The May 18th issue of USA Today featured a Gallup poll that compares our citizen’s concerns and fears related to many serious environmental issues compared to 1989-90. The poll, conducted from March 2nd to March 6th, polled a sample of Americans and asked if they worried “a great deal” about various natural and environmental concerns.
Tellingly, the top two categories that the highest percentage of Americans is deeply concerned with both relate to water pollution and cleanliness. Overall, the percentages in most categories were slightly lower, perhaps due to advent of the Internet and the relatively greater educational and academic focus on environmentalism in the last decade.
56% of Americans polled are deeply worried about the pollution of lakes, rivers, and reservoirs. This is relatively unchanged compared to 15 years ago, as water sources are in constant peril. The current media focus on such crises as the water pollution in Flint, MI gives credibility to the fears of homeowners concerned about the quality of their drinking water. Home filtration systems allow homeowners and families to greatly reduce the amount of contaminants in their drinking water, but a high percentage of American households do not utilize filtration systems.
Lakes, rivers, and reservoirs account for much of the water supply in the United States. These ecological zones are directly connected with the drinking water of Americans – when directly asked if they worry about the pollution of their drinking water, 61% of those polled answered affirmatively.
Many municipalities and local regulatory committees nationwide have come under fire for knowingly allowing potentially harmful levels of lead and other contaminants to accumulate in the water supply. Public outcry has to led to little action being taken, and the areas where civic leaders have called for action still suffer while the logistical details of an infrastructural overhaul are slowly decided. In addition, problems with local piping are now known to increase the amount of contaminants in drinking water, which further fuels the concern of homeowners around the country.
With this background of a crumbling infrastructure, certain political groups have worked to discount hard science and factual accounts of the pollution in concerned citizens’ water supply. Big companies and corporate lobbyists have long attempted to dissuade the general public from believing basic scientific findings from independent scientific organizations and regulatory committees, and their efforts seem to be working. Flint has disappeared largely from the national spotlight, and not by chance.
Climate change also clocks in as a top concern: 37% of Americans are worried about it, a slight increase from the 33% in 1989-90. The focus in the news on this particular side effect of carbon emissions and pollution has led to an increased awareness among citizens. The discrepancy among other categories seems to highlight the general public’s lack of understanding that all forms of pollution and humanity’s disregard for its natural habitat are interconnected.
We must safeguard the natural resources and environment that we have left to secure a viable future for our children and their children. If more and more citizens allow drinking water pollution and air pollution to continue unabated, the long-term effects may be irreversible.