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Childhood Memories and the Generation Gap in Environmental Concerns

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  • 環境問題の捉えかたの世代間差異と子どものころの記憶
  • カンキョウ モンダイ ノ トラエカタ ノ セダイカン サイ ト コドモ ノ コロ ノ キオク

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<p>What types of environmental issues attract public attention in contemporary Japan? How do concerns about environmental issues differ among age groups? What are the factors responsible for this difference? This paper investigates these questions and proposes the childhood memories hypothesis. It states that if people of a particular age group have witnessed the emphasis of a particular environmental issue during their childhood or early youth, they tend to continue to recall its impact in later life, and consequently, are more likely to focus on resolving the issue than people from other age groups. We developed and tested logistic regression models to explain responses whereby participants selected two environmental issues that most concerned them from among five options: (1) waste management, (2) conservation of virgin forests and wetlands, (3) nuclear power generation, (4) genetically modified foods, and (5) wastage of energy and resources. The models included independent variables such as five-year age cohort, education, gender, size of residence, and job classification. In order to investigate the issues that were emphasized in the childhood of each age cohort, we calculated the number of newspaper articles reporting the abovementioned issues in each year. This paper utilizes data obtained from a nationwide questionnaire survey conducted in Japan in 2005 (1320 valid responses, response rate=44.0%).</p><p>It was found that the childhood memories hypothesis was partly supported. Some generations were significantly more concerned than others about the environmental issues that were frequently reported in newspapers when they were about 10 years old, although the time relationships were largely not very strict. The ratio of individuals who were concerned about nuclear power generation was significantly higher in the 50-64 year old age group. Such individuals witnessed the introduction of nuclear power in Japan and the antinuclear movements in the late 1950s. The 25-29-year-old respondents, who had witnessed media coverage of the Chernobyl accident in their childhood, were also more concerned about nuclear issues than others. The ratio of respondents who were concerned about the energy issue was significantly higher in the 30-49 age group; these respondents had encountered the first (1973) or second (1979) oil shock in their childhood or early youth. The ratio of individuals who chose the issue of conservation was significantly higher in the 20-24 age group. They grew up during the late 1980s and early 1990s, when there was increasing concern over nature conservation.</p><p>The relationship between environmental concerns and education differed among the age groups. It is known from earlier literature that higher education tends to prompt people to focus more on global environmental problems. In this survey, we observed that higher education increases the ratio of individuals selecting the issue of energy in the 65-79 age group. On the other hand, it decreases the ratio among respondents aged 49 years and below. This implies that the oil crises of the 1970s changed the character of the issue. Before the crises, the energy issue was a problem concerning only national politics and attracted people with higher education. After the crises, the energy issue became important to everyday life and attracted people without higher education.</p><p>Age cohort also conditions the relationship between environmental concerns and trust in the government, or trust in science and technology. Among respondents aged 50-64 years, those who mistrusted the environmental information provided by the government tended to worry about nuclear power generation. On the other hand, the respondents aged 50-64 years, who did not believe that the development of science and technology would make their lives safer and more comfortable, tended to be concerned about the issue of nature conservation.</p>



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