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.


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.


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.


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 its work.


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.


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.


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 environment.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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