EcoMeme: Optimism vs. Laziness


Are Americans optimistic about the environment, ignorant or just plain lazy? Are they fatigued from all the “green” messaging and cause marketing out there? Or are they just complacent? A recent Gallup poll has shown that “over time, Americans’ concerns about environmental problems have generally declined.”

That’s hard to believe when there’s more environmental damage caused by Americans and more news about this available to us than ever before.

Just this week, ships are avoiding their normal cargo routes so that they can keep burning dirty fuel and skirt new air pollution laws around California.

And across the country, residents in the watershed areas of Skaneateles and Otisco lakes in New York are fighting a bill that would permit “hydrofracking” – a natural gas mining method that’s destructive to ecosystems and freshwater – on their private lands.

These examples are both driven by economic concerns. The shippers don’t want to pay fines or spend money on improved rigs. New York’s cash-starved state government is considering a bill that will bring taxpayer dollars to the state, with mining jobs and corporate real estate deals to replace low profit farms that are on some of that private property now.

Making matters worse, state budgets for environmental programs have been slashed, so even government agencies are holding out a tin cup or soliciting donations to support their good green work. In Atlanta, the House just passed a bill that would allow their own Department of Natural Resources to conduct fundraising through a non-profit to make up for a smaller slice of the taxpayer money pie.

At least defense budgets are also feeling the pinch.

If a 20-year low in levels of environmental concern wasn’t totally caused by money problems, Gallup suggested optimism may be to blame; Americans believe the environment is improving.

Basic Reading:

“Global warming concerns have ebbed and flowed, dipping to the lowest point since 1997. They’ve fallen precipitously since 2007, from 41% who worry ‘a great deal’ to 28%. Of eight [key environmental] issues, Americans now worry the least about global warming and the most about drinking-water pollution, which has often been a top concern.” – via USA Today

“Thanks in large part to partisan bickering and scandals such as Snowpocalypse and ClimateGate, confusion over global warming has reached a fevered pitch. At the same time, the economic slump is swallowing the public’s attention. What we may be witnessing is an endemic shift in prioritization, which raises the question: What, if anything, can instill a renewed sense of purpose?” – Mother Jones

“Climate hasn’t yet become as partisan an issue as, say, health care and taxes. But it’s getting there.” – How Republicans Learned to Reject Climate Change via NPR

Further Resources:

A debate over cause marketing fatigue – how many messages will consumers care about? – AdAge

“‘Do not wait for extraordinary circumstances to do good action; try to use ordinary situations.’ Jean Paul Richter. It seems that we humans are caught in the crushing curl of our own giant wave of trash. A long, sad and glorious tradition of using and dumping that spans the entirety of our time on earth…” –

Ohio air quality officials complain the EPA is “trying to make us do too much too quickly,” on cutting smog –

Are American Students Lazy? –

According to an EPA report, our air is getting cleaner relative to population growth and gross domestic product increases.

Image: rolands.lakis