On Oct. 9, the Quality of Life Indicators Report was released. An excellent tool for initiating dialogue, the report has shown time after time, it truly can be difficult to measure perceptions related to the 10 indicators. It is that challenge I would like to ask you to help us address.
Roles were reversed when I chased down Times Staff Writer Bowdeya Tweh, to ask if I could quote him! As a panel member representing young professionals, Bo shared that his family emphasized that “positive messages begin at home." Tim Stoner, another young professional representing the agriculture community, stated, “Trends are our friends."
Granted they weren’t specifically referring to the perception of our environmental quality; however, their comments support my concern that we need to continue and intensify our efforts to educate the residents of Northwest Indiana that the environment has in fact improved.
Regularly accused of being a Pollyanna, I do prefer to see my glass as half full. I see significant regional environmental progress and choose only to reflect on history, not dwell on it.
As is often the case with statistical reports, the report focused upon historical data from 2000 to 2010. Unfortunately, the data collected during 2010 to 2012 was not used.
During 2012, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management issued a number of reports that outlined in words, numbers and charts the significant air, water and solid waste improvements statewide. Using a process to provide a grading system based upon scientific data, Northwest Indiana received air quality grades of A’s and B’s in multiple categories. None of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency air quality standards were violated over a multi-year period.
Yet the report asks, “How can we better understand the reasons for Northwest Indiana’s poor air quality and track progress toward cleaner air?” With confusing messages and commentary, is it any wonder that we can’t shake our negative attitudes and focus on actual recorded progress?
There are numbers – based on scientifically, technically and legally sound measurements – that can be used to track our improved environmental conditions in Northwest Indiana. Northwest Indiana residents can take pride and comfort in our improvements.
Whhile I agree with the report’s recommendations that the suite of environmental indicators should be expanded, we must use the tools we do have to create the critical base on which to build. It doesn't hurt to add new tools that monitor improvements, though we must be careful to present ideas or questions that can in fact be measured in a quantifiable fashion. Not doing so unfortunately perpetuates the negative impression we have of our region’s environment.
In my April column, I asked readers to share their thoughts on our environment. To date, two individuals responded to my request. Again, I ask for your input. What suggestions would you have that reflect ways to measure environmental improvements beyond the data collected year-round? Please share them with me at firstname.lastname@example.org
To conclude, I again quote Bo: “All of us are stewards of this report” -- and that includes all the indicators. So do your part to improve our quality of life in Northwest Indiana. I look forward to hearing from you.
Kay Nelson is director of environmental affairs for the Northwest Indiana Forum. The opinion expressed in this column is the writer's.