Australian Attitudes Towards the Environment: 1991 to 2001

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  • This article was downloaded by: [Universitat Politcnica de Valncia]On: 22 October 2014, At: 01:14Publisher: Taylor & FrancisInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: MortimerHouse, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

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    Australian Attitudes Towards the Environment:1991 to 2001Andrew Lothian aa South Australian Department for Environment and HeritagePublished online: 20 Mar 2013.

    To cite this article: Andrew Lothian (2002) Australian Attitudes Towards the Environment: 1991 to 2001, AustralianJournal of Environmental Management, 9:1, 45-62, DOI: 10.1080/14486563.2002.10648542

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  • Australian Attitudes Towards the Environment: 1991 to 2001 **

    Andrew Lothian*

    This article, which extends an earlier investigation covering the period 1975-1994, reviews surveys of community attitudes towards the environment

    during the 1990s up to 2001. It focuses mainly on Australian surveys but includes two that cover attitudes of New Zealanders.

    The relationship between attitudes and behaviour is examined, and comparisons of stated attitudes regarding the environment and individual behaviour are made. Regular surveys by Newspoll and biennial surveys by the Australian Bureau of Statistics of community attitudes are included, as are national surveys of farmers' attitudes to rural environmental issues and environmental health risk perception. Surveys in NSW, Tasmania and New Zealand are also included.

    Although there has been a decline in the level of community environmental support, the surveys indicate that there has remained a mainstream of environmental consciousness within the community during the 1990s, which is reflected in a consolidation in the environment's perceived importance and a stabilisation of its influence on individual behaviour.

    Introduction The environment is well established in the community as a legitimate and significant area of political concern. Governments of all persuasions and spheres, including local, regional and national, together with business and industry, strive to reflect this concern in their policies, programs and practices.

    In an earlier article, the author (Lothian, 1994) examined the attitudes of Australians towards the environment over the period 1975 to 1994. This was the period during which public concern for the environment emerged as a political and public force, expressed most strongly in the 1983 Federal election over the Tasmanian dams issue. It was the period in which actions were initiated across a wide range of areas of concern - heritage, national parks,

    * Andrew Lothian is with the South Australian Department for Environment and Heritage.

    March 2002

    forests, Landcare, Great Barrier Reef and Kakadu to name a few. The 1994 article demonstrated that Australians were very concerned about their environment and supported action to protect and better manage it.

    The 1990s appears to have been a period of consolidation. It was a period in which the environment become a mainstream issue, reflected in party platforms, government policy and company reports. With growth of community environmental action programs such as Clean up Australia, Landcare, Waterwatch, Frogwatch, Friends of Parks groups etc, hundreds of thousands of Australians became active in translating their environmental concern into action on the ground. The ubiquity of kerbside recycling programs in cities and towns further demonstrates the widespread integration of environmental programs into everyday life.

    The purpose here is to trace community environmental attitudes from the early 1990s to 2001 and to indicate the dimensions of this consolidation into mainstream public consciousness. It is to examine whether community attitudes regarding choices have shifted; for example, the tradeoffs between environment and economy. The purpose is also to examine the relationship between attitudes and behaviour, and address the dichotomy raised by some commentators that the actions of people are often contrary to their expressed attitudes. Finally the article is also intended to serve as a reference source of relevant surveys for those in government, business and the community, as well as for students interested in the subject. For this reason it takes a descriptive rather than an analytical approach.

    The article focuses principally on surveys undertaken nationally in Australia but also includes some coverage of New Zealander's attitudes. Some important State surveys are also covered. While every endeavour has been used to identify relevant surveys, including literature searches and contacts throughout Australia and New Zealand, it cannot be assumed to be complete1

    ** The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Department for Environment and Heritage or of the South Australian Government

    I. The author would appreciate information on additional relevant surveys.

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  • Generation of Environmental Attitudes Powell ( 1976) described environmental attitudes as a bridge between sociology and psychology:

    "Attitudes are related to but must be distinguished from both 'culture' and 'personality', that an attitude essentially connotes a disposition, that it incorporates three connected components, cognition (i.e. knowledge, beliefs, ideas), affective (feelings, likes, dislikes), behavioural (action) influencing the response towards objects and situations. Cognition and affect influence behaviour." (words in parentheses added)

    This model applies at the level of the individual:

    Cognition + Affect --+ Behaviour

    Value orientations, which are more stable and resistant to change, are also important in attitudes. A basic model of an individual environment ethic is that values influence attitudes and these in turn influence individual behaviour:

    Values--+ Attitudes--+ Behaviour

    This is not a certain relationship as there are many other influences such as one's culture, employment, age, and education on attitudes and behaviour.

    While an environmental ethic may develop among individuals, the development of an environmental ethic at a societal level is uncertain. It derives from the fortuitous coalescence of many strands and influences:

    Cultural traditions and values - e.g. attitude towards nature and non-human species, value frameworks -religion, democracy, political pluralism.

    Events and catastrophes - e.g. Dust Bowls, loss of species (e.g. Passenger Pigeon in US), oil spills (e.g. Exxon Valdez).

    Leaders who articulate the issue and its resolution -e.g. Bob Brown, Vincent Serventy, Jack Mundey.

    Science which identifies the links between our actions and subsequent environmental degradation - e.g. clearance of trees resulting in erosion, flooding, and salinisation.

    Education and communications which transmit information and learning across society.

    Attitudes Versus Behaviour In an article in The Age newspaper, Miller and Wroe (200 I) argued that Australian's commitment to the environment was weak and getting weaker. Based on Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures indicating that the proportion of respondents concerned about the environment had declined from 75 per cent in 1992 to 69

    46

    per cent in 1999, the authors argued that this showed a fall in concern. However a fall of 6 per cent over seven years is relatively slight and does not seem to be a sufficient basis to argue a significantly widening gap between words and action.

    The most contentious area in reviewing environmental attitudes is that the link between attitudes and behaviour is not direct. A respondent may express strong pro-environmental attitudes yet see no contradiction in wasting energy and water, disposing of waste without recycling or reuse, driving to work rather than use adequate public transport, and so on. Part of this discrepancy may be attributable to ignorance - e.g. a farmer who cleared trees may not be aware that salinisation of the land might result, or a householder makes no connection between throwing waste chemicals down the drain and an expressed concern for the marine environment where these wastes may end up.

    Commenting on Newspoll surveys of environment, Gary Gray (2001), former national secretary of the Australian Labor Party, examined why it is that 60 per cent of the population say the environment is important yet few vote for pro-environment candidates. Gray argued that the reason is because environment is "not a central vote driver, it's peripheral." He cited the example of the 65 per cent of consumers who expressed a willingness to pay more for green electrical energy yet less than I per cent do so. He describes this as the "great political conundrum. Never confuse the intensity of opinion with extensity. Or put another way: politicians should not confuse the amount of noise with the number of people making it."

