Over 60% of Britons feel responsible for environmental degradation

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64% of men and 60% of women declare they feel personal responsibility for curbing their negative impact on the environment. Practical measures rarely follow this awareness, though. Very few financially support ecology-focused organizations, engage in their activities, and attempt to influence the authorities on pro-environmental issues, suggests research conducted by the PASSION consortium incorporating six European universities, including University of Northampton and Collegium Civitas.

The researchers asked Britons what kind of actions they had undertaken in the previous twelve months to curb the ongoing environmental degradation. Only 14% of women and 29% of men participated in a public rally. 16% of women and 25% of men were active in ecology-focused organizations. A similar minority, 20% and 30% respectively, financially supported such groups. Petitioning was the only activity whose participation exceeded 50%, with 55% of women and 54% of men signing one. Posting about ecology on social media was also fairly popular, with 43% of both men and women.

 Under-45 Respondents Eco-passive in Public Sphere

What do experts say about these results? Dr Katarzyna Iwińska, Vice-Rector for Scientific Research at Collegium Civitas and the coordinator of the international PASSION project, claims that, despite the growing ecological awareness, citizens do not feel empowered to influence public affairs. This sense of passivity also propagates into environmental matters.

“The passivity of people between 18 and 45 comes from the fact that this demographic particularly recognizes the environmentally-focused work of the NGOs, activists, and local communities. Consequently, young people reduce their cognitive dissonance, their inner conflict: we are concerned about climate crisis while we remain passive. From the perspective of participatory and environmental democracy, this is a rather sad diagnosis of the degree of engagement. It seems that young people of 18+, perhaps even the entire Millennial generation, do not wish to become involved in this cause. At the same time, in their private lives, people of 18 to 45 declare more pro-ecological behaviours. In the private sphere, they feel they possess more agency and impact,” concludes Dr Iwińska.

Britons More Eco-friendly on the Daily Basis

The inhabitants of the British Isles come across as more pro-ecological in their daily lives. 78% of women and 70% of men tend to run washing machines when they have enough laundry for a full load. 69% of women consider it natural to disconnect unused TV sets and electric kettles from the mains. Among men, 68% provided the same response. Biking or walking over short distances, instead of taking a bus or driving, is considered easy by 55% of women and 63% of men. Purchasing ecological groceries seems to constitute more of a hurdle: only 39% of women and 51% of men declared this to be unproblematic.

“When it comes to pro-ecological behaviours, Britons, and they are not isolated in this, choose easy and non-time-consuming activities,” claims dr Iwińska. “These include switching off the lights when no one’s in the room or shutting the tap when brushing teeth. These are clearly behaviours that are both economical and ecological. They do find mobility habits more difficult, though, including active transportation instead of fuel-powered means, as well as eating habits, especially transitioning to vegetarian meals. Needless to say, meat production is particularly greenhouse gases-intensive. Differences register not only between countries, but also cities. Different approaches may even result from socio-demographic factors, such as education,” adds the Collegium Civitas researcher.

Europeans Expects Ecological Catastrophe and Urban Problems

Apart from Great Britain, the survey concerning ecological awareness and attitudes was conducted in Sweden, Poland, Greece, and Portugal. In all countries, the majority of respondents agreed that “if nothing changes, we will soon confront a major ecological catastrophe.” This statement was chosen by 67% of Britons, 55% of Swedes, 73% of Poles, 77% of Greeks, and 78% of respondents from Portugal. The results demonstrate clearly that the dominant portions of the populations of all five countries see the environment as devastated, with humanity as the principal destructive factor. The respondents in these countries also identified a number of urban problems, including traffic, air pollution, and the shortage of green areas. The Portuguese alone emphasized the rising sea levels. For Swedes, bad consumption habits were the key ecological challenge. Britons identified increasing amounts of trash and waste as one.

PASSION Prepares Ecologically-responsible Citizens and Change Leaders

The survey was conducted as part of the PASSION project, an international academic partnership for sustainable development and social innovation. Apart from social research, the project also engages academic education grounded in case studies and students’ personal experiences of ecological issues.

PArtnership for Sustainable Development and Social InnovatiON aims to foster education of change leaders of sustainable development and social innovation. The consortium is led by Warsaw’s Collegium Civitas and also includes Agricultural University of Athens, University of Porto, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, University of Northampton, and University of Iceland, which is responsible for educational activities. The initiative is financed by the Polish National Agency for Academic Exchange.