According to Gallup, Americans are worrying less about the environment than they used to, ranking “the quality of the environment” thirteenth in a list of fifteen “problems facing the country.” 


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Similarly, when asked about specific environmental issues, polls show Americans have become less worried about environmental problems across the board.


This decline in environmental concern has caused an increased in concern among certain members of the pundit class. Have Americans been duped by corporate propaganda? Are they becoming more apathetic? Or maybe just more heartless?

Or perhaps America’s change of opinion is reasonable. After all, the environmental isn’t the only issue that Americans have grown less concerned about in recent years. Worry about crime has also fallen significantly.


Nobody thinks that America’s declining concern about crime is unreasonable. After all, crime itself has fallen substantially since the 1990s, so it only makes sense people would be less concerned about it.

Yet pollution has also fallen in recent decades. In fact, it’s fallen at a rate comparable to the drop in crime.


As shown in EPA’s own data, both emissions and ambient levels of the main pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act have fallen substantially in recent decades. Ambient levels of carbon monoxide fell 82 percent between 1980 and 2010, while lead levels fell 90 percent, nitrogen dioxide fell 52 percent and sulfur dioxides fell 76 percent over the same time period.  


Given this improvement in environmental quality, it’s only natural that the environmental issue would seem less pressing to people today than in the 1970s, or even the early 2000s. The decline in environmental concern is evidence not that people don’t care about clean air; it’s evidence that they noticed just how much the air has gotten cleaner.