    Despite this sceptism, Gray recognised that even though the green vote may only be 3-4 per cent, this can be sufficient to swing an election - as it did in the United States 2000 Presidential election where the 3 per cent won by green candidate, Ralph Nader, is widely considered to have cost AI Gore the Presidency.

    Do the attitudes expressed in surveys have any credence and do they really reflect the significance of the particular issue? I believe they do. Attitudes reflect ideals or aspirations, the outcomes that respondents desire to apply in a given situation. People can indicate that they would like the world to be without war and poverty and this is a true reflection of their aspirations. Even though most people would recognise the improbability of these being achieved, this does not diminish them being legitimate aspirations. As an aspiration it can motivate action for peace, disarmament, and conflict resolution.

    AUSTRALIAN JOURNAL OF ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT-Volume 9

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  • Figure 1. Issues Rated by Australians as Very Important, 1990-2001 (Source: Newspoll, 1990-2001)

    Australians may indicate that the environment is important to them and this also reflects their legitimate aspirations. In the short term, there may be a sizeable discrepancy between attitudes and behaviour, but being mindful of the considerable shift towards pro-environmental attitudes and behaviour which has

    occurred over the past decade or so, it could be assumed to be only a matter of time before the behaviour reflects

    the attitudes expressed.

    Table 1 Rating of Important Issues by Australians, Average for 1990-2001

    Issue % Education 77.6 Health & Medicare 73.7 Unemployment 72.1 Family issues 61.8 Taxation 61.74 Environment 61.70 Leadership 60.0 Welfare & social 59.9 Interest rates 53.9 Inflation 50.6 Defence 43.0 Balance of payments 47.1 Industrial relations 40.8 Women's issues 39.2 Immigration 36.4 Aboriginal issues 30.3 Source: Newspoll, published by The Australian

    Newspoll Surveys The Australian newspaper publishes regular polls carried out by Newspoll of the ranking of issues by Australians. These are generally published quarterly and are based on telephone interviews of around 1100 persons across both city and country areas of Australia, weighted to reflect the population distribution. The surveys are often combined with questions on political issues of the time.

    Figure 1 indicates the results of these surveys for the 1990 - September 2001 period for eight of the issues covered2. The overall trend for the environment over this 1990- 2001 period is positive (y = 0.10x + 60.47, r2 = 0.043) while for some other issues it is negative (e.g. unemployment, interest rates). The results of the Newspolls are summarised in the Appendix. The average ratings for this period indicate that the environment is ranked sixth, on a par with family issues (4th) and taxation(5th), but well ahead of other economic factors -

    e.g. interest rates, inflation (Table 1).

    ABS Surveys of Environmental Concerns The ABS (1992, 1994, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001) has conducted national surveys, most of which included the environmental concerns of Australians3. Table 2 indicates the date and sample size of the surveys.

    Table 3 summarises the coverage of the ABS surveys regarding environmental concerns. There are six areas in which questions are asked:

    1. Whether the respondent is concerned about environmental problems - common to all six surveys

    Table 2 Timing and Sample Size of ABS Surveys

    Survey Date May 1992

    June 1994 April1996

    March 1998 March 1999 March2000 March 2001

    Nos. households 16,000 15,024 18,500 18,500 15,500 15,500 18,500

    Note: Some issues did not cover entire period, e.g. education from September 1999, defence from January 2001; balance of payments ceased in June 1999.

    2. The survey includes 16 issues - see the Appendix.

    3. The 2000 survey did not include questions on concerns about environmental problems.

    March 2002 47

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  • Table 3 Summary of ABS Survey Coverage of Environmental Concerns, 1992- 2001 4. Ranking of environmental protection versus Issue 1992 1994 1996 1998 Persons concerned about env problems - by ,/ ,/ ,/ ,/ state/territory Ditto-byage ,/ ,/ ,/ ,/ Ditto- by gender ,/* ,/ ,/ Ditto- by employment status ,/ ,/ Ditto - by education ,/ ,/ Ditto- by occupation ,/

    Environment problems - by state/territory ,/ ,/ ,/ ,/ Ditto- by metro/non-metro ,/ ,/ ,/ ,/ Ditto-byage ,/ ,/ ,/ ,/ Ditto - by gender ,/ ,/

    Most important social issues - by state/territory ,/ ,/ Ditto- by age ,/ ,/ Ditto- by gender ,/ Ditto - by income ,/

    Ranking env prot versus economic growth ,/ ,/ ,/ Ditto - by age & gender ,/ ,/ ,/ Ditto - by occupation ,/ Ditto- by education ,/ ,/ Ditto- by income ,/ Ditto - by state/territory ,/ ,/ ,/

    Quality of env in last 10 years - by state/ ,/ ,/ territory Ditto-byage ,/ ,/ Ditto - by gender ,/ ,/

    Environment concern registered (ie action) ,/ ,/ Ditto-byage ,/ ,/ Ditto - by education ,/ Type of action- by state/territory ,/ Ditto-age ,/ Members of env group - by state/territory ,/ Ditto by age, household type ,/ Donated time/money to env group ,/ ,/ Ditto-byage ,/ ,/ Persons not involved in env action - by state/ ,/ territory Ditto - b~ household tvPe, age ,/ * = included in 1994 report

    2. Nature of environmental problems - used in five surveys

    3. Most important social issues - environmental issues in context of other economic and social issues - used in three surveys

    Figure 2. Proportion of Persons Concerned about Environmental Issues (Source: ABS, 1992, 1994,1996,1998, 1999,2001)

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    1999 ,/

    ,/

    ,/

    ,/

    ,/

    ,/

    ,/

    ,/

    ,/

    ,/

    2001 economic growth - used in three surveys ,/

    ,/ 5. Whether the quality of the environment has changed over the past 10 years - used in three surveys

    6. Registration (i.e. personal action) of environmental concerns - used in three surveys

    Although there are common elements, the selection of coverage for each survey varies widely. While this may provide economies, it does make longitudinal comparisons more difficult.

    Persons Concerned about Environmental Problems

    The surveys asked whether the respondent was concerned about the environment (Figure 2). The results indicate generally a downward trend in the proportion of persons concerned

    ,/ about environmental problems (y = -1.74x + ,/ 75, r 2 = 0.63). However, this equates to

    ,/

    between 12 and 13 million Australians being ,/ ,/ concerned about the environment. ,/

    ,/ Examination of the influence of age ,/ on

    ,/ environmental concern over the time series, ,/ 1992 - 200 1 (Figure 3) indicates that between

    1992 and 1999 concern slid fairly uniformly across all age cohorts. However between 1999

    and 2001, the level of concern fell by 11 per cent for the 18 - 24, and 9 per cent for the 25 - 34 age cohorts. The reason for this apparently sudden drop in concern among the younger people is unclear but if it persists it does not augur well for the future.

