Indicators and OrientatorsIndicators serve to make visible what is happening in a given context (spatial and temporal) and to assess any change process. Orientators, therefore, are needed to identify the indicators.
Orientators serve to determine the directions of development by anticipating and creating change according to values and visions that concern styles of life, production and consumption.
As change-agents and "eyeglasses", orientators change over time and space, also in conflict with indicators when the latter become watchdogs of lifestyles which are no longer deemed acceptable.
For example, the conventional indicator for measuring economic growth is GDP, gross domestic product, that sums all monetary transactions for products and services without distinguishing between costs and benefits for mankind and the environment, between destructive and creative activities as far as resource availability is concerned(1).
Other indicators generally incorporate social and environmental dimensions of development into the economic ones in the proper sense.
The Human Development (HDI), Human Poverty (HPI) and Gender-related development (GDI) indices combine GDP and income per capita with parameters related to health (e.g. life expectancy at birth) and knowledge (e.g. adult literacy rate and enrolment ratio).
The Sustainable Human Development Index (SHDI) extends the HDI with components concerning the environmental impact of human activities.
The Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) and the National Welfare Index (NWI) derive from the Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare (ISEW). While these systems are somewhat different (in methods of calculation, components and data sources), they follow a common approach, that being to take into account income-inequality, to make additions to account for the non-market benefits (e.g. volunteer time, housework, parenting and other socially productive time uses), to make deductions to account for costs due to environmental damages (e.g. various types of pollution, greenhouse, reduction in or loss of natural and energy resources) and damages to health (e.g. road accidents, crime, commuting, under-employment, loss of leisure time)
The European Union Sustainable Development Indicators (SDI) concern 10 themes: socio-economic development, sustainable consumption and production, social inclusion, demographic change, public health, climate change and energy, sustainable transport, natural resources, global partnerships, good governance.
The Ecological Footprint calculation considers the demand for natural resources, expressed in the area required to produce them according to the consumption rate of the associated population (hectares per person). The ecological footprint is compared with the biocapacity of the concerned ecosystem. The biocapacity measures the supply of natural resources, expressed in the area available to regenerate them and to absorb wastes (hectares per person). This comparison shows, for example, how many Earths would be required to support the current lifestyle of the world population.
The Happy Planet Index (HPI) correlates three indicators (ecological footprint, self-assessment of life-satisfaction, life expectancy) to show the ecological efficiency with which the countries of the world use natural resources for human well-being.
The Gross National Happiness (GNH) uses indicators to 9 themes (standard of living, health, education, environmental resilience and diversity, cultural vitality and diversity, time use, good governance, community vitality, psychological well-being ) to manage the space - time interdependencies between the components of ecosystems according to a holistic vision of quality of life as a public good (happiness).
(1):As Robert Kennedy declared in March 1968: “Gross national product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armoured cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities. It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile”.