Indicators of Sustainable Development for Central Asia Countries

Indicators of Sustainable Development

Sustainable development is a pattern of resource use that aims to meet human needs while preserving the environment so that these needs can be met not only in the present, but also for generations to come. Sustainable development ties together concern for the carrying capacity of natural systems with the social challenges facing humanity.

Environmental sustainability is the process of making sure current processes of interaction with the environment are pursued with the idea of keeping the environment as pristine as naturally possible based on ideal-seeking behavior.

Environmental indicators

Environmental indicators are simple measures that tell us what is happening in the environment. Since the environment is very complex, indicators provide a more practical and economical way to track the state of the environment than if we attempted to record every possible variable in the environment. For example, concentrations of ozone depleting substances (ODS) in the atmosphere, tracked over time, is a good indicator with respect to the environmental issue of stratospheric ozone depletion.

Environmental indicators have been defined in different ways but common themes exist.

An environmental indicator is a numerical value that helps provide insight into the state of the environment or human health. Indicators are developed based on quantitative measurements or statistics of environmental condition that are tracked over time. Environmental indicators can be developed and used at a wide variety of geographic scales, from local to regional to national levels.

A parameter or a value derived from parameters that describe the state of the environment and its impact on human beings, ecosystems and materials, the pressures on the environment, the driving forces and the responses steering that system. An indicator has gone through a selection and/or aggregation process to enable it to steer action.

Environmental indicators are used by governments, non-government organizations, community groups and research institutions to see if environmental objectives are being met, to communicate the state of the environment to the general public and decision makers and as a diagnostic tool through detecting trends in the environment.

Individual indicators are designed to translate complex information in a concise and easily understood manner in order to represent a particular phenomenon (e.g. ambient air quality). In contrast, indicator systems (or collections of indicators), when seen as a whole are meant to provide an assessment of the full environment domain or a major subset of it (e.g. forests).

Some indicator systems have evolved to include many indicators and require a certain level of knowledge and expertise in various disciplines to fully grasp. A number of methods have been devised in the recent past to boil down this information and allow for rapid consumption by those who do not have the time or the expertise to analyse the full set of indicators. In general these methods can be categorized as numerical aggregation (e.g. indices), short selections of indicators (e.g. core set or headline indicators), short visual assessments (e.g. arrows, traffic signals), and compelling presentations (e.g. maps or the dashboard of sustainability).