From: Tom Atlee [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Thursday, March 11, 2004 12:59 PM
To: undisclosed list
Subject: Bioregional Stats serve Collective Intelligence
Our intelligence can only function if we have dependable information
about what's going on around us. This is as true of collective
intelligence as it is of individual intelligence.
Statistics are a vital aspect of collective intelligence in large
organizations, communities and countries. They provide informational
feedback for reflection by social systems to help them understand
what's happening and how they're doing.
However, when we choose the wrong statistics, we can get into
trouble. Jet pilots who only attend to their speed statistics --
while ignoring stats on fuel and altitude -- soon hit the ground in a
very messy way.
The same holds true for societies and communities. If we focus our
attention, for example, on how much money is spent in our society --
that is, if we give "gross domestic product" too much weight in
deciding our country's well-being -- our lives and communities can
deteriorate even though more money is being spent and that statistic
"The more statistics reflect the true needs and aspirations of the
community and the harmonious relationships between the community and
the world around it, the more co-intelligent those statistics can be
considered. [So] the movement to gather indicators of community
health, sustainability and quality of life is a vital part of
building a co-intelligent culture."
Back in 1993 I heard about citizen efforts in Seattle, WA, to create
quality of life statistics to measure the well-being of their city
http://co-intelligence.org/S-sustainableSeattle.html. Well, it turns
out that Seattle is still ahead of the curve, this time generating
statistics for the whole Northwest US/Canada bioregion -- the US
states of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho and the Canadian province of
There is no city, county, state, province, bioregion or country that
could not benefit from designing, maintaining, tracking and
publicizing statistics on their collective quality of life. It is
one of the highest-leverage tools for co-intelligent social change.
You can find more information and resources for this kind of work at
PS: In a related development, Robert Muller suggests establishing
Bioregional Universities. In addition to world, continental and
regional Universities, he suggests natural, bioregional Universities
dealing with self-contained natural regions of this planet, for
example a Pacific University, an Andean University, an Arctic
University, perhaps a World Atmospheric University, etc. (From his
Ideas And Dreams For A Better World <http://www.robertmuller.org/>:
Idea 352, 27 June 1995
_ _ _ _ _ _
SCORECARD AN ATTEMPT TO MEASURE WELL-BEING
By Eric Pryne
Wednesday, March 10, 2004
We've devised yardsticks that measure and rank the performance of just about
everything from the economy to college basketball teams.
Now the Seattle think tank Northwest Environment Watch has unveiled a
complex, ambitious new tool for charting the Northwest's well-being. Its
authors say the Cascadia Scorecard is the first attempt to meld measures of
what's really important -- economic security, healthy people, a healthy
environment -- into a single, comprehensive regional index.
Here's the surprise: On the whole, the report concludes that things are
getting better here.
In 1990, the Northwest -- Washington, Oregon, Idaho and British Columbia --
was, on average, 40 years of steady progress away from reaching the goals
the scorecard sets. In 2002 those goals were just 32 years distant.
The report says the region has made progress toward four of six goals:
improving life expectancy, containing sprawl, protecting and managing
forests, and slowing birth rates. But the economic security of the typical
resident is more tenuous, it adds, and the region is no closer to achieving
the energy-efficiency goal.
Alan Durning, Northwest Environment Watch executive director, said the
scorecard will be updated annually. He also plans to add a seventh
indicator, for pollution.
The authors write that the scorecard "reflects progress toward the
Northwest's shared aspirations of healthy, prosperous people and thriving,
unpolluted ecosystems." But some of its components are sure to be
The sprawl indicator, for instance, assumes more people living in
higher-density neighborhoods is a good thing. The forest-stewardship
indicator establishes the historically low logging levels of the late 1990s
as the standard.
"There are values implicit in the indicators we've chosen," Durning
acknowledges. "The point is, there also are values implicit in the
indicators we hear about constantly."
The closely watched gross domestic product, for instance.
"It's usually interpreted as a benchmark for how the economy is doing, but
in fact it's a summation of dollars changing hands," Durning said. "The
value it expresses is that more money is better, regardless."
Northwest Environment Watch, whose mission is to establish "an
environmentally sound economy and way of life" in the region, spent more
than two years putting together the Cascadia Scorecard.
"If you look at the process they've followed, it's been very robust," said
Steve Nicholas, director of the city of Seattle's Office of Sustainability
and the Environment.
"Potentially, there's tremendous usefulness in this. It does recognize that
all of these things are connected to each other."
For each of the six components of the index, Northwest Environment Watch
selected or constructed measures that it determined best reflected what
people want. To measure prosperity, for instance, the think tank devised a
regional "economic security index" that includes poverty and unemployment
rates and median household income.
Then the authors established "best in the world" goals. For population, for
example, it's the low fertility rate of Sweden and the Netherlands in 2001
and 2002; for sprawl, the large percentage of Vancouver, B.C.-area residents
who lived in higher-density neighborhoods in 2002.
The think tank determined, based on recent trends, how long it would take
the region as a whole to reach each of those goals. Those numbers were
averaged to create the composite index.
According to the scorecard, British Columbia is closer to the goals than the
three Northwest states for almost every indicator, and for the overall
index. The province's more-compact urban-development pattern and its wider
social safety net probably are important factors, Durning said.
Bruce Agnew of the Discovery Institute -- a more conservative Seattle think
tank -- said such comparisons within the region are the most valuable part
of the scorecard.
While Agnew said he questions some of the report's methodology, "it does
give us an independent look at how the region is changing. ... Trying to
look at all this in a more holistic, long-term way is important."
The Northwest Environment Watch:
Tom Atlee * The Co-Intelligence Institute * PO Box 493 * Eugene, OR 97440
http://www.co-intelligence.org * http://www.democracyinnovations.org
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