Gauging the environmental health of a particular geographical area is a complex process, and the San Francisco Bay Area's unique mixture of interwoven ecosystems makes the effort especially difficult. Of course, that very richness and diversity also make the Bay Area special to residents and visitors alike.
In evaluating the Bay Area environment, NRDC researchers identified 29 indicators, each focused on a particular element of the larger whole. Our researchers gathered and analyzed data, carefully piecing together the broader picture of the Bay Area's environmental health.
Specifically, researchers examined the data for what they revealed about trends. A snapshot of a given time is useful. But if a single picture speaks a thousand words, several pictures over an extended period speak volumes. Indeed, in many ways, it is the trend lines that are most telling. They reveal the success or failure of recent efforts at environmental protection and restoration; they tell us about looming threats; they identify emergency situations; and more.
The Big Picture of the Bay Area's Environmental Health
Overall, the Bay Area's environmental health is troubled. A once thriving ecosystem has lost much of its vigor -- the result of human intervention in the form of pollution, urban sprawl, poor stewardship, and overcrowding.
The situation is cause for concern, but not for despair. In the past, the Bay Area has seen some stunning environmental turnarounds. We can achieve still more of these successes if we learn the facts and commit ourselves to action. The actions of individuals contribute to many of the problems that now threaten the region. As a result, many of the solutions are in our own hands.
One way to get a handle on the state of the Bay Area's environment is to look at where improvement is needed and where important progress is being made. The following analysis summarizes our findings along these lines.