Who cares about the environment in 2009?

The Department  of Environment, Climate Change and Water’s Who Cares about the Environment? 2009 report was released late last month.

For those who aren’t familiar, Who Cares about the Environment is a social research series that has been conducted every three years since 1994 to measure environmental knowledge, views, attitudes and behaviour of people in NSW. 

Yesterday, I attended a presentation of the results and there were some interesting new developments in comparison to the 2006 report.

Some of the ‘headlines’ were:

  • The environment remains in the top five issues for NSW Government attention, both now and in the future.


Environment is a key priority*


  • 78% of people said they were concerned to some extent about environmental problems, a decline from 87% in 2006.
  • In 2009, for the first time, initiatives related to energy and greenhouse were the most often mentioned environmental initiatives for the NSW Government to be undertaking (14%).
  • More people were optimistic about changes in the environment over the past three years.
  • Over three-quarters believed climate change is happening (78%) and almost as many (69%) believed the NSW Government should take urgent action on this issue. 
  • Many people frequently take action that benefits the environment. 64% said they do at least five out of 10 environmental behaviours in the survey, but this is less than the 71% in 2006.


Everyday environmental behaviours in the past 12 months*


In relation to the Iconic Landscapes study, there is interesting data surrounding the three ‘segments’ of people; committeds (committed to, aware of and active in combatting environmental issues), privates (aware of environmental issues but only active in a personal sphere) and reluctants (those not convinced the environment is in trouble who may take action for other reasons).

Segments and environmental concern*


Those who were reluctant were most likely to feel criticized and ostracized for their lifestyle. Interestingly, this what graziers, or people who draw on the land to make a living, might relate to. While, on a personal level, I don’t think anyone should be made to feel this way (given that they are providing the rest of the country, and those living in towns and cities, with much needed resources), it’s interesting to see that this does happen.

But it is an ironic situation. Those in rural communities, while actually (as shown by the survey) highly active in environmentally friendly behaviours, put it down to being ‘good citizens’ rather than ‘environmental’. 

In terms of the reliability of sources, and the weight of scientific research, there is good news. The survey found that:

  • Environmental and conservation groups, scientists and schools were regarded as reliable by more than 80% (although all at lower levels than in 2003)

The survey also found that the reasons people adopt environmentally friendly behaviour varies depending on the activity. Cost factors were the most common driver for reducing energy consumption, reducing fuel use, reducing the amount of food the household throws out and buying fewer unneeded items. 

Other common reasons were:

  • Environmental awareness/knowledge (for avoiding products with excess packaging)
  • Upbringing/habit (re-using something)
  • Education through media/advertisements (choosing environmentally friendly household products)
  • It’s good for the garden (composting/worm farming)
  • Concern about dam level/drought/water shortage (reducing water consumption)

Lastly, why are people concerned?

People are concerned about environmental problems*


*All graphs are taken from the Who Cares about the Environment 2009 report.


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Filed under Putting it in context, Relevant articles

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