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New Youth Poll Reveals Frustration on Environmental Progress

Poll shows an awareness of environmental problems and potential to empower youth to make a difference


Arlington, VA | September 07, 2011

The Nature Conservancy has released a new nationwide poll that reveals America’s youth is unhappy with the condition of the environment, and lack faith in adults to address it. The findings also show strong evidence that more time spent in nature directly correlates with a commitment to protect it.

Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) agree that “previous generations have damaged our environment and left it to our generation to fix it.” Only one-third of youth believe that government leaders are doing a “good job addressing major problems facing our country.”

The research confirmed that youth are not spending a great deal of time outdoors.

  • 88 percent of America’s youth spend time online every day.
  • 69 percent said they play video games or watch TV every day.
  • Conversely, just 11 percent reported regularly spending time outside every day.

“This research is a wake-up call for parents, leaders and the conservation community,” said Mark Tercek, Nature Conservancy president and CEO. “Today’s youth do not believe we are doing enough to address the mounting challenges facing the environment. It is critical that we take more proactive steps to protect our lands and waters for younger generations and engage them in efforts to carry the environmental movement forward.”

Key Findings:

  • More time spent in nature directly correlates with a commitment to protect it: The survey showed that 66 percent of youth who reported having a personal experience in nature that made them appreciate it more were twice as likely to view themselves as strong environmentalists. And of those who reported they were frequently in nature were also significantly more likely to express concern about water pollution, air pollution, global warming and the condition of the environment.
  • There is great potential to mobilize American youth around issues related to the environment and nature: Roughly 76 percent of youth today strongly believe climate change can be solved if action is taken now. They also think safeguarding important lands and waters should be a priority regardless of any ancillary benefits and the struggling economy.
  • Peer pressure is a good thing too: The research found that friends are among the most powerful influencers to get kids off of the couch. An overwhelming majority, 90 percent, said that if their friends encouraged them to spend more time in nature, they would listen.
  • Nature is an Rx for stress: Youth have a lot on their minds – sizable majorities rate bullying, crime and the quality of public education as “extremely” or “very serious” problems. But the results indicate that spending time in nature could help them cope with that stress. Nearly three-quarters associate being in nature with being peaceful, free, calm and happy.

The research was conducted by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (D) and Public Opinion Strategies (R) and funding was provided by The Toyota USA Foundation and The Foundation for Youth Investment.

"Today's youth are going to be the innovators of new solutions to ensure a sustainable future, and we are proud to support this critical research by The Nature Conservancy to illuminate how youth across the nation value nature in a rapidly changing world, "said Pat Pineda, group vice president of philanthropy at Toyota Motor North America.

"The Foundation for Youth Investment (FYI) was proud to sponsor this research that sheds light on why our youth are spending less time outdoors,” said Steve Hagler, executive director of the Foundation for Youth Investment. “Unlike previous generations where parents simply said, ‘Go outside and play!’ kids today need more encouragement, and we must give them the opportunity by providing outdoor programs and safe open spaces and parks.”

To learn more about the poll and The Nature Conservancy’s work to engage youth with nature, visit nature.org/youthpoll.

Methodology: From July 28 to August 4, 2011, FM3 and POS completed 602 on-line interviews with American youth between the ages of 13 and 18. Quotas were established to ensure representativeness of the sample by age, gender, geography, and race.


The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org

Contact information

Vanessa Martin
(916) 233-6722
vmartin@tnc.org

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