Do_Global_Attitudes_and_Behaviors_Suppor.pdf - This article was published in the November 2005 issue of Environment Volume 47 Number 9 pages 22\u201338

Do_Global_Attitudes_and_Behaviors_Suppor.pdf - This article...

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© SVEN TORFINN—PANOS This article was published in the November 2005 issue of Environment . Volume 47, Number 9, pages 22–38. . © Anthony A. Leiserowitz, Robert W. Kates, and Thomas M. Parris, 2005.
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Many advocates of sustainable development recognize that a transition to global sustainability—meeting human needs and reducing hunger and poverty while maintaining the life-support systems of the planet—will require changes in human values, attitudes, and behaviors. 1 A previous article in Environment described some of the values used to define or support sustainable development as well as key goals, indicators, and practices. 2 Drawing on the few multinational and quasi-global-scale surveys that have been conducted, 3 this article synthesizes and reviews what is currently known about global attitudes and behavior that will either support or discourage a global sustainability transition. 4 (Table 1 on page 24 provides details about these surveys.) None of these surveys measured public attitudes toward “sustainable development” as a holistic concept. There is, however, a diverse range of empirical data related to many of the subcomponents of sustainable develop- ment: development and environment; the driving forces of population, affluence/poverty/consumerism, technology, and entitlement programs; and the gap between attitudes and behavior. Development Concerns for environment and development merged in the early concept of sustainable development, but the mean- ing of these terms has evolved over time. For example, global economic development is widely viewed as a central priority of sustainable development, but development has come to mean human and social development as well. Economic Development The desire for economic development is often assumed to be universal, transcending all cultural and national con- texts. Although the surveys in Table 1 have no global-scale data on public attitudes toward economic development per se, this assumption appears to be supported by 91 percent of respondents from 35 developing countries, the United States, and Germany, who said that it is very important (75 percent) or somewhat important (16 percent) to live in a country where there is economic prosperity. 5 What level of affluence is desired, how that economic prosperity is to be achieved, and how economic wealth should ideally be distributed within and between nations, however, are much more contentious questions. Unfortunately, there does not appear to be any global-scale survey research that has tried to identify public attitudes or preferences for particular levels or end-states of economic development (for example, infinite growth versus steady-state economies) and only limited or tangential data on the ideal distribution of wealth (see the section on affluence below).
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