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Living with the Future in Mind
Goals and Indicators for New Jersey's Quality of Life
First Annual Update to the Sustainable State Project Report 2000
What is Sustainable Development?
Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

- The United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development

(The Brundtland Commission)

"Sustainability," or "sustainable development," means protecting the resources and systems that support us today so that they will be available to future generations. In short, it means preserving our civilization and the things we hold dear in perpetuity while enhancing our quality of life.

The symbol on this page represents a sustainable state. Each ring represents one of the three systems that support humanity: the economy, the environment, and our society. Each of these rings overlaps the other two. To be sustainable – that is, to have a dignified and prosperous human civilization in the future – each of these systems must be healthy and in balance. We cannot degrade any one of the systems that supports us without adversely affecting the other two.

This is the essence of sustainable living. Beautiful beaches mean little if you cannot afford to get there. A good job doesn’t mean much if you have to worry about your safety on the walk home. A safe, friendly neighborhood isn’t a haven if its air is not breathable.

Sacrificing the future to benefit the present is the opposite of sustainability. As shown in the symbol at the top of this page, when all three systems are healthy and in balance, our state and our civilization will be healthy, just, and efficient.

The terms "sustainability" and "sustainable development" were coined in the early 1980s to describe the goal of joining economic development and ecological health. In its 1987 report, Our Common Future, the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development offered five key concepts that crystallized sustainability:

The needs of the future must not be sacrificed to the demands of the present.
Humanity’s economic future is linked to the integrity of natural systems.
The present world system is not sustainable because it is not meeting the needs of many, especially the poor.
Protecting the environment is impossible unless we improve the economic prospects of the Earth’s poorest peoples.
We must act to preserve as many options as possible for future generations, since they have the right to determine their own needs for themselves.

The Sustainable State Project

While the concept of sustainability received significant international attention as early as the 1980s, its importance has only more recently been acknowledged in the United States. In fact, New Jersey’s Sustainable State Project is the first of its kind in the United States.

Our first steps toward sustainability began with a trip to the Netherlands in 1994. There, New Jersey policy makers got their first look at sustainable development efforts in action. In particular, they saw the Netherlands’ success in building consensus around goals, and involving business and private citizens in the realization of those goals.

The desire to take steps to create a Sustainable New Jersey was then articulated at the first Sustainable State Leadership Conference in 1995, co-hosted by the State of New Jersey and New Jersey Future at Princeton University. Nearly 200 leaders from business, the environmental movement, civic groups, and academia met to start the official process of bringing sustainable development to New Jersey.

That conference provided the impetus for a broad public process to create the goals and indicators outlined in Living with the Future in Mind. These goals and indicators received extensive public review in statewide conferences, regional workshops, and countless small working sessions before they were officially accepted.

Living with the Future in Mind outlines what is necessary to achieve sustainability and lays out a clear way to track our progress. It has created a starting point for discussions about achieving a Sustainable State. 

               Sustainable New Jersey: A Year of Action

Over the past year, the effort to make New Jersey a Sustainable State has steadily gained momentum. Living with the Future in Mind provides a conceptual basis for New Jersey to become a Sustainable State, a picture of what it will look like when we get there. Government and private partners are no longer treating sustainability as simply the "buzzword of the day," but are developing real, implementable strategies to make it happen.

Sustainability Executive Order

On May 20, 1999, at the New Jersey Future Sustainable State Conference, Governor Whitman signed Executive Order No. 96. E.O. 96 endorsed Living with the Future in Mind’s 11 goals and 41 indicators, noting that they "offer valuable practical guidance to the State of New Jersey in our efforts to achieve long-term sustainability for the benefit of current and future generations." The Governor’s Executive Order directed state departments to:

a. Pursue, as appropriate, policies which comport with the 11 sustainability goals outlined in New Jersey Future’s Living With the Future in Mind report.

b. Collaborate in the exchange of information among departments and agencies, and establish institutional mechanisms to encourage and facilitate achievement of these goals.

c. Report to the Governor on June 1, 2000, and every year thereafter, on their progress toward goal attainment.

Sustainable State Working Group

To move forward with Executive Order No. 96, an Interagency Sustainable State Working Group, composed of representatives from all Cabinet departments, other commissions and agencies, and New Jersey Future, was created. Governor Whitman asked Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Robert C. Shinn, Jr. to lead the efforts of this Interagency Group.

