It’s a special day around the world today, April 22. Can you say why that is? If you are a Christian maybe you’ll say that it’s Good Friday.
True, but for all seven billion of us around the world, it’s Earth Day, a day intended to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth’s natural environment.
Earth Day was founded by United States Senator Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in first held on April 22, 1970. It was focused on the U.S., but has since gone global with the support of the United Nations; it is now coordinated by the Earth Day Network.
Unfortunately, not too many people seem to care. Stephanie Pappas, a LiveScience Senior Writer, suggests that doesn’t matter in an article entitled “Why You Won’t Read This Earth Day Article (And Why That Doesn’t Matter).” Is she right?
Earth Day turns 41 this year, but in some ways, environmentalism seems to be stumbling. According to recent Gallup polls, 48 percent of Americans now believe that the dangers of climate change are exaggerated, up from 41 percent in 2009 and 31 percent in 1997. Meanwhile, environmental concerns rank eighth on Americans’ worry list, behind terrorism, illegal immigration and the size and power of the federal government.
Getting people to care about environmental threats — especially distant ones such as climate change — can be tough, environmental advocates say. But whether or not people care about the environment may not matter much at all.
“Many people do things that would be considered environmentally sound, even if they aren’t doing it for environmental reasons,” said Edward Maibach, a professor of communication at George Mason University in Virginia who has studied Americans’ opinions about climate change. “Several groups are concerned, one is not. But all of them place a high value on conserving energy.”
“It’s tapping into a broadly held value,” Maibach told LiveScience. “People just think it’s a good idea to save energy and to save money as a result of saving energy.”
Who cares about climate?
Maibach and his colleagues conducted a nationally representative survey of American adults in 2008 to understand how the public thinks about climate change.
They found that 18 percent of people are alarmed, convinced of the seriousness of global warming and taking steps to alter their behavior. Another 33 percent are concerned, but not taking action. Another 19 percent of people are cautious, meaning they believe climate change is a problem but don’t feel a sense of urgency about it. The disengaged (12 percent) and doubtful (11 percent), on the other hand, either don’t know much about climate change or don’t think it’s a big problem. And 7 percent of people are dismissive, actively campaigning against a national response to climate change.
But surprisingly, all of the groups conserved energy at the same rates, said Anthony Leiserowitz, the director of the Yale University Project on Climate Change, who was involved in the study with Maibach.
“The dismissive are conserving energy and saving energy as much as anyone else,” Leiserowitz told LiveScience…
[continues at LiveScience]
Majestic is gadfly emeritus.
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