Social and biological indicators of sustainability

Social and biological indicators of sustainability can be used to encourage individual and organizational stakeholders in a natural resource to act in ways that promote ecological, economic, and social health. We hypothesize that regular monitoring and reporting of such indicators may improve resilience in the complex human-environment system by improving stakeholder perception of ecological change, enhancing learning, and facilitating the process of adaptive management over time. This expectation arises for two reasons related to psychological framing: First, an explicit link between pollutant controls and measurable indicators will frame the sustainability issue in terms of "property rights." Second, well-designed indicators are more easily remembered and processed and may link more easily to personal aspirations. There is evidence to suggest that both effects are likely to motivate stakeholders to act in ways that promote sustainability. We anticipate that the results of our work in this area will be used to design regulatory frameworks, especially in the energy domain, that ensure environmental protection while exploiting economic efficiencies and addressing social justice concerns.

Faculty contact: Mark E. Borsuk