"You don't have to sacrifice environmental pro-
— President Bill Clinton
by David B. Rockland and Gwyn L. Fletcher
"You don't have to sacrifice environmental protection to get economic growth. The choice between jobs and environment is a false one: we can have both." So wrote President Clinton in an environmental voters' guide to the 1992 elections carried in all the Times Mirror magazines and newspapers. It turns out that his words were right in keeping with how most Americans view the environment/economy relationship.
For the past three years. Times Mirror Magazines, Inc., America's leading publisher of outdoor, leisure-oriented magazines, has conducted its National Environmental Forum Survey with Roper Starch Worldwide. The survey gauges America's opinions on natural resource issues and those solutions to environmental problems that have the greatest public support.
For three years running, the survey has found that most Americans (66% in 1994) believe that environmental protection and economic development go hand in hand. Almost every American (89% in 1994) feels that we can find a balance that allows us to enjoy economic progress while making sure our rivers, lakes, mountains and wildlife are protected.
One reason for the public's positive outlook on the environment/economy interplay is a growing environmental industry. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates that the worldwide market for environmental goods and services in 1990 was nearly $200 billion. This market is expected to increase by 50% by the year 2000, making it one of the world's fastest growing industries.
Also, outdoor recreation, in which most Americans participate, is a good example of the healthy environment/healthy economy relationship. Each year more than 100 million Americans enjoy hunting, fishing, skiing, golfing, and boating. These recreationists spend more than $300 billion annually on their outdoor diversions. For those who enjoy the outdoors as well as those who profit from it, the link between a healthy environment and economic growth is undisputable.
Americans believe that the environment and economy go hand in hand, but what happens when faced with a choice between these two goals? The environment wins, hands down: six out of ten Americans say that environmental protection is more important than economic development. Only 22% feel the economy is more important. This preference for environmental protection has been a consistent finding in each of the past three years. However, just because environmental protection is viewed as a preferential societal goal does not mean that Americans are not sensitive to the costs of protection. In fact, the American public are not ideologues, but instead are seeking pragmatic solutions to vexing environmental problems. For example, when asked whether the cost of protection should be considered when deciding whether to save an endangered species, 53% of the Americans surveyed said yes. This is an eight point increase over 1993 and a 13% change over 1992.
Lock It Up? No Way
Stereotypical thinking says if you're an environmentalist, you favor putting natural resources off limits. While the 1994 survey finds 79% of Americans care about protecting the en-
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vironment, the poll also reveals that Americans are interested in enjoying their environment and favor a conservationist approach. Conservationists (representing 72% of those questioned three years straight) believe that through sound management, we can both protect and enjoy the use of natural resources. Preservationists, who believe that the only way to protect the environment is to put it off limits to the public, only comprise about one in five Americans.
This conservationist approach is evident in the way Americans view outdoor recreation and its effects on the environment. More than eight in ten feel that the use of land and water for hiking (88%), downhill skiing (81%) and fishing (80%) poses no harm to the environment. Slightly less (75%) feel this way about camping and golf, with 68% believing hunting poses no harm to the environment.
Water Is the Top Concern
There is one single aspect of the environment which our entire economic system and life as we know it is based—water. Everything and everyone is dependent upon clean water and an ample supply of it. Stop an American on the street and ask what he/she thinks is the greatest problem facing the environment. Three out of four will say, "water pollution." Water pollution and water conservation are by far the most important issues to the American public. Of those surveyed, almost nine in ten people who said they would be likely to contribute to environmental groups pick pollution of lakes, rivers, streams, and coastal waters as well as shortages of safe drinking water (both 88%) as top priorities.
Opening Up the Wallet
Americans are ready to open up their wallets for the environment. More than 100 million individuals (42%) say they have contributed to environmental organizations and 54% say they are likely to do so. A plurality (48%) say they are willing to pay an extra 25 cents a gallon for gasoline if the money is used to help the environment.
According to survey, Americans believe that the federal government should be putting more dollars toward environmental programs. Despite the economic uncertainty of recent years, Americans support stricter environmental regulations and an increase in federal funding of environmental efforts. They do not believe that environmental protection is an optional indulgence that can be cut back with the rise and fall of economic cycles.
Americans also want to see more money spent on maintaining this country's public lands. Each and every American is part owner of more than 700 million acres in National Parks, Forests, and Wildlife Refuges, as well as Bureau of Land Management holdings. Congress' nasty habit of buying up new properties while failing to care for what it already owns has left much of this land in dire need of repairs. The public says it would like to see $3 spent on maintaining public lands for every $2 spent on buying new lands. In addition, 86% say money generated from entrance fees on public lands facilities should remain with local parks and public lands rather than being turned over to the general coffers of the government, as is currently the case.
Satisfaction with Clinton
One in five Americans vote for the environment when they go to the polls—enough to carry most elections. Hence, an administration's environmental record can be key to their re-election. Satisfaction with the Clinton Administration's "positions and policies with respect to the environment" is up seven points from 1993 to 55% in 1994. Those dissatisfied constitute 32% of the public. Of the majority who view the administration favorably, 7% are very satisfied and 48% are somewhat satisfied.
This satisfaction may explain a decreasing public anxiety about the environment. At the end of the 1980s, about one-quarter of Americans identified the environment as one of their top two or three personal concerns. Concern today has settled to about one-sixth of the public. This change reflects a shift in focus to other issues—crime, health care, etc.—but it also suggests that this previous anxiety has been reduced somewhat by actions the public perceives are currently underway.
Statistics can be mind-numbing. Each year the National Environmental Forum Survey has found that Americans are seeking sound, pragmatic solutions to environmental problems that balance environmental and economic concerns. In this new, positive way of living, environmental protection is no longer seen as a hindrance to economic development but rather a forerunner of the next industrial revolution.
For more information about the 1994 National Environmental Forum Survey, write to the Times Mirror Magazines Conservation Council, 1705 DeSales St., N.W., Suite 501, Washington, D.C. 20036.
David Rockland and Gwyn Fletcher are the Executive Director and Government Relations Specialist of the Times Mirror Magazines Conservation Council. The Council is part of Times Mirror Magazines, publishers of Field & Stream, Golf Magazine, Home Mechanix, Ski Magazine, Popular Science, The Sporting News, Outdoor Life, Salt Water Sportsman, Skiing Magazine, Skiing Trade News, Yachting, and Sporting Goods Dealer.
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