This updated report and the forthcoming companion report, Governing with the Future in Mind, are the products of the Interagency Group’s effort. The original Sustainable State Review Committee, including representatives from business, environmental, and civic groups, also contributed to this report. The Interagency Group will continue its work of coordinating policies and strategies developed to achieve sustainability.

Sustainable Business Conference

Over 300 business leaders from large and small firms attended the first annual New Jersey Sustainable Business Conference on April 18, 2000. This conference highlighted successful business efforts in the area of sustainable development and laid the groundwork for future initiatives. Many conference participants walked away with a newfound awareness that it is possible for business to be socially responsible, to go beyond strict compliance with environmental law, and to be highly profitable at the same time.

Goal-based Agency Strategic Plans

Several state agencies, acting in accordance with the concept of comprehensive goal-based planning, have adopted their own strategic plans. These plans often contain goals that are identical to or that support the Sustainable State Project goals. They also contain indicators of progress toward goals that were developed with considerable public input. Examples of comprehensive goal-based plans are the Department of Environmental Protection’s Strategic Plan and 1999/2000 National Environmental Performance Partnership System (NEPPS) plan; the Department of Transportation’s Statewide Long-Range Transportation Plan, Transportation Choices 2020; and the 2000 edition of the Department of Health and Senior Services’ Healthy New Jersey 2010. Many of the quantitative targets provided for the indicators in this Sustainable State report were made available through these agency strategic plans.

Governing with the Future in Mind

Governor Whitman’s Executive Order No. 96 requires state agencies to develop and implement strategies – or in some cases refine existing strategies – to support sustainability.

The creation of a Sustainable State will not happen overnight, nor will one strategy, action, or decision be the magic elixir. Rather, it will be a long-term process involving sets of interconnected strategies and actions. The involved stakeholders will make continual corrections and adjustments. The important point is that all parties communicate and cooperate.

A number of State agencies are pursuing various strategies that specifically support New Jersey Sustainable State efforts. Through these strategies, statewide improvements in one or more of the three spheres – environment, economy, and society – will be attained. To succeed, most of these strategies will require both interagency coordination and partnerships with other levels of government and private and nonprofit entities.

These strategies will be outlined in Governing with the Future in Mind. This report will be the product of the State’s first attempt to develop cross-agency strategies for achieving sustainability goals. A substantial interagency effort will be required for its development and publication. The report is expected to be released in March 2001.

The primary focus of Governing with the Future in Mind will be the initiatives undertaken by state agencies in the quest for sustainability, and it will include:

Discussions of comprehensive sustainability efforts and projects that will affect nearly every goal and involve a number of agencies. (For example: the State Development and Redevelopment Plan.)
Descriptions on a goal-by-goal basis of broad-based state agency strategies that will contribute to the realization of sustainability and affect other Sustainable State Project goals in the process. (For example, a particular strategy may be primarily designed to advance Economic Vitality but may also have a significant effect on Equity.)
Recommendations on the institutionalization of the Sustainable State Goals and Indicators in New Jersey.
Recommendations for changes and additions to the list of indicators in Living with the Future in Mind.

Examples of some of the broad-based strategies that are currently or projected to significantly affect sustainability follow.

Land Use Management Initiatives

In Living with the Future in Mind, it was noted that "a sustainable state cannot be achieved without tackling land use." Efforts in this area over the past year include:

Enacting the "Garden State Preservation Trust Act" to establish a stable source of funding and the procedural framework for open space preservation.
Implementing various aspects of the State Development and Redevelopment Plan (State Plan) including:
  Establishing State Agency Implementation Teams to coordinate agency programs and initiatives with the goals and objectives of the State Plan
  Awarding $2.4 million in 21 Smart Growth Planning Grants to assist 92 municipalities and seven counties in devising strategies to curb sprawl;
  Aligning state regulations, including the Coastal Area Facility Review Act (CAFRA), regulations, with the goals and objectives of the State Plan;
  Establishing the Sustainable Development/Affordable Housing Pilot Program, designed to promote affordable, energy-efficient housing;
  Introducing the Transit Village Program to create development centered around passenger rail and bus stations and to help communities to leverage more private-sector investment;
  Promoting community design strategies that incorporate compact, mixed use development, through publications such as Designing New Jersey.

