Living with the Future in Mind

Abbott Districts: The New Jersey Supreme Court ordered that educational funding for 30 poor urban districts must be assured at the level of the property-rich districts; that such funding could not depend on the ability of local school districts to tax but must instead be guaranteed by the State; and that the level of funding must also provide for their special educational needs to achieve the constitutionally required thorough and efficient education.

Agenda 21: The non-binding agreement signed by world nations at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (see Earth Summit). Agenda 21 sets out conditions and recommendations for achieving global sustainability.

Benchmark: A quantitative reference point that will be officially adopted through the Sustainable State public process for each indicator, which will operationalize the goal and against which indicators can be compared in any given year. Often confused with Indicator and Target.

Biodiversity: The variety of living organisms in an Ecosystem. (See also Diversity.)

Brundtland Commission: Officially, the World Commission on Environment and Development, charted by the United Nations and chaired by Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland. From 1984-87 it studied global environmental, economic, and social trends, and published its recommendations in the 1987 report Our Common Future, which set a global agenda for sustainability.

BTU: "British Thermal Unit," a measure of energy. Specifically, one BTU is the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit. One BTU = 0.293 watt hours = 1054 joules.

Community Water System: A water system that regularly serves at least 15 service connections or 25 year-round residents. Examples of community water systems include cities, towns, and mobile home parks.

Culture: An integrated pattern of human beliefs, values, behaviors, and institutions shared by a distinct group, the inhabitants of a region, or the citizens of a nation. Used in some contexts as a synonym for the arts and other forms of social expression.

Development: "To evolve the possibilities of" (Websterís New Collegiate Dictionary). A process of growth or change. Often used in the phrases "economic development," connoting an expansion of economic opportunities and jobs, and "sustainable development," referring to economic and social changes that promote human prosperity and quality of life without causing ecological or social damage. Sometimes confused with Growth.

Diversity: Difference and variety. Diversity is an essential component of sustainable cultural, ecological, and economic systems because it makes them more resilient and adaptable to changes.

Earth Summit: The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, or UNCED (the "Earth Summit") held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992. The Earth Summit was the largest gathering of heads of state in world history.

Economic Development: See Development.

Economy: Originally, the "management of a household." More commonly today, the system of production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services in the larger scale.

Ecosystem: An ecological system, a natural unit of living and nonliving components that interact to form a system in which a cyclic interchange of materials takes place between living and nonliving units. (from Dictionary of Biology, Edwin Steen)

Efficiency: The most standard definition is the ratio of effective or useful output to the total input of any system, whether this is the energy delivered to run a machine or the natural resources consumed to produce products. Economists have taken a different tack and define "efficiency" as socially optimal resource allocation.

Endangered Species: Species whose populations and habitat have declined to the point where extinction is imminent, requiring significant human intervention to protect habitat to preserve them (as defined by the Endangered Species Act). (See also Species.)

Environment: "The circumstances, objects, or conditions by which one is surrounded" (Websterís). Often used to refer only to natural Ecosystems apart from human settlement. Environment is more accurately understood to include other natural and human-made physical conditions.

Equity: The dictionary defines equity as fairness, freedom from bias, or favoritism. However, one must keep in mind that a fair process can yield unequal results.

Global Forum: The 1992 meeting of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Rio de Janeiro, which ran parallel to the meeting of governments at the Earth Summit. NGO participants signed a set of "Citizen Treaties" that went far beyond the agreements made by governments in Agenda 21.

Growth: Increase or expansion. Used in the phrase "economic growth" to mean an expansion in production, jobs, and revenue. Often confused with Development, which does not necessarily include the idea of physical increase in size.

Indicator: A measurement that reflects the status of a system. Examples: the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the number of spotted owls in a forest ecosystem, an oil pressure gauge on an engine.

NEPPS: National Environmental Performance Partnership System. State-Federal partnership system designed to foster identification of state environmental priorities and goals and to allow states to better direct federal resources to address those priorities through the use of environmental indicators as measures of progress in environmental quality. New Jersey was one of the first states in the nation to implement this environmental management system and is currently engaged in its third plan with the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Noncommunity water system: Noncommunity water systems do not serve permanent residents. There are two types of these systems: transient noncommunity systems and nontransient noncommunity systems. A transient noncommunity water system serves at least 25 people per day, but the people are different each day (e.g., highway rest stop, motel). A nontransient noncommunity water system serves at least 25 of the same persons over 6 months a year (i.e., office building, school).

Non-renewable: Finite in quantity. Fossil fuels like gasoline are considered "non-renewable resources" because they exist only in limited amounts and their disappearance is essentially permanent. (See also Resources and Renewable.)

Our Common Future: The report of the Brundtland Commission, which linked economic development to alleviate poverty with environmental protection to prevent ecological catastrophe. The report defined Sustainable Development as that which "meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

Particulate matter: Particulate matter is the general term used for a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. These particles originate from many different stationary and mobile sources as well as from natural sources. They range in size from about 0.005 micrometers to 50-100 micrometers in diameter (a human hair is approximately 70 micrometers in diameter). Particles smaller than 10 micrometers (PM10) can be inhaled into the lungs and particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers (PM 2.5) are thought to have the greatest impact on human health.

Per Capita: Latin for "by heads." A measurement that is presented in terms of units per person, as opposed to a total or aggregate figure.

Renewable: Able to be continually replenished. Rainwater, solar and hydro-electricity, and human creativity are all considered to be Renewable Resources. (See also Resources and Non-renewable.)

Resources: "A source of supply or support; available means" (Websterís). The energy and materials used to support an Economy and fulfill human needs and desires. (See also Renewable and Nonrenewable).

Riparian: Refers to land adjacent to a river, watercourse, or body of water.

Society: From a Latin root meaning "companion." Society in the broadest sense refers to the entirety of a community, the whole web of living relationships among people, their Culture, and their Environment.

Species: A biological classification referring to a group of organisms that share similar traits and genetic codes and that are capable of interbreeding.

Sustainability: "Long-term health and vitality: economic, environmental, and social" (New Jersey Futureís definition). Achieving and maintaining sustainability is the implicit goal of every human society.

Sustainable: Able to endure over time. A sustainable society is one that is just, healthy, vital, resilient, and able to creatively adapt to changing conditions over the long term. (See also Development and Our Common Future.)

System: A set of actors or entities bound together by a set of rules and relationships into a unified whole. A systemís health is dependent on the health of the whole pattern, which can sometimes be reflected (and thus measured) in the status of a key part of the system (See Indicator).

Target: A desired level of achievement. In this report, some of the indicator pages include quantitative targets adopted by state agencies through public processes; these are considered ambitious yet achievable performance levels.

Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT): A unit to measure vehicle travel made by a private vehicle, such as an automobile, van, pickup truck, or motorcycle. Each mile traveled is counted as one vehicle mile regardless of the number of persons in the vehicle.

Watershed: A geographical area whose boundaries are determined by the flows of water following gravity to a principal tributary, river, or body of water. Watersheds may be of many different scales, from relatively small to very large.

Wetlands Loss: In this report, wetlands loss is defined as conversion of wetlands to other land types.