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Linking Science and Technology to Society's Environmental Goals
lawyers, planners, public information specialists, and political appointees who comprise most agencies. The selection process involves many trade-offs and pit-falls because of the limits of technical understanding and data quality, and because of the value-laden aspects involved in deciding what is important enough to measure or report and at what level of aggregation.
Given the ambiguity in defining "environmental quality" and the limited understanding of the relationships among changes in environmental conditions, a vast amount of information is potentially relevant, or potentially misleading. Some state-of-the-environment reports are filled with data tables of significance primarily to experts. To meet an agency's goal of providing an informative document for the lay reader, however, many reports simplify the indicators, focusing either on only a few that are relatively easy to understand, or compressing numerous measures into a few aggregated indexes. The target audience for many of these reports is the state legislature, journalists, and the heads of the constituency groups who influence public opinion.
The state and federal employees working on environmental indicator projects are wrestling with the competing demands for technical integrity, objectivity, simplicity, and impact. Occasionally, a single indicator can meet all of these criteria, as does the famous "Bernie Fowler Sneaker Index," n named for the Maryland senator who annually leads crowds of waders into Chesapeake Bay to measure the clarity of the water, an indicator of its nutrient loading. The illustration below (Figure 1) shows how EPA's Chesapeake Bay Program used that indicator as an educational tool to explain why nutrients are a problem. The illustration also shows how an indicator can be used as the basis for defining a measurable environmental goal: in this case, making it possible for Bernie to see his sneakers in chest-deep water.
Environmental Goals and Benchmarks: Minnesota's "Milestones"
States and EPA are embracing the idea of adding a target or goal to the trend lines featured in the state-of-the-environment reports. These measurable environmental goals are gaining popularity as tools to help guide state policy. The first table in the appendix titled "State Activities: Comparative Risk, Indicators, and Goals," based on a table compiled by the Florida Center for Public Management under cooperative agreement with EPA,8 shows which states have started or completed these initiatives. The appendix also includes several pages from state reports showing indicators and goals at work.
Two state projects in particular have become models for numerous initiatives around the country: Oregon's "Benchmarks," and Minnesota's "Milestones." Minnesota Governor Arne H. Carlson initiated the Milestones project in 1991 with the assertion that "defining a shared vision, setting goals and measuring results will lead to a better future for Minnesota's people."9 According to the project's 1992 report, hundreds of Minnesotans contributed to the project's vision