Chapter 8 - Measuring Sustainability

Part 3 - Sustainability: Strategies for Monitoring Progress

The complexities of measuring sustainability developments are countered by the usefulness of the information and positive results that can be achieved. We value what we measure. Measuring adds to the valuing of our concerns and an understanding of where our energies for a more sustainable future should be placed. Development of a reliable system of markers and indicators of sustainability has shown the ability to improve quality of life and quality of the environment. To effect change, we have to know what to change, and by how much. We have to be able to better understand the complex systems that dominate nature and societies, and these markers can help in that understanding.

Measuring allows for accommodation of scale. Worldwide problems are aggregations of individual and community behaviors, that have become globalized in their practice and impacts. Measuring provides a mirror of ourselves, and in that refection we can often see the opportunity for a better path — one that takes a foothold in the future while we live in the present. We do have choices, as individuals, as communities, as nations. We need to be smart in the choices we make, and measuring our world can only make us smarter.

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  • sustainability
  • measuring sustainability
  • indicators
  • target value
  • quantitative indicators
  • administrative indicators
  • thresholds
  • outcomes
  • failure analysis


Suggested Reading

  1. United Nations. The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2011


(Photo credit: UN Photo)