Rates and directions of change should become the focused goals for current actions with end points as the tools for motivation (not just one-time goals). Both a desired end point and a rate-of-change are needed in order for society to be successful in achieving its goals. Without an end point, it can be difficult to mobilize the political will to take action; without a predetermined rate-of-change, it can be difficult to establish the specific actions needed to achieve the desired end point.
Rather than stopping at the selected specific end points being discussed in the federal government and elsewhere, environmental goals should be formulated in terms of an adjustable strategy for continuous evolutionary improvement in environmental performance, including intermediate milestones.
The committee has had some difficulty in getting its hands around such a large, amorphous issue as the environment, but it hopes that it has made a credible effort to advance the discussion of the role of science and technology in defining and addressing society's environmental objectives. The major disadvantage of the effort is that the forum format, with its relatively limited time frame, at best permits only a first cut at these issues. Nevertheless, the committee believes that this report will be an important guidebook for both the scientific and policy communities and a starting point for further deliberations.