greenhouse gas emissions and, in certain cases, more air and water pollution.

This release is based on highlights from the third annual report of the Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators, prepared by Environment Canada, Statistics Canada and Health Canada. A full report is scheduled for release in December 2007.

This report provides updates on four indicators in the following three areas: air quality, greenhouse gas emissions and freshwater quality. The indicators are intended to provide Canadians with more regular and consistent information on the state of the environment and how it is linked with human activities.

These indicators, first reported in 2005, have now been updated for a third year.

Environment Canada, Statistics Canada and Health Canada are working together to report and continue the development of the Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators. This effort has benefited from the cooperation and input of all the provinces and territories.

The air quality indicators track measures of Canadians' exposure to ground-level ozone and fine particulate matter.

The greenhouse gas emissions indicator tracks the annual Canadian releases of the six greenhouse gases that are the major contributors to climate change.

The freshwater quality indicator uses the Water Quality Index endorsed by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment to summarize the status of surface freshwater quality.


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