Decrease in environmental concern calls for updated dialogue surrounding issue
This blog post was written by Bluestem Communications intern Hannah Lacava.
An alarming recent study by GlobeScan, surveying citizens from 22 countries, found that concern for environmental issues is at an all-time low. The number of people rating problems such as biodiversity, water and air pollution, and depletion of natural resources as “very serious” dropped dramatically from previous polls. Although the issue of climate change did not hit an all-time low, it still saw a significant drop in concern since 2011.
With an ever-increasing pool of evidence showing environmental degradation, these findings hardly make sense. If information is increasing, how could concern be decreasing?
According to GlobeScan, the decrease is due to “economic crisis and a lack of political leadership.” It’s true that as the world continues to suffer the blows of the 2008’s economic downturn, environmental issues have landed on the backburner. The economy is just the beginning of our problems; in the past few years, events such as the Arab Spring, the United States’ stalemated government and increasing debates surrounding social issues such as gay marriage have dominated the conversation on the world’s political stage.
Across nations, citizens and political leaders seem to have decided that issues about people—human rights, the economy, etc.—must take precedent over issues about trees and animals. What the public doesn’t seem to understand is that the environment is just as much of a people’s issue as poverty or civil rights.
Since the emergence of the environmental movement in the 1970’s, very specific imagery has been associated with environmental degradation. The dialogue consists of deforestation and endangered polar bears. Although people care about these things, these issues tend to lose ground when compared with problems that seem more directly consequential, like the economy. In these trying times, people are putting themselves first as the human species.
If people are to start seeing environmental issues as urgent and relevant to their lives, it’s time to deepen what is currently a two-dimensional dialogue. Deforestation isn’t just about trees—it’s about reduced eco-tourism, which can hurt local economies. It’s about decreased air quality, which can lead to poor health and shortened lives. Endangered polar bears aren’t just adorable—they’re also a keystone species, which means that the existence of every other species in their habitat depends on their existence. Disruptions in polar bears’ ecosystems could mean a decrease in fish (perhaps due to an increase in seals following the extinction of their predator, the polar bear), which hurts fishers, consumers and ultimately global economies.
It’s time to change the dialogue and remind people that the environment is not just an issue about tree-huggers and furry animals—it’s an issue about all of us. It is the Earth itself that gave us and continues to give us life; in today’s world, it is the Earth itself that provides resources for our ever-important economies and well-being. After all, our dollars really were made from trees.