    --1992 ----1994 85~----------------~ - .. -. 1996 --1998

    80f:~==~~~==~:l~~~~~==~~ ~ ~ 75~--~~~:::~~~~~~~~--------~ 1: t 70 +-~~---j 65+--------~--~~------~~~~--~

    ~ 60 +-~"'"-------8 55 0 'J!- 50+------

    45+------,------~-----,------------~ 18-24 25-34 35-44 45-54 55-64 65+

    Figure 3. Influence of Age on Rating of Environmental Issues (Source: ABS, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2001)

    AUSTRALIAN JOURNAL OF ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT-Volume 9

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  • Table 4 Australians concerned about environmental problems, by State & Territory Nature of Environmental Concerns 1992-2001

    Year NSW VIC OLD SA WA Tas NT 1992 73.6 75.2 74.0 n.o 76.0 70.7 79.6 1994 69.2 67.2 68.5 73.0 70.1 61.3 77.2 1996 66.5 70.5 66.8 72.6 70.8 58.1 66.1 1998 73.0 70.7 67.5 72.5 72.5 64.6 70.3 1999 69.7 68.1 65.6 67.9 75.6 57.0 67.9 2001 59.0 61.2 62.5 67.7 68.5 59.9 61.8 Averaae 68.3 69.0 67.9 72.6 72.6 63.9 71.0

    Source:ABS,1992,1994,1996, 1998,1999,2001

    Table 5 Environmental Concerns of Australians, 1992-1999 (%)

    Issue 1992 1994 1996 1998 1. Air pollution 40.2 34.1 30.9 32.2 2. Ocean pollution 32.3 26.7 23.8 23.8 3. Freshwater pollution 29.9 25.5 23.7 27.3 4. Destruction of trees and ecosystems 32.8 25.6 23.6 21.8 5. Ozone layer 28.6 17.1 10.9 13.4 6. Garbage and rubbish disposal 22.9 15.7 14.0 14.6 7. Toxic and chemical waste 21.3 11.9 8.6 11.3 8. Destruction of animals, wildlife spp extinction 19.3 13.3 9.1 9.6 9. Greenhouse effect 17.2 8.8 6.3 10.9 10. Soil erosion, salinity, land degradation 15.3 9.6 7.7 9.8 11. Conservation of resources 15.0 8.5 6.5 7.3 12. Other pollution 14.1 9.1 8.8 4.6 13. Nuclear testing and weapons 14.6 6.7 7.6 7.0 14. Urban development, overpopulation* 12.6 7.8 5.9 5.6 15. Use of pesticides 13.7 7.0 4.2 6.0 16. Uranium mining, use, radioactive materials 8.5 3.6 5.1 5.9 17. Overpopulation 3.8 18. Other 5.8 5.7 5.5 3.7 19. No concerns 23.0 28.6 29.8 26.9 20. Don't know 2.2 2.5 1.8 2.8 Source: ABS, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998, 1999

    There is reasonable degree of unanimity in the proportion

    of persons concerned about the environment in each State and Territory - generally less than 13 per cent difference between each jurisdiction (Table 4 ). The highest level of concern has usually been the ACT followed by W A, SA, NT, Victoria, NSW, Queensland and Tasmania. It is paradoxical that Tasmania which has elected more green representatives at State and Federal elections than any other State or Territory has consistently had the lowest level of environmental concern.

    35,-----

    30H-----

    25

    20

    15

    10

    5

    0

    1999 29.1 24.6 22.4 21.1 14.1 12.3 11.0 8.7

    10.2 7.8 7.1 5.1 5.6 5.6 6.1 4.1 3.9 3.5

    29.6 2.3

    ACT 83.5 74.2 75.1 76.0 70.7 70.7 75.9

    Mean 34.4 26.7 26.6 26.0 17.5 16.8 13.3 12.8 10.8 10.6 9.3 9.2 9.0 8.0 7.7 5.8 3.8 5.2

    27.1 2.3

    Figure 4 and Table 5 summarises the nature of environmental concerns of Australians over the five surveys, 1992 - 1999. Neither the 2000 or 200 I surveys included the nature of environmental concerns.

    The 'big six' issues- pollution of air, water and oceans, destruction of trees and ecosystems, the ozone layer, and waste issues have consistently been the top six although their order has changed slightly.

    Concern about pollution issues generally exceeded resource management and conservation issues, with the sole exception of the destruction of trees and ecosystems issue that ranked fourth overall. Issues such as soil erosion, destruction of animals and wildlife, conservation of resources, urban development and over-population tend to be lesser issues, not of central importance.

    People with no concerns averaged 28 per cent over the surveys. This means that over one quarter of Australians are unconcerned about

    the environment.

    Responses to all issues underwent a substantial decline between 1992 and 1994 but stabilised in the following years for many issues - e.g. air pollution, toxic/chemical waste, land degradation, nuclear testing. The reason for the initial fall may be economic as it was a period of economic stress with high interest rates and unemployment.

    The decline in concern between 1992 and 1994 was greatest for the issue of the ozone layer ( 11.5 per cent),

    Figure 4. Environmental Concerns of Australians, 1992-1999 (Source: ABS, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998, 1999)

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  • Figure 5. Concern about Air Pollution by State & Territory, 1992-99 (Source: ABS, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998, 1999)

    followed by toxic and chemical waste (9.4 per cent) and the greenhouse effect (8.4 per cent). Concern decreased by an average of 6 per cent for all issues.

    Air Pollution

    Concern about air pollution declined in all States over the 1992- 1999 period (Figure 5). This concern continued to slide throughout this period in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory. However in Western Australia and the ACT concern rose again from 1994 to 1998 but declined in 1999. The decline in concern may reflect the effectiveness of nation-wide measures to reduce air pollution from industry and vehicles.

    In 1999, concern about air pollution was highest in NSW followed by WA, Victoria and the ACT. It was lowest in Tasmania and SA. The national average of concern about

    Figure 7. Concern for Destruction of Trees & Ecosystems by State & Territory, 1992-99 (Source: ABS, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998, 1999)

    50

    Figure 6. Concern about Freshwater Pollution by State & Territory, 1992-99 (Source: ABS, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998, 1999)

    air pollution for the 1992 - 1999 period was 33 per cent.

    Freshwater Pollution

    Concern about freshwater pollution see-sawed through the 1990s in several States, generally falling from its high in 1992 and rising again towards the end of the decade (Figure 6). In South Australia, however, concern remained high throughout this decade. In NSW and ACT there was a peak of interest in 1998, possibly associated with concern about cryptosporidium in water supplies. Only in Victoria and Queensland has concern remained low after 1992.

    In 1999, concern about freshwater pollution was highest in SA followed by NSW, ACT, NT and Victoria. The lowest levels of concern were in Tasmania and W A. The national average of concern about freshwater pollution for the 1992 - 1999 period was 26 per cent.

