The results of a public opinion survey on environmental preservation and daily life, issued recently by the Prime Minister's Office, show clearly that the general attitude of the Japanese is to emphasize environmental preservation over a rise in their standard of living. Furthermore, regarding the consumption of natural resources and environmental preservation, about 60% of the respondents to the survey thought that consideration should be given to recycling and other forms of environmental preservation.
The survey, which was conducted in January 1995, targeted 3,000 men and women aged 20 years or over; the effective response ratio was 67.0%. The following is a summary of the survey's results.
Interest in Environmental Problems
Asked to cite up to three environmental problems that concern them at present, the highest proportion of respondents (42.5%) replied "global environmental problems, such as global warming, destruction of the ozone layer, and depletion of tropical forests," followed by "problems occurring in daily life, such as household noise and household waste water" (42.4%), "air pollution, water contamination, and other environmental problems caused by industrial plants and other facilities" (32.4%), and "environmental pollution caused by harmful chemical substances, agricultural chemicals, and so on" (32.1%).
Building of Pleasant Local Environment
Awareness of living environment
Asked whether their local residential environment gives a feeling of comfort and serenity, 81.0% of the respondents replied that they lived in a "pleasant environment."
Important factors in creating pleasant local environment
Asked to cite up to two important factors in creating a pleasant environment, the highest share of respondents (37.4%) replied "abundant greenery," followed by "roads and squares for easy walking" (32.4%), "fresh air" (30.6%), and "quiet" (23.6%).
Factors obstructing the pleasantness of the local environment
Asked to cite factors that obstruct the pleasantness of the local environment, the highest ratio of respondents (37.8%) replied "empty cans, cigarette butts, and other garbage scattered in roads and parks," followed by "dirty rivers, ponds, and canals" (29.3%), "cars and bicycles parked in roads and squares" (28.3%), and "garbage put out outside of collection days" (20.7%).
Role of administration in building pleasant local environment
Asked to cite up to three tasks of the administration in building a pleasant local environment, the highest proportion of respondents (42.4%) replied "improving sewerage and other systems and cleaning the water in rivers and lakes," followed by "regulating reckless development and preserving the natural environment in surrounding hills and rivers" (40.0%), "stipulating regulations for motor vehicles and industrial plants to prevent air pollution, vibration, and noise" (28.4%), and "conducting environmental education and environmental studies in schools and other educational facilities" (21.5%).
Action by residents themselves to improve pleasantness of local community
Asked to cite up to two activities that residents themselves should engage in to improve the pleasantness of the local community, the highest ratio of respondents (60.9%) replied "not scattering garbage in public places, such as roads and parks," followed by "using nonphosphorous detergent and not pouring cooking oil down the kitchen drain" (43.8%) and "not leaving cars and bicycles in public places" (23.1%).
Interest in Global Environment
Awareness of global environmental issues
A majority of the respondents (62.9%) agreed that "among international problems, global environmental issues should be tackled with the highest priority."
Concern about global environmental issues
Asked to cite up to three issues about which they are concerned, the highest ratio of respondents (50.7%) replied "destruction of the ozone layer," followed by "climatic changes caused by the increase in carbon dioxide" (45.4%), "acid rain" (38.6%), and "despoliation of the world's forests" (35.4%).
Everyday contributions to preservation of the global environment
Asked to describe their everyday contributions to the preservation of the global environment, the highest share of respondents (59.6%) replied "making efforts to save electricity in everyday life," followed by "trying hard not to create too much garbage" (47.4%) and "purchasing recycled items, such as recycled paper, and making discarded items available for recycling" (45.0%).
Daily Living, the Economy, and Environmental Problems
Economic development and global environmental preservation
Asked about the relationship between economic development and global environmental preservation, 26.8% of the respondents replied that we "should give priority to global environmental preservation, even if economic development suffers a little" and 27.3% that we "shouldpursue both issues in parallel." In contrast, 29.3% of the respondents answered that it is "necessary to coordin ate both issues carefully" and 3.7% that "economic development takes priority over global environmental problems." In other words, a majority of the respondents favored giving some priority to the environment.
Wasteful consumption and conservation of resources
Asked about the relationship between the wasteful consumption of natural resources and conservation, a majority of the respondents (59.6%) replied that "although the consumption of natural resources is inevitable to the extent necessary to maintain living standards, we should also give consideration to their conservation through retrieval, recycling, and so on"; 29.8% replied that "present-day Japan wastes natural resources too much and should give priority to their conservation"; and only 4.0% answered that "the increased consumption of natural resources is inevitable for affluent living."
Relationship between increased consumption of natural resources and global environmental problems
Asked about the relationship between the increased consumption of natural resources and global environmental problems, a majority of the respondents (74.0%) replied that "the increased consumption of natural resources is one cause of global environmental problems, so it is necessary to review consumption patterns"; only 10.2% answered that "there is no need to go as far as reviewing consumption patterns."
Environmental preservation and standard of living
Asked about the relationship between environmental preservation and the standard of living, a half of the respondents (50.4%) replied that we "should give consideration to environmental preservation in our lives while maintaining the present standard of living"; 23.7% replied that we "should give consideration to environmental preservation in our lives, and for this purpose a small decline in the standard of living is inevitable"; and 11.1% answered that "while it is important to pass on a good environment to future generations, we should pursue both an increase in the standard of living and environmental preservation in parallel." In contrast, 7.8% of the respondents replied that "while it is important to pass on a good environment to future generations, improving the standard of living should be a premise," and only 1.7% of the respondents thought that "passing on a good environment to future generations is not important."
Measures for Preserving the Global Environment
Asked for their opinions about the statement that import restrictions should be implemented to preserve tropical forests and block manufactured goods that have been produced in a manner that does not give due consideration to the environment, nearly half of the respondents (46.6%) replied that such import restrictions would be "unavoidable" and 25.8% that such import restrictions "should be positively implemented." In contrast, 8.1% of the respondents replied that "import restrictions would not be effective in environmental preservation" and only 5.4% that "import restrictions should not be implemented, even if they are effective in environmental preservation."
Japan's response to developing countries
Asked about Japan's response to environmental problems in developing countries, the highest ratio of respondents (41.7%) replied that Japan "should provide the utmost cooperation in terms of funding, technology, and human resources," followed by "should cooperate on the same level as other industrial countries" (38.4%), "does not have enough leeway to cooperate with other countries" (5.1%), and "should provide assistance in fields other than the environment, such as economic development" (4.3%).
Japan's response to global environmental problems
Asked about the nature of Japan's response to global environmental problems, 54.4% of the respondents replied that Japan "should take the initiative in the world and actively adopt countermeasures," 29.2% that Japan "should adopt the same countermeasures as other industrial countries," and only 6.1% that it would be "enough to cooperate in the countermeasures of the United Nations and other international organizations."
Asked to cite up to three areas in which Japan should exert special efforts in tackling global environmental problems from now on, the highest ratio of respondents (49.5%) replied "the development and propagation of new technologies that contribute to preservation of the global environment," followed by "establishing international systems and agreements concerning preservation of the global environment" (40.4%) and "conducting research and supplying data on the causes and effects of global environmental problems."
(The above article, edited by Japan Echo Inc., is based on domestic Japanese news sources. It is offered for reference purposes and does not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.)