Report: Americans Trash The Environment And Don't Care

The National Geographic Greendex survey of sustainable consumption is out, and most of the 17 countries in the study have improved over the past year. In the lowest-scoring one, though, consumers are actually less concerned about the environment and think that the whole issue is being exaggerated. And a majority in that country believe their current habits are unsustainable, but they’re cool with letting their grandkids deal with it.

According to NatGeo, Americans have made some improvements in areas like energy efficiency, and we’re doing a better job at recycling old electronics and buying refurbished products. But Nat says the real problem is our attitude:

Compared to the attitude of the average consumer in other countries, Americans express less concern about environmental problems, and increasingly consider the seriousness of environmental issues to be exaggerated (31 percent, up from 25 percent). In particular, Americans are less worried than most about climate change or global warming (45 percent versus the 17-country average of 64 percent), water pollution (54 percent versus 66 percent on average), and loss of species and habitat (48 percent versus 59 percent on average).

Consistent with this relatively low concern, Americans are less likely to think that environmental problems are having a negative impact on their health today (26 percent versus 39 percent on average) or that global warming will worsen their way of life within their own lifetime (32 percent versus 45 percent on average). However, the majority of Americans believe that the typical lifestyle in the USA is not sustainable for future generations (70 percent), though they are more optimistic than others that individuals can improve the environment—25 percent disagree that society’s impact is so severe that there is little that individuals can do about it versus 17 percent on average.

So, don’t worry. Things won’t get worse until after we’re dead, and those plucky grandchildren will figure out how to resolve those overblown problems that don’t really exist.

U.S. Consumers Lag Others in Sustainable Choices [NatGeo News Watch]
Full 2010 Greendex Report (230 Pages, 14 MB PDF) [NatGeo]