    Figure 8. Concern for Greenhouse by State & Territory, 1992-99 (Source: ABS, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998, 1999)

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  • Figure 9. Rating of Groups of Environmental Issues, Australia, Average for 1992-99 (Source: ABS, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998, 1999)

    Destruction of trees and ecosystems

    Concern about the destruction of trees and ecosystems declined in all States over the 1992 - 1999 period (Figure 7). However in Victoria and W A it stabilised in the 1994 -8 period, but in WA peaked in 1999. In 1999, concern was highest in W A and the NT and lowest in SA, NSW and Tasmania. The national average concern about loss of trees and ecosystems was 26 per cent.

    Greenhouse

    Concern about greenhouse plummeted post 1992 in all jurisdictions, rose slightly in 1998, and fell again in 1999 (Figure 8).

    The national average concern about greenhouse was 10.8 per cent. In 1999, the highest concern was in NSW followed by ACT, NT, Victoria and SA. The lowest concern was in W A and Tasmania.

    Grouping of Issues

    The list of 17 issues (excluding "Other") used by the ABS may be combined into six groups of issues, which allow comparison of similar sets of issues for the 1992 - 99 period (Figure 9). The net results indicate that concern

    Figure 10. Influence of Education on Environmental Concern, 1996 (Source: ABS 1996)

    about pollution issues averaged 18.5 per cent, slightly ahead of wildlife and destruction of trees, 13.4 per cent. Taken together, ozone and greenhouse are the third group of issues (14.15 per cent) followed by natural resource management (9.7 per cent), nuclear (i.e. nuclear testing and uranium mining) (7 .0 per cent) and urban development and population issues (5.8 per cent). Overall, the brown issues of pollution and ozone and greenhouse dominate over the green issues of conservation.

    Influence of Respondent Characteristics on Rating of Environmental Issues For some issues, for example, air pollution and freshwater pollution, tree destruction and soil erosion, concern peaks around middle age indeed for air pollution and water pollution, concern rises to middle age and then declines (Table 6). For other issues, for example, waste, ozone, greenhouse, and animal loss, concern diminishes with age. This is particularly marked in the long-range issue of greenhouse where the concern declines from 11 per cent for the 18-24 cohort to 4.5 per cent for the 65+ group.

    The difference in concern between males and females was only slight, for example in 1999, an

    Table &Influence of Age on Rating of Environmental Issues, 1999, Australia 'Yo average of 15.7 per cent for males and 16.6 per cent for females for the top ten issues. Interestingly, concern by females for the issue of garbage and rubbish disposal was 17 per cent compared with only 11.2 per cent among males. The reason for this marked difference is not readily apparent.

    Air pollution Freshwater pollution Ocean pollution Destruction of trees/ecosystems Garbage/ rubbish disposal Ozone layer Toxic/chemical waste Greenhouse effect Soil erosion/salinity/land degradation Destruction of animals/wildlife/ extinction Conservation of resources Average Source: ABS, 1999

    March 2002

    18-24 32.0 20.4 26.8 19.6 17.9 15.7 10.1 11.3

    7.8 9.3 6.6

    16.1

    25-34 30.5 24.1 25.0 22.7 16.2 17.0 14.2 9.9

    10.5 9.5 7.9

    17.05

    Age Groups 3544 4554 55-64

    32.2 32.6 24.8 29.3 30.1 23.5 25.8 24.1 16.5 21.4 23.4 22.6 14.4 14.9 11.3 12.1 12.5 7.7 12.7 11.8 9.6 9.4 9.7 6.9 11 13.3 10.1

    7.5 8.2 6.9 7.9 8.4 6.9

    16.70 17.18 13.35

    65+ 19.5 16.4 13.1 16.2 8.6 6.4 5.2 4.5 7.5 4.8 4.2

    9.67

    Education has a positive influence on environmental attitudes (Figure I 0). Its influence was examined in the 1992 and 1996 ABS surveys. The 1992 survey found

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  • Figure 11. Influence of Employment Status on Environmental Concern, 1992 & 1994 (Source: ABS, 1992, 1994)

    that the difference between a person without a qualification and one with a tertiary degree was 20.9 per cent, while in the 1996 survey the difference was 15.8 per cent.

    Employment status influences concern for the environment. It was included in the 1992 and 1994 surveys. Employed persons being concerned for the environment averaged 76.8 per cent compared with 62.4 per cent for those not in the labour force (Figure 11).

    Contrasting views about issues between people in the city and country are sometimes assumed yet the surveys indicate a high degree of similarity. Regarding destruction of trees and ecosystems, an issue about which rural people may be considered to have differing views from city people, the results were very similar (Table 7). A greater disparity is evident over the issue of soil erosion, salinity and land degradation, an issue of direct concern to rural people.

    Ranking of Social Issues

    Three ABS surveys asked respondents to rank a set of social issues, similar to the Newspoll survey (Figure 12). The environment ranked fifth in the ABS surveys, behind health, crime, education and unemployment. The Newspoll survey (Table I) used a slightly different set of issues. In both surveys, however, the environment ranked behind unemployment but ahead of other economic parameters such as interest rates.

    Table 7 Metropolitan vs Non-metropolitan Responses, Australia, 1999

    Issue Melroj:!olitan Non-Metro Destruction of trees/ecosystems 22.0 19.6 Soil erosion/salinity/land degradation 8.5 13.5 Destruction of animals/wildlife/extinction 8.0 7.4 Conservation of resources 7.2 7.1 Source: ABS, 1999

    4. It is suggested that the ABS repeat this question in a future survey as it has not been used since I 996.

    52

    Figure 12. ABS Ranking of Most Important Social Issues (Source: ABS, 1996, 1998, 1999)

    Environmental Protection versus Economic Growth

    As a measure of the extent to which community views are affected by economic considerations the 1992 - 96 ABS surveys4 asked respondents to choose between the following statements:

    Environmental protection is more important than economic growth

    Environmental protection and economic growth are equally important

    Environmental protection is less important than economic growth

    (emphasis in report)

    The results, which parallel those for 1975 - 94 (Lothian, 1994 ), indicate a strong preference (71 per cent) for both environment protection and economic growth (Figure 13). This accords with the principles of ecologically sustainable development. However faced with a choice between either environment protection or economic growth, those who chose environmental protection averaged 18 per cent compared with 7 per cent who chose

    Figure 13. Environmental Protection versus Economic Growth, Australia 1992-96 (Source: ABS, 1992, 1994, 1996)

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  • Figure 14. Quality of Environment Declined over past 10 years, by State & Territory (Source: ABS, 1996, 1998, 1999)

    economic growth. Thus over twice as many chose the environment over economic growth.

