Are We There Yet?

September 26, 2013

Defining and Tracking Sustainability Goals for New Jersey

By 2050, demographers predict as many as 10 billion human beings will walk the earth, 3 billion more than today. While this will bring about many challenges, the greatest is that there will not be enough food to feed everyone.

Ana Baptista, Ph.D., Director of Environmental and Planning Programs for the Ironbound Community Corporation, responds to the Social Capital & Equity Sustainability Brief.

Dr. Mathis Wackernagel, co-creator of the Ecological Footprint and the keynote speaker at last week’s Sustainable Jersey Sustainability Summit, cited this and other evidence that we should take a radical turn to live within the means of nature.  Clear indicators are ignored and pushed under the carpet; while many people just express defeat and say we are doomed.

I am pleased to report some good news.  Nearly 200 people attended (with many more on a waiting list) the Sustainable Jersey Sustainability Summit to help define clear goals for the future of sustainability in New Jersey.  Attendees included sustainability experts, academics, state and local agency representatives, community members and Sustainable Jersey Green Team and Task Force members.

Given the enormity of the many unsustainable trends, it is important that the leadership and participants of Sustainable Jersey contemplate if the program is doing enough and decide if we are taking actions that are meaningful and will make an impact in moving us toward a societal transition to sustainability.

Over the past five years, Sustainable Jersey has worked with public and private partners to create local best practices for over 100 sustainability actions, committed over one million in small grants, and watched as nearly 400 municipalities pledged to join our movement. Perhaps most impressive is that hundreds of communities have created teams comprised of municipal staff and volunteers (Green Teams) dedicated to pursuing sustainable development. Collectively these communities have implemented well over 4,000 documented sustainability initiatives.

Now we want to create clear goals for the future sustainability of New Jersey that are performance based. It is the first step in our effort to define a vision of sustainability and develop a system to track progress. We believe this will lend intellectual rigor to our work and will lift our spirits as it brings into focus the reasons why this activity matters.

Sustainable Jersey Sustainability Summit

Sustainability Briefs

Prior to the Summit, we worked with our Task Forces to identify 15 overreaching sustainability issues and topics.  We provided the Summit attendees briefing papers called ‘Sustainability Briefs’ in advance on these key topics that summarize research, goals and proposed direction for New Jersey and the region.  I encourage you to read the papers and provide comments on them.

Sustainability Briefs: Agriculture (Feedback Sheet); Air Quality (Feedback Sheet); Biodiversity & Habitat (Feedback Sheet); Climate Change Adaptation and Natural Hazards (Feedback Sheet); Economic Competitiveness (Feedback Sheet); Energy (Feedback Sheet); Indoor Environmental Health Hazards (Feedback Sheet); Public Wellness (Feedback Sheet); Natural Systems and Consumption (Feedback Sheet); Social Capital (Feedback Sheet); Water Availability (Feedback Sheet); Water Infrastructure (Feedback Sheet); Water Quality and Watershed Integrity (Feedback Sheet).  Please email all Feedback Sheets to and visit the Sustainability Brief webpage for more information.

The Sustainability Summit represents the beginning of the collaborative enterprise needed to ensure a sustainable future. We thank everyone that participated for lending their time and talents to this endeavor.

For more about Sustainable Jersey®:

Sustainable Jersey staff and partners are regular contributors to the Dodge blog

Images courtesy Sustainable Jersey