Survey Finds Environmental Concerns Lagging

July 2, 2010

Do you know how much water and electricity you use each month?

Neither do most Costa Ricans.

In a survey gauging the “environmental commitment” of the Costa Rican population, 83.4 percent said they didn’t know how much water their household consumes, and 86.5 percent reported no knowledge of their home’s electricity consumption.

Overall, the study concluded that 33 percent of the population has a “high environmental commitment.”

But that’s not to say that Ticos never think about Mother Nature.

“Yes, only a third of the people show a high environmental commitment, but the remainder of the people demonstrated a medium commitment,” said Martín Solís, the survey’s chief researcher.

The study measured environmental commitment on a 0 -100 scale. A score of above 75 indicates a high commitment.

On average, the Costa Ricans polled scored 64.4 percent.

“Most of the people just need a little extra push to reach a high commitment,” Solís said.

The scale considered each respondent’s efforts to save water and electricity, separate solid wastes and their willingness to purchase environmentally friendly products.

But even though most Ticos might only need a gentle shove toward 75 points, the survey revealed that not all that glitters is green.

Nearly 60 percent of those surveyed said they have seen someone throw trash on the ground or or have seen someone dump wastewater into a river. Others have witnessed illegal deforestation and illicit pollution from agrochemicals.

Of the participants, 83 percent said they have seen water leaks in public places. Even still, only 44 percent of those who have witnessed such damage said they have reported it.

Nearly half of the respondents said they don’t report environmental damages because they are either “indifferent to the situation and believe that it’s not their duty” or because they think “someone else will report it.”

“People have the attitude of ‘It’s not my problem, and it’s not my responsibility,’” Solís said.

So what is Costa Rica lacking? Education and wisdom, it would seem.

The study found that the higher someone’s level of education, the higher their score on the environmental commitment scale. Scores also rose with a person’s age. People 55 years and older, the oldest age group on the survey, scored the highest with an average of 71 points.


Boosting the Commitment


The study concluded that, overall, Costa Ricans lack a commitment to reporting environmental damage.

“There is a necessity to raise consciousness about the importance of reporting situations that affect the environment,” the report states.

It also concluded that more people should consider carpooling to help reduce emissions. Over half of those polled who own vehicles and are employed said they always drive alone to work, and an additional 7 percent said they share a ride with someone less than half the time.

“In a lot of these cases, it’s just a lack of responsibility or knowledge,” Solís said. “People have an individualistic attitude and think ‘It doesn’t affect me,’ or ‘I don’t have time for this.’”

But despite such lackadaisical and egocentric attitudes, participants said they are  open to various pro-environment initiatives.

Around 70 percent of respondents said they would pay a tax to finance environmental protection programs or would participate in green projects such as trash cleanups or tree plantings.

The survey shows, though, that only 35 percent of respondents have actually participated in an environmentally beneficial campaign in the last two years.

“It’s good that they say it, but it’s better if they do it,” Solís said.


And Crucitas?

It’s difficult to talk about the environmental movement in Costa Rica without mentioning the stalled open pit gold mine near the Nicaraguan border.

Naturally, the survey sought public opinion about Crucitas.

Of those who had heard of the project, 85.9 percent said they are against the mine. Most believe that the environmental destruction would outweigh the economic benefits it would generate. Respondents said that water and soil pollution and deforestation are among their greatest worries over the mine.

The scanty 4.6 percent who said they favor the mine believe it will generate employment and income. The remaining 9.5 percent did not respond to the question.

The survey was carried out by the Institute of Social Studies in Population by the NationalUniversity in Heredia from May 17-30. Interviewees consisted of nationals and foreigners 18 years of age and older who have resided in Costa Rica for at least two years.

Of the 1,200-person sample, 46.8 percent were men and 53.2 percent were women. The survey has a 2.8 percent margin of error.

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