In calling for the pursuit of Gross National Quality in place of Gross National Product, Senator Nelson foreshadowed what has become a building global shift from quantitative goals as a measure of progress to more qualitative ones. From England’s National Well-Being Measures to Bhutan’s notion of Gross National Happiness, governments are aiming to assemble baskets of measurements that reflect far more than simple growth in economic output, which can mask deep inequity or the drawdown of finite environmental assets.
He also chose an expansive definition of environment, recognizing in this paragraph that humans are within nature, not apart from it, and thus the conditions within a society were as important to environmental quality as the particulate count in the air:
“Our goal is not just an environment of clean air and water and scenic beauty. The objective is an environment of decency, quality and mutual respect for all other human beings and all other living creatures.”
As the United Nations moves later this year to finalize a suite of global sustainable development goals, delegates would do well to consider this fine speech.