Are Americans Giving Up On The Environment?

Flickr/<a href="">Gary Simmons</a> (<a href="">Creative Commons</a>).

Two new Gallup polls reveal Americans are becoming less concerned about the state of the environment.

A survey released yesterday shows just 34 percent of the public is worried a “great deal” about the environment, down from 40 percent the year before. Meanwhile, a poll published today reveals Americans are less troubled about pollution, global warming, deforestation, and animal and plant extinction than at any point in the past 20 years.

There are two ways to decipher these numbers. One is that the public is more content with environmental progress than before, so they have less to gripe about. Obama is certainly a more eco-friendly president than Bush, the climate bill is a buzzed-about legislative possibility, and the stimulus was a relative boon for the planet.

But the statistics may also indicate public indifference or even apathy. Thanks in large part to partisan bickering and scandals such as Snowpocalypse and ClimateGate, confusion over global warming has reached a fevered pitch. At the same time, the economic slump is swallowing the public’s attention. What we may be witnessing is an endemic shift in prioritization, which raises the question: What, if anything, can instill a renewed sense of purpose?