Looking back and ahead for Indiana greenspace and surface water quality

This being the bicentennial year of our statehood, and also the target year of a 1996 statewide 2016 visioning conference (for greenspace and surface water quality), I wanted to briefly reflect on where we are and how we’ve fared.

The conference was held in July, 1996 at McCormick’s Creek State Park and was organized and sponsored by the Indiana Environmental Institute.  It was attended by a mix of invited representatives from State regulatory agencies, environmental advocacy organizations, and industry folks.  The main idea was to “move ahead on Indiana environmental issues in a 20 year framework”.  This was boiled down to a compilation of main principles for action in 6 topical areas—Indiana environmental ethic, double-green philosophy, making tough choices, environmental priority and planning, commitment to consensus and partnership, and sound methods for environmental decisions. 

As noted by one of the conference organizers, it has been “a mixed bag” of results over these past 20 years.  There would be successes, but many disappointments.  Perhaps the most telling sign is that we used to have an annual Governor’s conference on the environment, but that valuable program was dropped around the year 2000.

One of the notable observations, in speaking with the principal conference organizer, is that the greatest energy for positive change in  the 1996 conference came not so much from the environmental advocates attending, but rather from inspired corporate people.  He noted that this impetus is no longer felt nearly as much due to the many mergers and acquisitions and the departure of many of these committed people over time.  They have not been replaced with people of the same awareness and vision.  What we seem to have now are primarily corporate functionaries who are not particularly vested in Indiana.

Picking from the list, one of the most prominent, frequently mentioned results from the compiled results was for riparian protection and enhancement and “water greenbelts everywhere”.  This remains an elusive goal as development inexorably whittles away at our river environments and floodplains.  Others were “more natural areas” and “landscape—not lawnscape”.  Indeed!

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