    Quality of environment declined or improved, 1996-1999

    The 1996, 1998 and 1999 surveys asked respondents whether they considered the quality of the environment had improved, declined, or stayed the same over the last 10 years. The average national figures for the three surveys were as follows: declined 44.2 per cent, improved 24.7 per cent, stayed the same 26.5 per cent, and don't know 5.2 per cent. Thus those who regarded it had declined were nearly double the number of those who considered it had improved.

    Figure 14 indicates the proportions of those in each State who considered the environment had declined, the highest level being in W A and the lowest in Tasmania.

    Environmental Activism

    Several of the ABS surveys asked whether respondents had registered their environmental concern such as by signing a petition, writing a letter or making a phone call. Only a minority of Australians translated their concern for the environment into such tangible action - 9.9 per

    Table 8 Environmental behaviour as specified in ABS surveys

    cent in 1992 and 8.4 per cent in 1998 and 2001. In 2001, W A was the most environmentally active community (11.5 per cent active), the ACT the lowest (7.4 per cent). Signing a petition was the action of choice among the 18-24 age cohort, while older cohorts preferred letters and phone calls. Participating in demonstrations was the least preferred action, but was favoured more by younger people than other age cohorts.

    Membership of an environmental group, such as Landcare, catchment management, marine conservation or other group attracted 6.9 per cent (i.e. 608,900 people) of Australians in 2001, up from 5.5 per cent in 1998. Of these in 2001, 67,600 (11.1 per cent) belonged to a marine group, 220,400 (36.2 per cent) to a Landcare or catchment management group, and 379,300 (62.3 per cent) to another environment group.

    Around 20 per cent of Australians donated time or money to environmental protection in 2001 and 1998, lower than the 28 per cent in 1992. The major reasons cited by persons not involved in environmental actions are lack of time (49 per cent) and age and health reasons.

    ABS Surveys of Environmental Behaviour

    In addition to the questions of personal environmental action by respondents, the ABS surveys also asked respondents a range of questions relating to environmentally related behaviour. These enable the congruence between attitudes and behaviour to be examined.

    Table 8 summarises the topics covered and the year of the survey. Many of the items covered analyse the results by respondent characteristics (e.g. age, gender), household characteristics, and by State and Territory. The incidence of the surveys indicates that most are repeated on a regular basis. The value of the ABS surveys of environmental behaviour will increase with repeated surveys as they will enable trends to be identified.

    Issue

    The changes to behaviour identified by the surveys are mixed (Table 9). Some indicate more environmentally positive actions, e.g. respondents not recycling has declined, more have installed 1992 1994 1996 1998 1999 2000 2001

    Household waste management Environmentally friendly products Packaging Environmental involvement Environmental information Usage of National Parks Energy conservation measures Energy sources and uses Greenpower Household appliances Water sources and use Motor vehicle ownership & maintenance Use of transport Gardens Source: ASS, 1992,1994,1996,1998,1999,2000,2001

    March 2002

    ,(

    ,(

    ,(

    ,(

    ,(

    ,(

    ,(

    ,( ,(

    ,( ,(

    ,( ,(

    ,( ,(

    ,(

    ,(

    ,(

    ,(

    rainwater tanks and dual flush toilets, but other actions are environmentally negative, e.g. decline in use of recycled paper, or using a bicycle to get to work.

    The link between the positive environmental attitudes expressed in the surveys, and the questions about respondent actions that follows is not direct. In the sample of actions compared, trends for eight of the thirteen were positive

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  • Table 9 Household action, Australian total figures, % 6. Chemical residues Issue 1992 1994 1996 1998 1999 2000 2001 Change 7. Conservation orientation Not recycling Paper recycling

    15.6 9.4 3.2 52.8 74.5 84.7

    Haz. waste poured down drain 11.0 11.9 Use of recycled paper 68.0 Accept less product packaging 84.5 Visited national park etc 62.9 House insulated Greenpower used

    52.1

    Rainwater tank installed 15.2 Dual flush toilet installed 39.0 Cold water washing clothes 61.2 Reduced flow shower head 21.8 Drive to work or study 77.6 Bike to work or study 2.8

    47.6 87.0 54.4

    16.9 55.2

    32.3

    Source:ABS, 1992,1994,1996,1998,1999,2000,2001

    54.5 3.2

    64.4

    75.8 1.1

    47.5

    53.6

    15.7 63.8

    34.7

    Note: _, = environmentally positive change, x = environmentally negative change

    environmentally, four were negative, and one was stable. Although this suggests more environmentally friendly lifestyles, the sample of actions is small and there are many other household actions that are not covered - e.g. number of cars, use of air conditioning.

    Other Australian Surveys Several further national surveys that included environmental components are summarised below.

    Australian Farmers' Attitudes to Rural Environmental Issues

    The University of New England has carried out two comprehensive surveys of Australian farmers, the first in 1991 (Reeve and Black, 1993) and the second in 2000 (Reeve, 2001). With assistance of most State farmer organisations and use of the Commonwealth electoral roll and the Yell ow Pages, a mailed questionnaire was sent to a sample of farms throughout Australia. In 1991 the sample represented 3 per cent of all farms. In 1991, 2160 were returned, a response rate of 57 per cent and in the 2000 survey, 2727 (45 per cent) were returned (omitting those returned to the sender due to incorrect address etc). These were found to be representative of the membership of farmer organizations but under-represented hobby and part-time farmers.

    The 1991 survey used twelve attitudinal scales, each comprising a set of questions (total of 60 questions) which respondents were asked to rate on a 5-point Likert scale. The scales covered:

    1. Seriousness of land degradation

    2. Subsidising the environmental costs of agriculture

    3. Zoning of rural land

    4. Agricultural chemicals

    5. Agricultural chemicals education

    54

    X

    X

    X

    na even ., ., ., .,

    X

    8. Social and environmental contexts of farming

    9. External influence on decision-making

    10. Profit orientation

    11. Risk orientation

    12. Political/economic orientation

    The 2000 survey used these and added:

    13. Spraydrift and the right to farm

    14. Landcare orientation

    15. Compensation for taking of property rights

    16. Retaining traditional agricultural industries.

    The 2000 survey comprised a total of 74 questions. Following an analysis of the responses to the 2000 survey, the report compared the results of the 1991 and 2000 surveys. The report's summary described the main changes in attitudes thus:

    "increasing concern overall about chemical residues in agricultural produce and about the environmental and health effects of agricultural chemicals, but with those who are regular users of chemicals, such as cereal or fodder crop producers being less concerned and showing relatively little change over the period,

    "decreasing concern overall about the seriousness of land degradation, but with decreases in concern in Queensland, New South Wales and Tasmania being partly offset by increases in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia,

    "increasing awareness that farm practices have impacts beyond the farm boundary, and increasingly favourable views nationally towards consideration of the wider public interest in farm decision-making, although the trend was the reverse in Queensland, and

    "increasingly favourable, but slightly more polarized, views about conservation, while there is less support for conservation organisations and their activities."

