It should come as no surprise that as America is in the midst of the worst economic downturn since at least the 1970s if not much longer, concern for the environment appears to be taking a hit. In its 25th annual survey asking whether the environment or economy should take precedence, Gallup has found for the first time ever that the economy came out on top with 51 percent saying growth should be given priority. Similarly, environmental protection has lost ground to developing U.S. energy supplies.
Unfortunately, while the results this year may have been predictable, the survey method is somewhat dubious. This is an byproduct of trying to quantify attitudes on complex problems. The questions are posed as either/or conditions, whereas the reality is that these are not zero sum games. To at least some degree, environmental protection can also lead to economic growth opportunities. Similarly, lack of environmental protection can lead to societal costs that cut into growth.