Wednesday, November 14, 2007

POLLS: Planet Earth Has Green Majority, Part Four

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This is a continuing series of polls about global opinions and attitudes toward environmentalism. It shows that supermajorities of the world are in agreement already on environmental issues, and that a supermajority of the world considers their current forms of state doing poorly on getting to sustainability. This would be a good basis to achieve what the bioregional state promotes: green constitutional engineering to get to sustainability.

The previous three polls [1] [2] [3] showed a huge global agreement for greening politics and economics.

The argument of the bioregional state is that sustainability is unachivable without formal democratic institutional change (that would interact with other institutional additions in educational frameworks, local consumptive issues, and financial issues).

Other people have offered other methods to get to sustainability of course. What about these different methods to get there? Other routes are only indirect, susceptible to corruption, and have a history of backsliding.

First, however, the bioregional state argues that a single informal party is a poor strategy for change to sustainability. A single party can be corrupted like the fading greenness of Die Grunen in Germany (discussed at that link above).

Second, a single party it is a poor strategy for sustainability because support for greenness comes from across the left-right spectrum seen in above polls for global supermajorities supporting green politics. This makes a single informal party a poor strategy for mobilizing toward sustainability. It is perhaps ultimately self-defeating and self-divisive of the commonality of views on greenness to attempt to fit 'green' into one party framework. (That being said, I do support various forms of green parties however just without expecting that the model of political change for sustainability can ever be achieved by a singular party).

Third, the bioregional state argues that with so many solutions already in evidence though simply unapplied, it is unable to be said that there is a lack of solutions that is keeping sustainability from occurring.

On the contrary, it is political, economic, and technological corruption and gatekeeping against the massive supermajorities of the world that is keeping us from sustainability. Corruption is keeping us from living in representative democracies and maintaining a representative developmentalism. This corruption keeps us living within crony raw material regimes instead of arrangements more democratic and consumer-choice driven that would look closer to the commodity ecology arrangement instead of commodity arrangements that destroy the planet.

In existing democracies many conflicts of interest keep unsustainability in place. Only by creating additional formal 'ecological checks and balances' can we address these conflicts of interest and innately allow our political economies to be more directly 'in sync' with this global support for environmentalism, sound economics, and sound health practices.

To summarize, [1] unsustainability is corruption and conflict of interest. [2] This corruption is created by 'out of sync' formal institutional arrangements in states that create an informal gatekeeping on politics, instead of formal institutions creating representation in politics. [3] This gatekeeping and unrepresentativeness has a developmental effect toward environmental degradation and self-destruction [4] contrary to public support. [5] It is additionally contrary to polls showing sustainabilility to be the supermajority and popular concern of the world.

This is why the bioregional state approaches sustainability as requiring a more competitive democracy--to remove the informal corrupt gatekeeping frameworks to make the state a democratic institution 'in sync' with environmental concern, formally. The bioregional state would do this through over 60 additional 'ecological checks and balances'.

Our policies are so radically undemocratic and out of sync with public preferences in energy, technology, investment choices, and political parties 'in power'--because they are keeping out other parties from competition via corrupt vote regulations or voting methods that the bioregional state would solve. Gerrymandering is important for how corrupt, unsustainable states maintain themselves as well.

Getting over this morass of formal/informal corruption interactions requires identifying the many conflicts of interest in 'still incomplete' democracies that require more 'ecological checks and balances' to demote informal gatekeeping and unrepresentative developmental policies. Sustainability is a completed democracy with many additional checks and balances against formal and informal power corruption that would made developmental policy feedback automatically more represenative and ecologically sound.