    The report also found:

    "There have also been changes in the level of support for various policy instruments aimed at addressing the problems of land degradation and making agricultural more sustainable. There was less support for policies likely to increase costs in farming, but increased support for policies involving public subsidies for preventative or remedial measures against land degradation." (Reeve, 200 I, viii)

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  • Environmental Health Risk Perception in Australia

    The Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care sponsored the report Environmental Health Risk Perception in Australia (Starr et al. 2000). The report "presents a wide ranging and detailed analysis of the perceptions of health risks of a representative sample of the Australian population". Environmental risks were covered including climate change and ozone depletion.

    A telephone method was used and applied to a random sample of

    Figure 15. Australian Farmer Responses: Pro-environment vs Anti-environment (Source: Reeve, I.J., 2001). Note: Agree combines strongly agree & mostly agree; Disagree combines strongly disagree & mostly disagree.

    households in all States and Territories. The total of 2008 interviews were conducted in February 2000. Interviewers

    Interestingly the comparison of results found that membership of landcare groups had negligible influence on environmental attitudes of farmers, which was contrary to the conventional wisdom that participation would help develop a "land stewardship" ethic. However there was also a widespread acceptance that farming would need to change substantially for it to be sustainable; 46 per cent agreed that "If Australian agriculture is going to have a long term future, there will have to be a lot of cleared country put back to bush and forestry plantations."

    The results of the survey were subjected to statistical analysis to identify key explanatory factors and the relationships between attitudes and respondent characteristics.

    Figure 15 summarises the responses to 14 questions that reflect the range of issues covered. The responses indicate high levels of awareness and concern about the sustainability of farming, e.g. recognition that most farms contain land degradation and that marginal areas cannot be farmed without damage. The responses also indicate ambivalence on some issues, e.g. concern about the dependency of agriculture on chemicals but a view that their dangers are exaggerated.

    Analysis of the results on the basis of whether the responses indicate a pro-environment or anti-environment bias indicates that the farmers' responses are far more pro-environment than the opposite. In 2000, 51 per cent of the responses were pro-environment compared with 28 per cent being anti-environment. There was little change in these responses between 1991 and 2000.

    March 2002

    were available to conduct interviews in Greek, Italian and Vietnamese.

    Associations of the words "chemicals" and "risk" were undertaken and the survey then asked respondents to rate the degree of risk associated with various environmental health issues.

    A list of 28 items was read out and the respondents were asked to rate each in terms of the risk to all Australians on a scale of high, moderate, low, none, or don't know. The list of items was randomised. Figure 16 summarises the "high" health risk ratings for these items. All but seven of these were environmentally related. Suntanning, nuclear waste, chemical pollution overall, and ozone depletion were among the top environmental risks.

    The survey also covered health risks to the respondent's family. The highest risk items were misuse of chemicals and poisons, food poisoning, and chemicals in drinking water. The perceived risk of these was much lower than the risk to Australians generally. The results of both surveys were analysed by respondent characteristics.

    Sources of information about health risk, the confidence in these sources, and who in Australia is responsible for public health were surveyed.

    Finally a list of 17 statements was read out to respondents to assess their attitudes and opinions about environmental health issues (Table 10). They were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement.

    Interestingly, although most respondents did not consider there were serious environmental health problems where they lived, the majority believed that more co~tamination was present than before. Greenhouse was regarded as a

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  • Figure 16. Perceived High Health Risks to Australians (Source: Starr, G. eta/, 2000)

    potential health issue. Rather amazingly, nearly 40 per cent of respondents considered some health risks should be accepted for their economic benefit. This is surprising, given firstly, that health rates among the top issues of concern of Australians (Table 1) and secondly, the strong preference for environmental protection compared with economic growth (Figure 13) would imply a similar preference for health over economic growth.

    Table 10 Attitudes about health risks,%

    Agree Agree Disagree Disagree strongly stronalv

    There are serious environmental 5 20.1 64 9.2 health problems where I live Land, air & water are more 26.4 49.8 18.5 1.1 contaminated now than before Greenhouse effect is a serious 32.3 51.6 10 1.7 problem which could lead to changes in environment and people's health Australians should accept some 4.8 33.5 42.8 16.1 health risks for the economv Source: Starr, G. eta/, 2000

    56

    State Surveys

    New South Wales

    The NSW Environment Protection Authority (1994, 1997, 2001) has carried out a series of social surveys under the theme "Who cares about the environment?" The surveys comprehensively cover environmental knowledge, attitudes and behaviour and were conducted in 1994, 1997 and 2000.

    While the 1994 survey used personal interviews, the 1997 and 2000 surveys used telephone polls. The latest survey was conducted in October 2000 and covered 1100 residents aged between 15 and 70. The coverage of the survey questionnaires was not identical in the three surveys, dropping less critical questions and adding new questions in the later surveys. The report of the 2000 survey compared the results of the three surveys.

    The 2000 survey covered the following topics:

    Priorities for NSW government - analogous to the ABS question on most important social issues and Newspoll's question on most important issue. The question asked for two priority issues. It also asked for the respondent's views on the two most important issues in 10 years time.

    Priorities for the environment in particular

    Knowledge relating to specific environmental issues

    Concern for the environment

    Major aspects of concern

    Perceptions of improvements or deterioration of environmental conditions

    Environmentally friendly behaviour by the community

    Views on the enforcement of regulations

    Attitudes to use of pesticides by the community and by farmers

    Attitudes and behaviour concerning water conservation

    Don't know

    1.8

    4.3

    4.4

    2.8

    The 2000 survey indicated the following findings.

    The importance of the environment fell considerably since the 1994 survey, and lay sixth behind education and health. It was on par with unemployment, crime/law & order, public transport, and roads & traffic. This paralleled the findings of the ABS surveys.

    As a future issue (in 10 years time) the environment scored higher, being third behind health and education. The key environmental

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  • issues at the time of the survey were water pollution and conservation, air pollution, land degradation and waste. Most respondents had an accurate understanding of environmental issues, the exception being confusion between greenhouse and the ozone hole where 58 per cent believed the greenhouse effect was caused by a hole in the atmosphere.

    Rating the level of environmental concern on 4-point scale, 34 per cent had a great deal of concern, 54 per cent a fair amount, 11 per cent not very much, and 1 per cent not at all concern. The levels varied slightly across the three surveys. Of those respondents who expressed concern, 29 per cent were concerned for future generations, 20 per cent for the quality of life, 18 per cent for health, 17 per cent for the sustainability of ecosystems, and 15 per cent for long-term sustainability.

