With the elections coming up in only a few months, public opinion polls are starting to become more common. There are bound to be thousands of horse race polls (Obama vs. Romney), but politicians are often more interested in issue polls, such as the one released by the Washington Post recently, which asked people if they thought the natural environment is better, worse, or about the same as it was 10 years ago.
Only 10% believe the environment is better, while a majority, 58%, believe the environment is worse now than it was 10 years ago. Unfortunately, the 58% are quite correct, though the public at least being aware of the declining state of the environment should be viewed as a good thing.
The next question respondents were asked to answer was “thinking ahead to 10 or so years from now, do you think the natural environment will be better, worse, or about the same?”
A plurality of those polled, 40%, believe that the environment will be worse, while only 19% believe it will be better. That response is troubling. In fairness, this is a difficult question to answer, as most people probably had not put that much thought into it before answering, and certainly don’t know a subjective right or wrong answer. Instead, they are responding with their first inclination; that the environment will be worse off in 10 years than it is now.
What is alarming about this response is that it indicates that people may be resigned to the possibility that humans will continue to make the world a worse place. Perhaps we accept the fact that we have hurt our environment for at least the past decade, and heck, we’ll probably just keep on doing it for another 10 years.
I wish they could have asked two more questions: “How do you feel about that?” and “What are you going to do about it?”
Saying the environment will be worse in the future is a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. If people believe that polluting air and water is some unavoidable part of life, than it will continue to go on. If people decide that we deserve better, they can demand that we get something better.
The people who represent you in Congress want to know what you care about. Tell them the environment will be better in 10 years from now, and they can be a part of it. If not, you will find someone else who will.