Only 1/4th of Gulf Residents are More Concerned About the Environment After BP Spill


This, evidently, wasn't catastrophic enough.

New research from the University of New Hampshire takes a look at the long-term reactions of those impacted by the BP spill—and finds that only a relatively small fraction have grown more concerned about other environmental issues.

Lawrence Hamilton, professor of sociology at the University of New Hampshire, told Science Daily that "About one-fourth of our respondents said that as a result of the spill, their views on other environmental issues such as global warming or protecting wildlife had changed."

That number jumped when their jobs or livelihoods were threatened, but not dramatically. Here's Hamilton in SD again:

"This proportion rose to 35 percent among those most affected economically by the spill. People reporting changed views also expressed greater concern about sea level rise due to climate change, more support for a moratorium on deepwater drilling, and were more likely to favor alternative energy rather than increased oil exploration."

These are pretty striking findings. Only one third of those who've suffered—lost jobs or income or whatever—have become concerned about this kind of thing happening again? And three fourths of those who saw their beaches soiled and pelicans soaked in oil decided they're OK with the status quo that allowed the disaster to occur? Seems like a pretty low return.

Now, I've never been able to refrain from relaying my incredulity at just how minor a ripple the BP spill has turned out to be in the court of public opinion or in terms of influencing policy—but it's important to remember just how economically reliant the region is on the oil industry, and how that plays into local opinion. Hamilton's research points out that over in Florida, where the tourism industry is much more robust, residents are now much more likely to oppose offshore drilling.

That said, any nascent environmental concerns may also be dampened by an atmosphere rife with political hostility to anything suggestive of green thinking in general. Louisiana is a deep shade of red, and the constant BP-sympathizing of the conservative media apparatus could have acted as a counterweight to the real-life calamity in residents' backyards. Regardless, the poll's findings demonstrate the uphill battle that today's environmentalists and conservationists have in mobilizing citizens everywhere—even in the face of bona fide environmental disasters, only a fraction are changing their minds about the destructive practices that begot them.

Tags: Gulf Oil Spill

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