Greenhouse Gas Sustainability Action Plan

This plan commits the State to pursue energy conservation, pollution prevention, innovative technologies, recycling, solid waste management, and natural resource protection strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 3.5 percent below 1990 levels (about 20 million tons annual reduction) by the year 2005 across all sectors. This plan, the first of its kind in the nation, was unveiled in April 2000.

Energy Deregulation

"The Electric Discount and Energy Competition Act" (EDECA) of 1999 promotes the use of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies such as photovoltaics, wind energy, and fuel cells to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Act established a new Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Fund for energy efficiency programs and renewable energy technologies over and above the current programs.

Greening the Economy

The New Jersey Office of Sustainable Business, created in 1997, is the first such office in the country. The Office administers a multi-million dollar Sustainable Development Loan Fund to assist firms in the green sector of the economy. The Office is also developing policies to encourage state government to purchase more sustainable products and services. In April 2000, the Office released Greening the Garden State, which profiles 300 firms with green products and services in New Jersey’s energy, remanufacturing, agriculture, and chemical sectors.

Water Resource Protection and Smart Growth

In June 2000, the Department of Environmental Protection proposed water quality and watershed management rules linking enhanced protection of water quality and quantity to smart growth and sustainable development.

Quality Education for All Students

A number of fundamental reforms to public education in New Jersey are being implemented. These include statewide implementation of the Core Curriculum Content and Cross-Content Workplace Readiness Standards and development of an assessment system aligned to the new standards for the fourth and eighth grade tests in Language Arts Literacy and Science. In addition, Whole School Reform has been implemented in the Abbott Districts. Also, effective September 2000, all licensed teachers must obtain 100 hours of professional development over five years.

Crime Reduction Efforts

Initiatives have been implemented to improve the safety of New Jersey residents. One strategy builds upon and institutionalizes community-based anti-crime programs that invite the participation of citizens and make use of "problem solving" policing strategies. The pilot Drug Court Initiative Program enables drug and alcohol-dependent offenders to participate in treatment programs aiming to reduce recidivism.

The various initiatives described above demonstrate the momentum in New Jersey toward sustainability.

 Challenges and Opportunities

It is always a challenge to ensure that strategies designed to implement a plan remain faithful to that plan’s guiding vision. This is especially true for a plan as complex and far-reaching as the Sustainable State Project, which requires the participation and coordination of many parties, including state and local governments, private businesses, and non-profit organizations. Indeed, its success demands the participation and input of all New Jersey residents.

Measuring our progress towards sustainability is a major challenge. Proper and adequate data collection, assessment, and management are essential. In addition, each of the 41 indicators in Living with the Future in Mind has limitations and associated knowledge gaps. A lack of quality information can substantially inhibit the utility of this approach.

A significant number of the knowledge gaps in Living with the Future in Mind still remain and have been carried through to this report. As we learn more about what is required for us to be a Sustainable State, we will need to better track and assess the trends that will measure the progress of New Jersey’s sustainability efforts.

Another challenge lies in maintaining the strength of the public-private partnership that this report represents. The ongoing participation of state and local government agencies, private businesses, and nonprofit organizations will be necessary. It is clear that controversial decisions will be made that will not please everyone. As we move forward, we must ensure that the goals and indicators are created and debated in an open, public, and fair process. Such a process provides the best opportunities for fostering creative ideas and finding "win-win" solutions.

Because sustainability is a constantly evolving concept, new ideas and strategies will be proposed.  As we gain a better knowledge of the most effective strategies to achieve sustainability, it will often necessary to make corrections.  The challenge is to remain flexible, monitor results, change strategies as necessary, and then move forward.

Proceeding in this manner offers not only challenges and opportunities, but allows new ideas to flourish. For example, in the past, environmental protection often called for a rigid command and control regulatory structure. However, a new results-based paradigm uses the Sustainable State Goals to allow more flexibility. Known in New Jersey as the Flexible Track Regulatory Program (or the "Silver" and "Gold" Tracks), this program combines strong enforcement with flexibility for those in the regulated community who display continued evidence of compliance, and provides additional flexibility for those willing to go beyond compliance. This approach promises to be even more protective of the environment and at the same time more economically efficient.

The pursuit of sustainability, in many cases, will provide opportunities to "think outside the box." It will offer a forum for new ideas that otherwise might not be considered. During the process, as state  agencies and others pursue strategies necessary to achieve sustainability, New Jersey residents will enjoy an improved quality of life.

 

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