According to a new study, people the wide world over have suddenly stopped giving a damn about the filthy air they breathe and the contaminated water they drink. Concern levels are at their lowest in 20 years. Smog, schmog. We are suffering, according to the New York Times, from a mass outbreak of Environmental Warning Fatigue (not to be confused with the Outrage Fatigue Syndrome I've discussed in recent posts.)
Hmmm. Isn't it ironic that the paper of record is publishing the results of a new study on Environmental Meh at the exact same time it decided to ditch its popular Green Blog, close on the heels of the trashing of its entire Environmental Desk? Like Kermit the Frog, the Gray Lady apparently does not find it easy being green. So she's just being mean.
First, the phenomenon of environmental brain fog. The reason I'm calling it brain fog is because people don't seem to be connecting pollution with climate change. From the GlobeScan report cited by the Times:
Asked how serious they consider each of six environmental problems to be—air pollution, water pollution, species loss, automobile emissions, fresh water shortages, and climate change—fewer people now consider them “very serious” than at any time since tracking began twenty years ago.
The study, the Times article and the discontinuation of its environmental coverage also conveniently coincide with the Friday night dump of the State Department's preliminary report on the environmental impact of the filth-producing Keystone tar sands pipeline. Hint: our corporate-controlled government says the free flow of one of most polluting substances on the planet will be minimal to non-existent. What a shock.Climate change is the only exception, where concern was lower from 1998 to 2003 than it is now. Concern about air and water pollution, as well as biodiversity, is significantly below where it was even in the 1990s. Many of the sharpest falls have taken place in the past two years.
Also, as an aside -- while there is no evidence that the GlobeScan survey itself was skewed in any way, I think we have to be wary about the use to which it may be put by the moneyed elites. Will the Keystone XL pipeline boosters point to generalized public ennui as the perfect excuse to grant final approval over the protests of the increasingingly marginalized environmental groups? The company's corporate client roster has, after all, included such global heavy-hitters as Goldman Sachs, BP, Citigroup and Royal Dutch Shell. According to Wikipedia, it is a public research consultant which relies on "the wisdom of crowds". So far, I have been unable to discover on whose behalf they commissioned the survey on environmental ennui. But it'll be interesting to see how the PTBs put the findings to use (or misuse).
Still, I give GlobeScan props for pointing out in a separate blogpost by Sam Mountford that global public apathy about the environment is closely tied to the global economic meltdown:
Meanwhile, New York Times environmental blogger Andrew Revkin has written a scathing dirge on the demise of the Green Blog, adding that the paper will still blithely and profitably continue publishing its nine fashion, dining and lifestyle blogs, its four business blogs and its four or five technology blogs. He snarkily warns that if you care to complain to the Gray Bitch (my appellation, not his), you'd better make sure your subscription is up to date first. We can't have "you environmentalists" stealing valuable corporate information, y'know? It might put a microscopic dent in the bloated profits of the One Percent. It might poke a hole in the Fog of Bore.The timing of this fall in concern (in public concern about the environment) is no coincidence. The period since 2009 has witnessed the most sustained period of economic strife in most of the world’s major economies for the better part of a century. All our polling suggests that, while alarm about the economic situation and jobs has retreated from the stratospheric levels it reached in 2008, it has stabilized at a much higher level than before the crisis. The full ramifications of the banking collapses, ensuing government bailouts and cripplingly high levels of public indebtedness that have resulted have only slowly become apparent. And bluntly, for many citizens, these appear to pose a much clearer and more present threat to their well-being than environmental jeopardy, which for most people remains hidden from view.