    Respondents were asked about environmental improvements or deterioration, covering water issues (i.e. cleanliness of beaches and oceans, water quality of rivers, lakes and creeks and reducing water consumption), air issues (i.e. air quality, industrial emissions, greenhouse emissions, and alternatives to cars), and waste issues (i.e. domestic rubbish, waste minimisation, chemical transport and pesticide use). Comparing the results of the three surveys, the largest gains were in the cleanliness of beaches and oceans ( 42 per cent said better in 1994, 55 per cent said better in 2000), water quality (13 - 35 per cent), and transport of chemicals (22 - 36 per cent).

    Asked more generally about the condition of the environment:

    52 per cent believed it had improved (48 per cent in 1994 and 1997) which is double the figure found by the ABS (Figure 14)

    30 per cent that it was quieter (36 per cent in 1994)

    33 per cent that there was better protection of soil (29 per cent in 1994)

    61 per cent that there was improved protection of endangered plants and animals (51 per cent in 1994)

    Respondents overwhelmingly considered the application of environmental regulations was too lax. This was thought to be particularly so in regard to industry, mining, forestry and use of pesticides, and less so for households and farmers.

    Respondents were asked whether they were involved in environmentally friendly behaviour - a list of 12 were read out. Compared with the 1997 survey:

    March 2002

    fewer chose environmentally friendly products (78 per cent in 1997, 73 per cent in 2000)

    fewer reduced water consumption (82 per cent, 71 per cent)

    fewer composted food/garden waste (64 per cent, 58 per cent)

    fewer avoided over packaged items (63 per cent, 59 per cent)

    more reduced their use of the car (39 per cent, 44 per cent), and

    more tried to get environmental information (38 per cent, 41 per cent).

    The 2000 survey also contained detailed questions about pesticide use in homes and by farmers, and the water conservation issue. The report analysed responses by age, gender, education, location (i.e. city, country) and from non-English speaking backgrounds.

    The NSW survey provides comprehensive understanding of environmental attitudes and explored the relationship between attitude and behaviour. Longitudinal surveys bring out trends and enable new issues to be covered. The NSW EPA is commended for contributing significantly to knowledge about the attitudes of Australians towards the environment through the successive surveys. It is to be hoped that they continue these at intervals in the future.

    Tasmania

    In 1998, the Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services (Health and Wellbeing Outcomes Unit, 1999) sponsored a survey of the health and well being of the adult State population including factors identified as determinants of health and well being. A postal survey was employed, sent to 25,000 persons based on the electoral rolls, and included persons in urban and rural areas. A total of 15,112 (71 per cent) useable survey forms were returned.

    Among the factors such as immunisation, smoking, and nutrition that influence health, the environment's impact on health was assessed. The survey regarded environmental factors as playing a "critical role in the prevention of premature morbidity" especially through the provision of clean water, food and air.

    Asked about their level of concern for various environmental problems, the presence of pesticides and germs, bacteria and viruses in water or food raised the highest levels of concern (37 - 38 per cent great deal of concern) (Figure 17). Surprisingly respondents were not

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  • Figure 17. Concerns of Tasmanians about environmental problems and their health impacts (Source: Health and Wellbeing Outcomes Unit (Tasmania), 1999). Note: l=of concern, 5=great deal of concern

    particularly concerned about industry located close to where they lived. Analysis of the ages of those who expressed great concern about these problems found the percentage increases with age cohorts for each issue, only decreasing for the over 75 years group.

    The Tasmanian survey examined factors that contributed to well-being and quality of life. It found that living in a clean environment was the equal fifth factor, along with relationship with children. Personal health, ability to perform daily living activities, relationship with partner and personal safety issues were the foremost factors. The factors were analysed by respondent characteristics (age, gender, income, education etc). The factors were then combined into a Subjective Quality of Life Index.

    New Zealand The International Social Survey Program (1994, 2001) involves universities in 35 countries in an annual survey of economic and social policy issues. Massey University at Palmerston North represents New Zealand and the surveys were conducted by its Department of Marketing. The environment was the subject of surveys in 1993 and 2000.

    The surveys were conducted by mail with follow-up reminders. The survey excluded people under 18 years of age. The 1993 survey gained 1272 responses (70 per cent response rate) while the 2000 survey gained 1112 responses (62 per cent).

    Table 11 Comparison of 1993 and 2000 "Dangerous" Ratings, New Zealand

    Issue 1993 2000 Water pollution 59 68 Industrial air pollution 63 65 Nuclear power stations 66 64 Vehicle air pollution 43 59 Greenhouse effect 48 58 Farm pesticides & chemicals 35 46 Genetically modified crops na 37

    Source: Int. Social Survey Program, 2001 Note: Sum of "Extremely Dangerous" and "Very Dangerous"

    from "extremely dangerous" to "not at all dangerous" (Figure 18). The issues of greatest concern were nuclear power stations, pollution of rivers, lakes and streams, and industrial air pollution. Interestingly, although there are no nuclear power stations in New Zealand, clearly there is considerable opposition to them.

    Combining the ratings for extremely dangerous and very dangerous ratings for the 1993 and 2000 survey (Table 11) indicates that New Zealanders were much more concerned about water pollution, vehicle air pollution, the greenhouse effect, and farm pesticides and chemicals.

    The environmental qualities that New Zealanders value most are:

    Clean, clear air 90 per cent

    Clean water in lakes & rivers 90 per cent

    Unpolluted water in beaches & harbours 89 per cent

    Safe towns & cities 82 per cent

    Beautiful scenery 81 per cent

    National parks & reserves 77 per cent

    Healthy, unpolluted soils 77 per cent

    NZ plants & animals 73 per cent

    NZ cultural heritage 41 per cent

    Asked to rate the threats to the environment, Figure 18. Rating of Environmental Issues, New Zealand, 2000 New Zealanders rated issues against five grades (Source: Int. Social Survey Program, 2001)

    58 AUSTRALIAN JOURNAL OF ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT-Volume 9

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  • Table 121nvolvement of New Zealanders In environmental protection

    Issue 1993 2000 Signed a petition about environment 55% 45% Donated to environment group 49% 30% Member of environment group 17% 11% Participated in demonstration 4% 4%

    Source: Int. Social Survey Program, 1994, 2001

    While the number of New Zealanders who always recycle has increased from 27 per cent in 1993 to 40 per cent in 2000, overall New Zealanders were less involved in environmental protection activities than in 1993 (Table 12).

    Willingness to pay for environmental protection declined slightly; the proportion willing to pay much higher prices to protect the environment declined from 48 per cent to 45 per cent while those willing to pay much higher taxes or accept cuts in their standard of living declined from 35 per cent to 30 per cent.

