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Who has green concerns?

A STUDY released by the Federal Government has finally put to rest any misguided notion that conservationists are simply radicals who live on the fringe of society.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics report, Australia’s Environment: Issues and Trends provides a pointer to what occurred at February’s State election, when traditional right-wing voters put their votes with the left, placing the environment at the forefront of their political ideology.

The study found a correlation between people’s income, levels of education and their concern for the environment.

The greater the income and education, the greater people’s concern for the environment. High-income earners were also more likely to do “their bit” for the environment through measures such as recycling.

Overall in 1999, 60 per cent of those earning a gross income of less than $300 a week expressed concerns for the environment, while this rose to 80 per cent for those earning more than $1,500/week.

About 9 per cent of voting-aged Australians ranked environmental problems as the most important social issue – ahead of health, crime and education.

The level of education also increased people’s concerns, with more than 90 per cent of those with post-graduate qualification expressing environmental concerns, compared with about 70 per cent of those with no qualifications or with skilled vocational qualifications.

Households with lower gross weekly incomes also were less likely to recycle.

About 80 per cent of those earning less than $160 a week recycled domestic products while more than 95 per cent of those with a weekly income of more than $1,000 recycled.

While Australians’ efforts to recycle have increased in recent years, the consumption of water, land, energy and the volume of waste is relatively high compared with other nations.

Research evaluating the ecological footprint a population uses to produce the natural resources it consumes, and to assimilate the waste it generates, shows Australians are the fourth most demanding on the environment.

Australia’s ecological footprint is 8.1 hectares per person annually. Only the United States, New Zealand and Iceland have a larger ecological footprint, indicating high levels of consumption.

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