Several other more technocratic or even genocidal methods have been proposed of course for sustainability. The book argues against these as well, from a green humanism point of view. From the book description:
"Toward A Bioregional State is a novel approach to development and to sustainability. It proposes that instead of sustainability being [fourth] an issue of population scale, [fifth] managerial economics, or [sixth] technocratic planning, an overhaul of formal democratic institutions is required. This is because environmental degradation has more to do with the biased interactions of formal institutions and informal corruption. Because of corruption, we have environmental degradation. Current formal democratic institutions of states are forms of informal gatekeeping, and as such, intentionally maintain democracy as ecologically “out of sync”. The bioregional state argues that we are unable to reach sustainability without a host of additional ecological checks and balances. These ecological checks and balances would demote corrupt uses of formal institutions by removing capacities for gatekeeping against democratic feedback. Sustainability is a politics that is already here—only waiting to be formally organized."
Only additional formal 'ecological checks and balances' can bring our political economies 'in sync' with our already existing global support for environmentalism, sound economics, and sound health practices.


On that note, here are some polls from the 1990s that I found in a book by Peritore, Third World Environmentalism: Case Studies from the Global South (1999). With the other links to polls above, it shows a documentable and constant 70-80% global support for the past 15 years for sentiments that animate the bioregional state, as well as equally high numbers of the global population considering their current states illegitimate and to blame for unsustainability.

The rest of this post is a quote from Peritore's book (pp. 30-34):

"Environmentalism, although a good postmodern indicator, is more fundamental than a culture shift because it is based on serious global threats to life on this planet. Ideologies may surge and flow across the face of these realities, but environmental issues are not merely "social constructs" and cannot be argued or deconstructed away. The test of this proposition is that the Global South countries surveyed in this book evince few signs of a postmodern shift in values, yet their mass publics show high levels of environmental concern, and the elites of these countries are fully aware of coming environmental crises and are actively moving to meet these challenges.

There are three perspectives on the question of the underlying motivation of environmentalism.

The first is Inglehart's postmaterialism, the view that environmentalism stems from a shift of values from materialism to postmaterialism, as a result of sustained affluence.

The second is the sociological perspective that the decline of the industrial working class from a post World War II high of 50% of the workforce to under 20% today opened space for a new middle-class social movements embracing feminism, environment, peace, and anti-nuclear views.

The third is the economic view that environmental quality is a luxury good purchased only after a population has attained affluence. The negative side of this view is that the Third World are the worst polluters because survival dictates a high discount rate on the future value of nature. This view is found in the Brundtland Commission...

All three of these views support the neoliberal conclusions of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro in 1992: that sustainable development can only be attained through GNP growth and free trade, which will (eventually) bring the poor the affluence needed for them to conserve nature. In this view, environment concern is a luxury for the Global South. Economic growth must not be limited by environmental regulation [in their view].

[However, the U.N. and]...[t]he three theories -- political, sociological, and economic -- underlying this neoliberal view of sustainable development are wrong. The data show that the poor of the global South are intensely concerned about environmental issues.

A 1993 international Gallup survey showed high levels of environmental concern in both industrialized and developing nations, with the latter manifesting stronger concern about the issues. The portions of "great" versus "moderate environmental concern" were the following: Canada 32/57%, United States 38/47%, Britain 28/53%, Japan 23/43%, Mexico 50/33%, Brazil 53/27%, Korea 22/58%, Russia, 41/37%, and India 34/43%. [Totaling these percentages for each country shows supermajorities of environmental concern across the world despite corrupt states that are currently keeping us from achieving sustainability.]

[In another poll] [b]etween January and April 1997, Environics Ltd. of Canada ran the largest survey yet, of 27,000 people in 24 countries. The results show strong support for environment in both North and South. "A majority of people in 15 of the 24 countries agreed with a view in one question that "we should assume the worst and take major action now to reduce human impacts on climate, even if the even if there are major costs." In another seven countries, pluralities share this view....

In contrast to U.S. opinion, which divided evenly on taking action on climate change (46/46%), the percentages of respondents "in favor of strong action on climate change are: France, 74%; Germany, 71%; Italy, 71%; Switzerland, 70%; Japan, 69%; Korea, 69%; Australia, 67%; New Zealand, 65%; Canada, 61%; Chile, 61%; the Netherlands, 58%; Finland, 54%; United Kingdom, 52%; Mexico, 50%; Spain, 49%."

