Environmental issues fail to capture national interest, says Temple University professor on eve of 30th Earth Day celebration

April 16, 2000

April 22, 1970 -- As pollution clouds over many of the nation's larger cities and the California coast continues to feel the effects of the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, tens of thousands of people rally for the environment in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park, giving birth to what has become known as Earth Day.

And while people still care about the environment, the passion of those early Earth Days is gone, according to Robert Mason, director of Temple's Environmental Studies program.

"To some degree, we're victims of our own success in dealing with some of the worst pollution excesses of the 1960s and 70s," says Mason. "Air quality has improved dramatically, and rivers like the Delaware and Hudson have experienced vast improvement, so the problems aren't as pressing and obvious as they were around 1970."

Today, Mason says, people tend to view crime and education as more pressing issues. "National opinion polls still show people are concerned about the environment, but it's not as salient as it once was. "There are still a lot of local issues like toxic hotspots and environmental justice issues that attract local attention, but not much nationally," he says. "Environmental issues nationally just don't attract the attention the way they used to."

Complacency is another reason, says Mason, who is also an associate professor of geography and urban studies at the University. As gas prices continue to remain affordable, "we tend not to be as concerned about energy efficiency as we were during the gas crises of the 1970s and early 1980s."

He warns, however, that as we celebrate the first Earth Day of the new millennium, there are still problems that need addressing, such as urban sprawl, global climate issues, and environmental issues outside the Unites States "which over time are going to be very critical." He points to the fact that much of the world's population doesn't have access to good, clean drinking water.

Mason remains optimistic about the future and predicts a resurgence in environmental interest. "It seems to work in cycles and I think the environment will have periods of greater interest," he says. "Sadly, one of the things that propels that interest is some sort of environmental disaster like Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, or the Exxon Valdez oil spill, which spurred a lot of interest at the time of the 20th anniversary of Earth Day." He also believes that educating children on the environment in school will pay dividends in the future. "Our children are learning to be concerned about our environment, and I think in the future, we'll see an environmental conscience developing because of it."
To speak with Mason about the environment and the 30th anniversary of Earth Day, call him at his office, 215-204-4483, or call the Office of News and Media Relations at 215-204-7476.

Temple University

Related Children Articles from Brightsurf:

Black and Hispanic children in the US have more severe eczema than white children
A presentation at this year's virtual American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Scientific Meeting reveals the disparities that exist for Black and Hispanic children when it comes to Atopic Dermatitis (AD), commonly known as eczema.

Black children with cancer three times less likely to receive proton radiotherapy than White children
A retrospective analysis led by investigators from Brigham and Women's Hospital has found racial disparities in the use of the therapy for patients enrolled in trials.

The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health: First Europe-wide study of children confirms COVID-19 predominately causes mild disease in children and fatalities are very rare
Children with COVID-19 generally experience a mild disease and fatalities are very rare, according to a study of 582 patients from across Europe published today in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health journal.

Children not immune to coronavirus; new study from pandemic epicenter describes severe COVID-19 response in children
- While most children infected with the novel coronavirus have mild symptoms, a subset requires hospitalization and a small number require intensive care.

How many children is enough?
Most Russians would like to have two children: a boy and a girl.

Preterm children have similar temperament to children who were institutionally deprived
A child's temperament is affected by the early stages of their life.

Only-children more likely to be obese than children with siblings
Families with multiple children tend to make more healthy eating decisions than families with a single child.

Children living in countryside outperform children living in metropolitan area in motor skills
Residential density is related to children's motor skills, engagement in outdoor play and organised sports. that Finnish children living in the countryside spent more time outdoors and had better motor skills than their age peers in the metropolitan area.

Hispanic and black children more likely to miss school due to eczema than white children
In a study that highlights racial disparities in the everyday impact of eczema, new research shows Hispanic and black children are more likely than white children to miss school due to the chronic skin disease.

Children, their parents, and health professionals often underestimate children's higher weight status
More than half of parents underestimated their children's classification as overweight or obese -- children themselves and health professionals also share this misperception, according to new research being presented at this year's European Congress on Obesity (ECO) in Glasgow, UK (April 28-May 1).

Read More: Children News and Children Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.