The Public Policy Institute of California has recently release the results of a survey on Californians And The Environment. The primary conclusion, that Californians are interested in the environment to the extent that "Ignoring Environmental, Coastal Concerns Could Be Perilous For California Politicos In 2006 Election Year."
This may be a true statement given the set of questions that they asked. They approached the environment as if it were something that we go to, rather than as something that we live in. So, yes, we are concerned about whether the beach has residual oil on it or is closed due to e coli infsetation. But is that enough to affet policy.
The questions that the did not ask are much more important. When it comes to a tradeoff between maintaing a Sunset Magazine Lifestyle and the environment, what would the survey participants choose? When it comes to selecting their housing and/or transportation based on environmental issues, would they do so? When it comes to the choice of more jobs, or a higher local tax base, would the survey participants vote for the environment?
I don't think that they wanted to ask those questions because they did not want to hear the answers.
The full report including all of the questions can be downloaded (pdf format) from the PPIC.
I exchanged notes with the survey's owner, Mark Baldassare, concerning the problems that I perceived the results. He replied that " Earlier environment surveys in the PPIC series on the website concerning land use, housing, development and growth have taken into account some of the tradeoff issues that you have raised but there is always more work to do on this subject."
Here are two additional PPIC studies that I think I need to understand.
- Water for Growth: California's New Frontier: (July, 2005) California’s population is expected to add another 14 million people by 2030, reaching a total of 48 million. One of the most serious concerns of policymakers is whether the state will be able to supply the water needed to sustain such a population.
- California 2025: It's Your Choice PPIC’s California 2025 research study found that trends and forces are building that, left unchecked, could seriously erode the quality of life in California in the next two decades. The study concludes that is imperative for policymakers and others who influence policy in the state to begin asking some hard questions and making some well-informed, careful choices now.