Environmentalism stems from strong health concerns. "Asked if their children's health had been affected, overwhelming majorities 84% to 97%) in 23 of the 24 countries replied "a great deal" or "fair amount." Only in Japan were results significant lower at 70%."

Differences between the Global South and North emerged in the relative weight to be given environment of protection versus economic growth. "Asked if environment of protection is more important that economic growth, those in agreement comprised just 27% of citizens in Nigeria (down from 30% in 1992), 32% in Poland (down from 58%), 38% in Hungary (down from 52%), 44% in Mexico (down from 71%), and 47% in Russia (down from 56%)." These countries are all heavily impacted by economic recession.

"Countries with the largest percentage of people who agree that environmental protection is more important than economic growth include: Canada (73%), Switzerland (73%), the Netherlands (72%), Germany (71%), Finland (70%), Yang Kingdom (69%), USA (69%), South Korea (63%), and Japan (60%). In each of those countries, the [1997] result was virtually the same or significantly higher than in 1992." Furthermore, majorities in 23 of the 24 participating countries agree with the statement: "The clean-up and protection of a the environment, in itself, will contribute significantly to the growth of our economy." Some 75% of the populations in 10 of the 24 countries agreed with this statement.

People in the survey gave bad marks to most governments for their environmental efforts [which is a point of the bioregional state--that political corruption, lack of democratic response, and environmental degradation are interacting]. Majorities in 17 of the 24 countries rated their national governments performance in addressing environmental problems "very poor" or "poor." The Ukraine and Italy (81%), South Korea (77%), Japan (76%), Russia (76%) and Hungary (71%) of the largest majorities of people who disapprove of their national government's efforts. [This shows how out of sync is the environment with informal politics and formal policy within existing states, which implies that formal institutions of democracy are out of sync as well to maintain this arrangement. The interaction of democratic states with the environment requires a novel theory of formal democratic design in the era of sustainability, and this is the premise of the bioregional state.]

Governments receiving the best environmental performance ratings from their citizens were The Netherlands (just 34% said "very poor" or "poor"), Nigeria (41%), Switzerland (41%), the USA (43%), Chile (43%), China (48%), and Canada (46%).

Note that the approval ratings for government action on environment are low at best. These results did not vary greatly by gender, age, income, or community size.

[A third survey was when] Riley Dunlap ran a survey of 24 nations and found that low-income countries expressed more concern for environment than did high-income nations [which was the oppose of what the U.N. claimed to justify further neoliberalism falsely 'to get to' environmentalism. Actually, it's already there.]. People in poor nations (under US $5,000 per capita income) were more likely than the affluent to see negative health impacts from environmental degradation and were more likely to favor a specific environmental protection measures. This is not surprising, as one billion people lack access to clean water and 1.7 billion lack adequate sanitation. There are 900 million cases of diarrheal disease per annum and 3 million children die from these disorders. Some 200 million suffer from schistosomiasis or bilharzia and 900 million from hookworm; not to mention typhoid, paratyphoid, dengue fever, cholera, and "AIDS" [so called].

Majorities in 21 nations, and pluralities in two, choose environmental protection over economic growth. Dunlap concludes that postmaterialism and new social movements may explain environmentalism in the Global North, but cannot explain the widespread public concern and grassroots movements in the Global South, which are driven not by lifestyle issues, but by survival. He concludes: "The old assumption that non-industrialized nations will not worry about environment protection until they have achieved economic development is incorrect."


Inglehart's 1993 World Values Survey of 96 countries shows that 96% of the people were favorable toward the ecology movement: 62% "strongly approved" of it and 32% approved. Tax increases for environment were approved by 65% of the sample. He argues that postmaterialism is a weak factor in low-income countries because few people hold these values. Material concern with environment is more prominent, given that pollution is life-threatening. Industrializing countries show more pollution (i.e., survival motivation), while affluent countries show higher levels of postmaterialism. "The result is that, in global perspective, neither high pollution levels or high levels of postmaterialism appear to have significant impact on support for environmental protection."