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Growing population and increased demands continue to put destructive pressures on land, water and energy infrastructure. The term sustainability refers to a movement dedicated to bringing resource consumption back into balance with resource restoration and renewal.

The San Diego Regional Sustainability Partnership was formed around the signing of a charter document stating, in part, “The intent of the Partnership is to lead and promote practices to support sustainable communities that are secure, economically prosperous, environmentally responsible and healthy places in which to live and work.”

The 43 signatories as of this writing are dominated by big business (Qualcomm, Industrial Environmental Association), big government (U.S. Navy, San Diego Association of Governments, Regional Airport Authority), and big academia (San Diego State), with a few nonprofits thrown into the mix that happened to find out about the meetings. This latter group includes me, representing San Diego EarthWorks. I’ve been involved in many efforts to start sustainability-related groups in the region, so I started attending the meetings hammering out the charter language.

Sadly, and over many meetings, I watched a strong statement that included a vision for “zero waste” and “energy self-sufficiency” get watered down to the current weak version. To my thinking, the final charter reads too much like a PR exercise at this point. But I figured it was better than nothing and, like it or not, it does represent the status quo at this moment in time for the region.

The concept behind the group can be seen in Sustainable Silicon Valley, where the members there have committed to reducing regional carbon dioxide emissions 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2010.

Participants there identified their top six environmental pressures as:

1. Use of energy from nonrenewable sources measured by CO2 emissions

2. Use of fresh water

3. Urban sprawl

4. Habitat development and fragmentation

5. Use of nonrenewable raw materials

6. Discharges of toxic chemicals to the air

The partnership here is just beginning to discuss what metrics it will use to measure sustainability.

As the current chairwoman of the outreach committee, I think the partnership could use a little help.

Do readers believe that San Diego has the same top six pressures?

What else would you add for a list of top ten?

CAROLYN CHASE

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