    A feature of the New Zealand survey is a series of statements about the environment versus the economy on which respondents were asked to indicate their agreement (Figure 19). As the report of the survey notes, the results contain paradoxes. For example, 51 per cent agreed that economic growth is needed to protect the environment yet 63 per cent believed that economic growth always harms the environment. However half the respondents also believed that every aspect of modern

    Figure 19. The Economy versus the Environment, New Zealnd, 2000 (Source: Int. Social Survey Program, 2001)

    March 2002

    Table 13 Pro-environment and Anti-environment Positions, New Zealand, 2000

    Question Pro Anti 1 32% 51% 2 53 32 3 53 30 4 48 39 5 58 18 6 61 17 7 52 26 8 42 26

    Average 50% 30% Source: International Social Survey Program, 2001

    life harms the environment. Such paradoxes between idealism and realism are not an uncommon finding in such surveys and perhaps reflect the contradictions between values and attitudes that people live with in complex contemporary societies.

    Questions such as the willingness to pay and those that examine the tradeoffs between the environment and the economy are useful in exploring the congruence between attitude and behaviour.

    Categorisation of the responses into pro-environment and the anti-environment positions (Table 13) indicates that the former average 50 per cent overall compared with 30 per cent for the latter5. The responses to these questions could provide a robust measure of environmental attitudes and their change over time.

    The New Zealand surveys provide a comprehensive and valuable assessment of community environmental attitudes and the Australian surveys could learn from

    their coverage. Questions about "threats" to the environment, what is valued in the environment, the willingness to pay, and the exploration of economic-environmental tradeoffs would complement and provide very useful additions to the standard ABS surveys.

    Conclusions My earlier paper (Lothian, 1994) concluded:

    "Environmental action by government, business and industry is generally not held back because of a lack of technical understanding of what needs to be done, but because of a perception of insufficient community support. The results of surveys taken across Australia over the past 20 years (i.e. 1975 -1994) indicate that this perception is false; and that a substantial body of support does exist among Australians for action to safeguard and better manage the environment."

    The review of surveys over the past decade supports this position absolutely. Overall, the surveys reviewed here point to a mainstreaming of

    5. This omits question 9, as it is unclear whether the responses were pro- or anti-environment.

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  • environmental consciousness within the Australian community during the 1990s, a consolidation of its perceived importance and a stabilisation of its influence upon behaviour.

    While the influence of environment varies from year to year, the range of its contribution is not as great as for other issues such as unemployment or interest rates and, importantly, it shows no sign of abating, indeed it has strengthened during the 1990s. Although it may not reach the pre-eminent top-of-mind position it held in the late 1980s through the combined influence of issues such as the ozone hole and the greenhouse effect, nevertheless it continues to hold a significant place in the concerns of Australians.

    The level of community concern has been shown to decrease with the age of the respondent, and increase with education and employment status. Thus although the community is aging, the effect of this may be offset by education and improved economic opportunities. The economic decline of the early 1990s, when high interest rates and unemployment rates commanded media attention, impacted environmental influence adversely. It has taken the period of the 1990s to recover the lost ground.

    Environmental protection issues, i.e. protection of air, land and water, and protection from chemicals and noise, are generally regarded as more important than issues regarding conservation of species and natural resource management. This probably reflects the direct relevance of these issues for the individual- one's home, health and well being can be adversely affected by pollution, whereas the loss of a plant or animal, or land degradation, is generally remote and unlikely to directly and immediately affect the individual. The ranking of issues (Figure 4) reflects to a substantial degree their capacity to directly and immediately influence the individual. The lowest ranked issues of over-population, urban development and uranium mining are perceived as too remote or too far in the future to warrant concern.

    An alternative explanation of the low ranked issues may be the lack of awareness of them. A respondent presented with a list of issues may encounter some which either they do not regard as environmental issues, e.g. urban development, or they are completely ignorant about, e.g. over population.

    The similarity in levels of concern for environmental issues between the various States and Territories indicates the relative homogeneity of the Australian community and, importantly of the level of environmental protection and management provided

    60

    across Australia. The National Environment Protection Council has the role of ensuring that all Australians have the benefit of equivalent protection from air, water and soil pollution and from noise. The results summarised here indicate that gross disparities of environmental protection are not perceived to be apparent in Australia.

    In respect of the Values -+ Attitudes -+ Behaviour model described at the outset, the surveys described in this article indicate that the link between attitudes and behaviour needs further research. Although the sample of behaviours reviewed here (Table 9) indicated that more reflected an environmentally sensitive lifestyle than were environmentally negative, this could not be taken as definitive. Further work is needed on exploring the relationship between environmental attitudes as espoused and the actions of respondents. Do the attitudes reflect an aspiration that they would like to see achieved? Are environmentally negative actions a result of lack of knowledge? To what extent does knowledge result in environmentally positive behaviour? What are the key factors leading to a greater congruence between attitudes and behaviour?

    The regular surveys of environmental attitudes by the ABS, the NSW EPA and the University of New England (of farmers' attitudes) along with the New Zealand survey are commended. The value of surveys is greatly enhanced where the results can be compared with similar earlier surveys, so that changes in attitudes can be detected and trends identified. One-off surveys can however be valuable, particularly where they explore in depth particular issues such as health and environment. The value of these may be enhanced by nesting their findings within the longitudinal surveys, and by explaining the differences, e.g. the differences between the NSW and ABS surveys on whether the condition of the environment had improved or declined.

    The 1970s and 1980s were the period during which environmental consciousness emerged in the community's psyche and the 1990s saw this consolidated and become mainstream. What will characterise the coming decade? It seems probable that the tradeoffs and choices between economic and resource development and protection of the environment will become more acute. Growing problems with land salinisation, contaminated land, the Murray Darling Basin, growing cities, and, at the global level with global warming, and worsening environmental degradation in many countries resulting in poverty and conflict are likely to continue to reinforce the environment as an issue before the public.

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  • These issues may result in a heightening of environmental concern, or conversely, in a negative attitude due to a feeling of that the problems are too great for the individual to address.

    At the level of the individual, the lack of congruence between positive environmental attitudes and lifestyles that are heavily demanding of resources is likely to become more apparent. Whether this results in lifestyle changes or to lessened environmental concern remains to be seen. While the only certainty is change, it is unlikely that the environment will be displaced as an issue of public concern.

    Acknowledgements The author acknowledges with appreciation the comments provided by two reviewers, Bob Harrison and Andy Kliskey. Errors that remain are of course the responsibility of the author.

    References Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1992. Environmental Issues People's Views and Practices, ABS Catalogue No. 4602.0.

    Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1994. Environmental Issues People's Views and Practices, ABS Catalogue No. 4602.0.

    Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1996. Environmental Issues People's Views and Practices, ABS Catalogue No. 4602.0.

    Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1998. Environmental Issues People's Views and Practices, ABS Catalogue No. 4602.0.

    Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1999. Environmental Issues People's Views and Practices, ABS Catalogue No. 4602.0.

    Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2000. Environmental Issues People's Views and Practices, ABS Catalogue No. 4602.0.

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