Developing Human Wellbeing Indicators for the Puyallup Watershed

A "medicine wheel" graphic that will be used to showcase HWB indicators; copyright Biedenweg et al.
A “medicine wheel” graphic that will be used to showcase HWB indicators; copyright Biedenweg et al.

How does a healthy environment translate into human health? What do aesthetic concepts like natural beauty or even feelings like happiness mean to ecosystem recovery? These are some of the central questions behind the research of Puget Sound Institute’s Lead Social Scientist Kelly Biedenweg.

Biedenweg has been working closely with the Puget Sound Partnership and organizations like The Nature Conservancy to identify what are termed “human wellbeing indicators.” In essence, she wants to understand how human happiness can translate into cleaner water or healthier salmon and vice versa.

Biedenweg points out that understanding how people relate to Puget Sound’s natural environment is an important part of ecosystem recovery. People tend to engage more in positive, less destructive behaviors when they feel that they are receiving a benefit, she says. Studies show that a healthy environment also leads to healthier—and happier—citizens.

Recently Biedenweg collaborated with the Puyallup Watershed Initiative (PWI) to
develop a process for selecting human wellbeing indicators relevant to natural resource
management in the Puyallup Watershed.

Indicators were divided into five domains: physical, psychological, governance, cultural and economic. These domains were in turn divided into attributes and indicators related to factors like access to natural areas or how often people experience what they consider to be “the beauty of nature.”

The July 2014 report was prepared by Biedenweg and Haley Harguth of the Puget Sound Partnership.

Download the full report.