As a result of unprecedented energy prices, a long economic boom and an aging population concerned with its legacy, environmentalism has changed from yesterday’s passive concern into today’s will to achieve tangible results.
While Canadians have always displayed a concern for the environment, there has been a recent shift in the public’s perception of what constitutes environmentalism, as well as a willingness to translate environmental concerns into changes in personal practices and voting behaviour.
Environmentalism in the 1980s was driven more by concern about air and waterborne health risks, and it was seen as more of a local issue than a global matter. And until as recently as three years ago, products that were more environmentally friendly were considered to be priced out of the range of the average Canadian consumer. However, a recent and rapid change in attitudes, generally observed since Hurricane Katrina (2005), has resulted in the phenomenon known as New Environmentalism.
New Environmentalism describes an attitude that includes the perception of environmentalism as a predominantly global issue, a general conviction that environmentalism is more than a passing fad, a belief in the power of new technologies to alleviate our environmental impact, a new willingness to spend more on environmentally safer products, and an increasing willingness to base one’s vote on environmental concerns.
Harris/Decima has conducted extensive public opinion research into the phenomenon, gauging Canadians’ attitudes and perceptions concerning the concept of environmentalism as an idea, as well as personal practices and their impact on the environment.