Term Paper: Attitudes Towards the Environment in the Developed

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¶ … Attitudes Towards the Environment in the Developed and Developing World

The objective of this work is to examine the differences in attitudes towards the environment in the developed and developing world.

The work of Riley E. Dunlap (1994) entitled: "International Attitudes Towards Environment and Development" relates: "Conventional wisdom holds that concern for the environment is limited to residents of the wealthy industrialized nations of the Northern hemisphere, as those who live in the poorer, Southern nations are assumed to be too preoccupied with economic survival to worry about environmental quality." Dunlap additionally states: "Conventional wisdom also holds the perceptions of the roots of the global environment 'problematique', and how it ought to be mitigated, differ drastically between residents of the economically advanced nations and those in poorer nations." (1994) According to the United Nations Environment Program (1981) states that as the international environment continues to experience a deterioration that developing countries will be less able to initiate clean ups of their environments which, at the time this was written further complicated due to the indifference of third world countries for the environment.

STATEMENT of THESIS

While many studies and most specifically those that are in alignment with political party desires and policy related needs in their findings, the truth is that the countries in today's world are characterized by such a high diversity that to expect to find consensus among these countries based upon the sameness of countries in their being either 'developed' or 'developing' countries is an erroneous measurement to attempt to use and most specifically in relation to understanding perceptions of countries on the environment.

LITERATURE REVIEW

The work of Holl, et al. (1999) entitled: "Knowledge of and Attitudes Toward Population Growth and the Environment: University Students in Costa Rica and the United States" published in the Environmental Conservation Journal states: "...clear understanding of human population growth, consumption patterns, and their effects on the environment, particularly amongst our future leaders, is essential for proper allocation of conservation efforts. We report on the results of a written questionnaire assessing the Knowledge and attitudes of undergraduate university students majoring in a range of disciplines in the United States of America (USA) and in Costa Rica (CR) regarding population- and environment-related issues. Our results indicated limited knowledge about human population growth and the environment, with USA students and male students more often responding correctly to factual questions on demography and global environmental change than CR students, who nonetheless were generally more pessimistic about environmental quality and the carrying capacity of the planet. USA students, however, more often recognized the link between human population size and environmental quality. Education on population and environmental issues will be improved if: (1) linkages between population size, consumption, and environmental quality are taught; (2) the effects of individual actions on environmental quality are emphasized; and (3) environmental education is tailored to local issues." (Holl, et al., 1999)

The work of Philipp Aerni (2001) an STI Research Report entitled: "Public Attitudes Towards Agricultural Biotechnology in Developing Countries: A comparison between Mexico and the Philippines" states that although the debate surrounding the risk and benefits of agricultural biotechnology is attended to in discussions across the entire globe, "...it is often reduced to a transatlantic debate within the Untied States as the main producer of bioengineered crops and Europe as the main opponent to such crops. Developing countries often find themselves in an uncomfortable position in the middle." (Aerni, 2001) Aerni (2001) states that it is whom in the STI Research Report that "most of the respondents to the surveys consider biotechnology a powerful new tool to address problems in agriculture, nutrition and the environment, and they do not seem to share Europe's fear of potential health risk for consumers. In turn, they are concerned about corporate control of the technology, and the potential impact of such crops on their countries rich biological diversity." (Aerni, 2001)

Aerni relates that technology-driven modernization and science was accepted widely by the public until sometime in the mid-20th century. Historically trust was vested in the regulators of government and experts in science for managing the potential risks associated with use of new technology and product commercialization however due to "scandals related to unsafe new drugs, environmental pollution, and the growing concern about the risks of nuclear technology resulted in a growing risk perception gap between experts and lay persons in the 1960s and 1970s. While experts relied in their risk judgment on calculative risk/benefit analysis and technical risk assessment, the risk perception of lay persons implied also social and psychological aspects." (Aerni, 2001) Aerni notes that existing social movements that protest biotechnology has as their focus on the possibility of unintended and unknown side effects. The social movement protests are stated by Aerni to be "an expression of the uneasiness of society at large, but at the same time they amplify the concerns by creating symbolic events targeting certain stakeholders, who are accused of pushing technology and not caring about the public concern." (Aerni, 2001)

The majority of studies relating to the perception of public of agricultural biotechnology have been conducted in countries that are already developed while the public attitude in developing countries "has often been neglected since it is assumed that a majority of the people in these countries is hardly informed about the advent of biotechnology. In addition, they would probably be more concerned about everyday risks rather than potential long-term risks of a new technology. Nevertheless, what we find in developing countries are elite democracies in which public opinion matters too. But it is the perception of the political stakeholders rather than the perception of the public at large that counts in public policy." (Aerni, 2001) study conducted through a large survey by Ortwin Renn et al. relating to the perception of nuclear technology among students in Japan, Germany and the Philippines states findings that Filipino students are the most negative in their attitude toward nuclear technology because "Filipinos regard nuclear technology as an imported Western technology with doubtful benefits and high potential risks..." (Aerni, 2001) However, Aerni states that students in Germany and Japan "also associate it with cultural heritage and cheap energy supply that enhances economic competitiveness." (Aerni, 2001) This is crucially important in relation to Western technology introduction in agriculture "since this strategy often carries the negative image of being a supply -driven, top-down approach that would serve Western interests rather than resource-poor farmers in marginal areas in developing countries." (Aerni, 2001) Aerni relates that "marginal farmers did not benefit from the green revolution to the extent farmers with favorable conditions did. However, with the new tools in agricultural biotechnology it may soon be possible to tailor crops with relatively modest research costs, that target in particular problem of farmers in marginal areas." (Aerni, 2001) Another potential impact of these crops in the increase in productivity on lands already being used for crop production thereby ending encroachment of agriculture on pristine natural environments." (Aerni, 2001)

There is a great potentiality for resource-poor farmers and the introduction of agricultural biotechnology in countries that are developing but thus far, this type of technology is being viewed in developing countries as a technology that is driven by Western interests and specifically corporate interests than viewed as an environmentally friendly technology. Aerni relates that foreign aid for agriculture has dropped by 50% in the last ten years leaving a "huge gap in public leadership with respect to appropriate strategies in sustainable development, the management of global public goods, and active poverty alleviation in r developing countries." (2001) Included in these changes are "increased polarization in the public debates on the risk and benefits of globalization, and agricultural biotechnology in particular." (Aerni, 2001) the reason given for opposition to agricultural biotechnology is the link between agricultural biotechnology and corporate interests in America because Cuba is greatly committed to research in biotechnology and has already "developed its own transgenic crops and animals without facing major international or national criticism." (Aerni, 2001)

In assessing the view of developing countries, it is important to realize that there is an existing structural heterogeneity in these countries in terms of:

1) Culture;

2) Size;

3) History;

4) Political systems;

5) Infrastructure; and 5) Economic weight. (Aerni, 2001)

Furthermore, there is no "...single developing country perspective but several, each reflecting the particular social, political, economic, and cultural circumstances." (Aerni, 2001) for example, the political system in the Philippines is one that is based upon the presidential system in the United States and is "characterized by strong adversarial culture in politics, where powerful interest groups, mostly family clans, fight for political influence and scarce public resources. Personalities rather than political parties matter and political loyalty to these personalities, who are mostly powerful landlords in rural areas, is secured through a system of reciprocity within the same social class and patron-system between social classes. In contrast, the political system in Mexico is one that is 'Corporativist' in which the Partido Revolutionario Institutcional (PRI) lost elections in Mexico… [END OF PREVIEW]

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