the people

What of those not at Johannesburg – the ordinary people around the world whose aggregate actions will determine the Summit’s ultimate success?

Taking their pulse reveals considerable concern and support. Majorities of people in 28 of a wide range of 30 countries polled by MORI (Market and Opinion International), containing two thirds of the world’s population, want more legal protection for the environment. Results ranged from 91 per cent of those surveyed in Greece, to 54 per cent in India – with China, Japan, France, Italy, Spain, Mexico, Chile, the Republic of Korea, the United States of America, Germany, Brazil and Russia all topping 60 per cent.

Worldwide awareness
Polls clearly show that people worldwide understand the importance of the environment and sustainability in their lives. Some 69 per cent of those surveyed in Britain agreed that environmental damage affects their daily life; 39 per cent of those polled by Roper Worldwide in 30 countries said protecting the environment is a very important principle to them. The percentages were even higher in Germany, Egypt, Argentina, the Philippines and India. Even in the currently distracted United States, a Gallup poll found that – while concern with the environment has fallen – 57 per cent see pollution of rivers, lakes and streams as a top environmental concern and 29 per cent cited fears about global warming. Meanwhile, in another poll, 65 per cent of Americans saw the reduction of biodiversity as a serious problem. Across the Pacific, in one poll only 12 per cent of Japanese surveyed about the impact of whaling on biodiversity wanted the practice to continue.

Corporate responsibility
People are also looking to corporations for a sustainable world. The MORI Millennium Poll found that almost six in every ten mentioned environmental protection as a corporate responsibility. Indians rank environmental respect fourth out of 12 desired roles that firms should play in society. In the United States, a majority of people see protecting the environment as a core government responsibility, and 90 per cent of respondents want information on companies’ environmental and social records. In the United Kingdom, 71 per cent said private firms were not doing enough to safeguard the environment. In a blunt warning to industry and governments, 49 per cent of Europeans surveyed said they would not buy a product made in a country with poor environmental and social standards. Clearly, the people of the world think a great deal about the goals of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) and want both public and private sectors to act on them 

Patrick O’Heffernan

PHOTOGRAPH: Marcos Cristato/UNEP/Topham

This issue:
Contents | Editorial K. Toepfer | Agenda of hope | Changing the paradigm | Only one Earth | Beyond brackets | African renaissance | Unmissable opportunity | At a glance: GEO-3 | Asking the people | Recapturing momentum | Taking the measure of unsustainability | Breaking the grid lock | Training for transformation | Bring big business to account | Out of the changing room | ‘Dear delegates...’ | We need a dream | Two sides of the same coin: before and after Johannesburg| Quality environmental data for all

Complementary articles in other issues:
Malmö Ministerial Declaration (The Environment Millennium) 2001
About the AAAS Atlas of Population and Environment