Defra release statistics on public attitudes and knowledge about the environment

Last week the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) released the results of an investigation into public attitudes and knowledge relating to biodiversity and the natural environment.

The results of the study reflect the answers given by 1,769 people who participated in face-to-face interviews in England during March 2011, and similar surveys conducted between the 2007-2011 period.

Questionnaire results revealed the following key points:

• In 2011 92% of respondents said it was fairly or very important for them to have public gardens, parks, commons or other green spaces nearby.
• 56% of respondents said they used public gardens parks, commons or other green spaces at least once a week.
• 48% of respondents reported knowing at least a little about biodiversity; a slight increase from 44 per cent in 2009.
• 78% of respondents when prompted agreed that they “worry about changes to the countryside in the UK and loss of native animals and plants”.
• 13% of respondents had volunteered with, given time to or taken part in conservation volunteering for an organisation or community group in the previous 12 months.

In terms of environmental knowledge, when people were questioned specifically on how much, they knew about ‘climate change’, ‘ecosystem services’, and ‘biodiversity’ 44% reported knowing a lot or a fair amount about climate change. Yet, 31% of respondents said they had never heard of the term ‘biodiversity’, and 28% of respondents said they had never heard of the term ‘ecosystem services’.

The release, despite indicating progress towards increased environmental awareness among members of the public, shows that there is still room for improvement of environmental education, particularly in relation to biodiversity and ecosystem services.