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Public perceptions of environmental management : results of a wide-ranging public questionnaire series

Murray, F., Walker, C.D. and Dingle, P. (1995) Public perceptions of environmental management : results of a wide-ranging public questionnaire series. School of Environmental Science, Murdoch University



A study attempted to gain insight into the attitudes, perceptions and values of Perth inhabitants directed toward the environment. This document attempts to summarise the major findings drawn out in a series of more detailed reports generated at the conclusion of an initial study. Over 1300 responses were obtained to core questions investigating the significance of environmental management to these Western Australians. Ten specific areas received the attention of a proportionately smaller number of the public, and the literature, activities and policies of the relevant authorities were critically reviewed. These areas were the natural environment, air pollution, land degradation, toxic waste, water, urban waste, transport, energy, urban expansion, and economic incentives for guiding industry.

The environment was perceived to be worsening in Perth, in Australia, and world-wide, and to exceed unemployment and economic issues as a problem in the near future. Land degradation is considered the most important environmental issue by Western Australians, although closely followed by pollution in an unspecified form while the more specific terms, air pollution and water pollution, are also considered important. Other environmental issues include our forests, ozone, urban waste, and the natural environment.

A service gap model is advanced as an appropriate conceptual structure to examine the stewardship role that the government and its authorities have with respect to various areas of the environment. Education and information issues appear to be the major limitations in closing the service gap. One clear exception to this is the political motivation of the proposed coal-fired base load power station where the public sentiment away from the coal option is well founded in public understanding of the issue and well known to the government. This study confirmed this sentiment.

The community acceptance of and involvement in major government programs associated with the issue of land degradation appears to be a case of effective focussing of community attention, with closure of a service gap. Although there is no clear understanding of more technical or 'invisible' concepts such as groundwater, there appears to be a strong intuitive feel for returning land to a forested state as a repairing process.

The community often has only limited understanding of environmental issues. As a result, close but distinct issues, for example air pollution and toxic waste, can map together in respondents perceptions. In this situation, the individual tends to respond with a common level of concern be it high or low on both.

Item Type: Report
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Environmental Science
Series Name: Environmental science report ; 93/1
Publisher: School of Environmental Science, Murdoch University
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