This is the third edition of Living With the Future in Mind, including data available through November 1, 2003. It is the first edition to be published by the New Jersey Sustainable State Institute (NJSSI). This venture began in 1995 with New Jersey Future’s Sustainable State Project, through which hundreds of New Jersey organizations and individuals came together to define goals for the state and indicators with which to track progress towards those goals. New Jersey Future (NJF) published the first edition of Living in 1999, providing a description of the process and the goals, an explanation of how each indicator contributed to sustainability, and time series data for each indicator.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) picked up the project for the second edition of Living, which they published in 2000. Through an interagency working group led by DEP, the state also identified tasks that state agencies could implement to move the state towards the sustainability goals. This work was published in 2002 as Governing With the Future in Mind. All three of these earlier reports may be accessed through the NJSSI website, https://njssi.net/goals_indicators#previous.
Over time, NJF and the Governor’s office decided that sustainability indicators and other activities stemming from the original project should be the mandate of a new organization, designed to be buffered from the advocacy perspective of NJF and the possible political pressures of state government. The result was the creation in 2002 of the New Jersey Sustainable State Institute, an independent policy group affiliated jointly with the York Center for Environmental Engineering and Science at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. The Institute was created with several purposes in mind, among them: to routinely update the sustainable state indicators; to facilitate the establishment of targets for the indicators so they can more effectively be used to guide public decision-making; and to undertake analytical work through which to assess how the state could best reach the sustainable state goals.
Through these activities, the Institute provides information that will guide both public and private organizations to decisions that move the state towards its sustainability goals.
Updating the Indicators: About this report
This is the first update of the indicators since the Institute came to life in June of 2002. For the most part, they have been maintained as the Institute received them, with no changes in the goals and only minimal changes in the indicators. This was a deliberate choice, made out of a conviction that if the indicators are to be used effectively, we must continue to track the same measures over time. These indicators derive their credibility from the public process that developed them. The Institute expects that process to reconvene in the future, to assess whether the indicators continue to be appropriate as the state evolves.
This edition of Living has changed from the earlier ones in the way the indicators are presented. The objective is to explain the patterns observed; to provide additional data on factors underlying the data, to suggest causal factors that may help interpret trends, and to shed light on the complexity of what is being measured with these seemingly-simple indicators.
This is not easy to do in a summary report. Often the report raises more questions than it answers. This is the nature of indicators, though. They show trends in what is happening, letting us understand where we have come from and where we are now. From there we can begin analyzing why things are happening, and determine what we want to do next to help move our society in the right direction.