State of Global Environmental Awareness

Just what is the extent of global environmental awareness? What level of EE is needed in developing, post-Communist and postindustrial countries? To begin this discussion of the extent of environmental awareness and knowledge in the world, there are those who argue from a "world society" or "world polity" perspective that environmental concern and action is a worldwide phenomenon with almost all nations and people embracing the need for environmental protection [58]. These observers argue that "contrary to the view that nation-states are autonomous actors shaped by internal preferences and interests.nation states are enactors of wider world cultural institutions" [59]. Therefore, implicit in this perspective is the notion that global environmental awareness and knowledge is widespread across different cultures, regions and levels of development. However, there are many social scientists who strongly disagree with this perspective and argue that there are distinct differences between countries—especially between the poorer developing and wealthy postindustrial countries [11,60]. For example, Frederick Buttel argues that many environmental policies in developing countries "have been imposed on developing countries against their will" and therefore are not properly implemented and do not reflect an environmentally informed and knowledgeable public and elite [60]. They also argue from a more common sense perspective, "Those persons who have traveled extensively in developing countries, most of which have planning ministries, will attest that there is uneven, and often minimal, development planning" in terms of protecting the environment [60].

Also contrary to the world society perspective, most academics have argued that the shift from an agricultural to an industrial society has been accompanied virtually everywhere in the world by a greater concern and awareness of environmental issues due to changing values, access to modern information technologies, and increasing levels of education and affluence [34,61-63]. This trend toward enhanced environmental awareness appears to be most prominent in the affluent postindustrial nations, although its presence can be seen worldwide in the thousands of environmentalist non-governmental organizations (NGOs) active in the former Communist countries and in the developing countries. Personal value structures among citizens (particularly younger, more highly educated cohorts) are developing in ways that involve what psychologist Abraham Maslow termed "higher order" needs (e.g., quality of life, connection to transcendent values), supplanting more fundamental subsistence needs (e.g., material acquisition) as the motivation for much individual and societal behavior [62]. Value changes entailing greater attention to post-materialist needs are thought to have brought about changes in many types of personal attitudes and public policy preferences, including those related to the environment [34,61].

Some careful observers of societal change suggest that the development of the environmental movement in virtually all industrialized nations around the world was a direct consequence of the profound social and economic changes that took place in postwar postindustrial societies [64-66]. The development of widespread environmental consciousness and knowledge among the citizenry and the advent of the global environmental movement have resulted in the questioning of many of the traditional political and economic institutions characteristic of modern society [67,68]. In time, these changing social and economic conditions led to an increase in environmental awareness and overall environment knowledge among individuals, groups, and elites.

More consistent with the world society perspective, public opinion research conducted by Riley Dunlap for the Gallup Poll organization in 24 nations suggests that environmental concern may be more global in its reach. While many citizens in postindustrial nations have expressed support for the environment, many citizens of developing nations have also expressed concern about the environment. Surprisingly, Dunlap's Gallup survey indicated that a majority of respondents in both developing and postindustrial nations give a higher priority to protecting the environment than to the pursuit of economic growth [69]. These findings led Dunlap and his associates to suggest ".residents of the poorer nations—which often suffer from poor water quality and high levels of urban air pollution—are much more likely to see their health as being negatively affected by environmental problems at the present" [69,70].

In a more comprehensive analysis of global public awareness using the 1990-1993 World Values Surveys involving respondents from 43 countries, Ronald Inglehart concludes that while public environmental concern tends to be high in countries that have severe environmental problems (such as high levels of air pollution and water pollution in the developing countries), citizens in the postindustrial countries are much more apt to give high priority to protecting the environment and are much more likely to be active members of environmental groups than citizens in the developing world [63]. Consequently, while objective environmental conditions, such as the presence of polluted air and water, can lead to environmental awareness, changing values resulting from broad socio-economic forces, including access to environmental information and education in the wealthy postindustrial countries, has created the conditions where concern and action is more pronounced. This perspective is consistent with the UN's World Youth Report 2003, which argues [56]:

A look at the existing state of environmental awareness and education indicates that picture is at first glance positive, at least in the countries of the developed world. In developing countries, the picture is more mixed, though enviornmental education has made some inroads.

The most recent data available concerning world environmental awareness and concern comes from the 1999-2002 World Values Surveys and European Values Surveys. While these data, like the various studies cited above, do not measure actual environmental knowledge levels, they do provide us with responses to two questions that can reveal general views of environmental awareness or concern. The first question asks respondents to choose between the following two statements as more reflective of their views:

■ Protecting the environment should be given priority, even if it causes slower economic growth and some loss of jobs, or

■ Economic growth and creating jobs should be the top priority, even if the environment suffers to some extent.

The second question asks respondents to choose between one of the following two statements to more accurately reflect their values:

■ Human beings should master nature; or

■ Humans should coexist with nature.

The data presented in Table 12.1 for postindustrial, developing and former/current Communist countries indicate overall majority support for environmental protection as a higher priority when compared to economic growth. As suggested previously, the strongest level of support is found in the postindustrial countries. Results for the second question are presented in Table 12.2. There is strong support among citizens in postindustrial, developing, and former/current Communist countries for coexisting with nature in lieu of

Table 12.1 Citizen Orientations Toward Environmental-Economic Tradeoffs: Results from the World Values Surveys: 1999-2002

Question: Here are two statements people sometimes make when discussing the environment and economic growth. Which of them comes closer to your own point of view? (1) Protecting the environment should be given priority, even if it causes slower economic growth and some loss of jobs; (2) Economic growth and creating jobs should be the top priority, even if the environment suffers to some extent.

Percent Choosing Environ- Percent Choosing the mental Protection (%) Economy (%)

Postindustrial Nations [n = 7397 citizens in 20 countries] Current and Former Communist Countries [n =5246 citizens in 19 countries] Developing Nations [n =31960 citizens in 23 countries]

Source: From Inglehart, R. et al. World Values Surveys and European Values Surveys, 19992002 (ICPSR 3975). Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research, Ann Arbor, MI. With permission.

Table 12.2 Citizen Views Toward Nature: Results from the World Values Surveys: 1999-2002

Question: For each of the following pairs of statements, please tell me which one comes closer to your own views? Human beings should master nature; or humans should coexist with nature.

Percent Choosing Humans Percent Choosing Humans Should Coexist with Nature

Postindustrial Nations [n = 7397 citizens in 20 10 90

countries] Current and Former Communist Countries

[n =5246 citizens in 19 23 77

countries] Developing Nations [n =31 960 citizens in 23 25 75


Source: From Inglehart, R. et al. World Values Surveys and European Values Surveys, 19992002 (ICPSR 3975). Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research, Ann Arbor, MI. With permission.

mastering and controlling it. Again as might be expected, the level of support for coexisting with nature is the highest in postindustrial nations (90%). However, more than 75% of citizens in developing nations and 77% in former/current Communist nations also support this principle. In general, there appears to be widespread concern and awareness concerning the environment, which means there is potentially fertile ground for global EE efforts.

We now turn to actual approaches that have been used in postindustrial, developing and post-Communist countries to increase environmental literacy and awareness. While this will not be a comprehensive review, we will attempt to shed some light on approaches that have been successful from a comparative perspective. As discussed above, different countries have differing resources, cultures, educational systems, and information dissemination infrastructures to provide environmental learning.

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