‘Tuning Out’ the Environment



A recent study has suggested that people are beginning to ‘tune out’ warnings of an environmental crisis. A recent poll by Globoscan was conducted across 18 countries and found that, universally, public concern about issues such as water pollution, fresh water shortages, natural resource depletion, air pollution, climate change and biodiversity loss had fallen by as much as double digit percentages. There has been worldwide fall in climate change concern since 2009, with barely half of those polled now considering it to be a ‘serious problem’.

It is thought to be no coincidence that this fall in concern happens at the same time as the worst worldwide recession for decades. Worry about work and the economy is shown to be at high levels. Job security and financial woes may seem like much more important problems than climate change, which is less tangible and also open to debate.

A number of high profile bungles about climate change figures have lead to widespread scepticism, with national papers in the UK claiming that ‘climate change stopped 16 years ago’. What’s more people may have simply gotten tired of the endless back and forth between climate change proponents and sceptics, with no decisive answer having been reached so far.

Perhaps environmental groups should take heed of these findings, and try a different method of garnering support: if people are turned off by gloomy predictions, instead tell them about the positives of living sustainable lives. Instead of talking about the disastrous impact of global warming upon the economy, speak about the studies that show that ‘green’ businesses are actually thriving, despite the recession. Instead of talking about a global food crisis, speak of the benefits of a local, sustainable food chain. Maybe a change of emphasis will encourage people to, once again, care about the environment.

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