Malcolm L McCallum

Where Have All the Treehuggers Gone?


Holden, MO -- (ReleaseWire) -- 02/17/2014 --Scientists today announced that internet search patterns indicate the public’s interest in the environment is falling, placing many environmental initiatives at risk. The respected scientific journal Biodiversity and Conservation published the findings by Gwendolynn Bury (Oregon State University) and Malcolm L. McCallum (University of Illinois Springfield) in a series of recent articles.

“We were stunned as topic after topic was falling sharply since 2004,” remarked Bury, “Investigating public interests using internet search data is known to outperform Gallup Polling, so it’s a very good indicator of how opinion is changing for the worse.”

Classically, the environmental movement began with the release of Rachel Carson’s landmark book, “Silent Spring,” which rattled the cages of industry and the public leading ultimately to the adoption of major environmental legislation from 1969 through the early 1980s. First, was the Environmental Policy Act, which protects citizens from the federal government taking property under eminent domain without just compensation. It requires federal actions to consider the impacts on the people, wildlife and general environment before it can take place. Everything from cutting off routes to the grocery store or church, to how the action may impact endangered species, rivers, or public health must be considered beforehand and reported in an environmental impact statement. It also established the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. No longer could the federal government simply ignore citizen’s rights when making decisions. This legislation was followed by numerous federal and state policies and laws to protect the people and their environment. Most are unaware of the full scope of environmental legislation. It does not just protect fish, wildlife and forest resources. Its biggest role is protecting people.

These findings of falling interest generated universal surprise to researchers and environmentalists alike. In fact, a follow up paper published later in 2013, noted that the absolute number of people interested in the environment has undoubtedly grown since 2004. However, “If the numbers of people interested in the environment is growing slower than those who are indifferent, then it doesn’t matter. The majority makes policy irrespective of how much the minority grows,” said McCallum, “Environmental advocates need to consider their approaches to advocacy and take some lessons from misinformation outlets. Environmentalists need to more aggressively promote their messages in ways that stimulate interest from the public. Currently, the messages are not getting through. Misinformation jockeys beat their politically charged messages across the airwaves, twisting the facts and calling them “bad science” so there backers can buy another yacht.” Several other studies have demonstrated an obvious decline in environmental engagement since around 1980.

“The worst sin towards our fellow creatures in not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them; that’s the essence of inhumanity”—George Bernard Shaw.

About Malcolm McCallum
Malcolm McCallum is managing editor of Herpetological Consevation and Biology, currently the largest journal in herpetology ( He is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental Science at the University of Illinois Springfield. Gwendolynn Bury is a doctoral student in the department of zoology at Oregon State University and serves as an assistant editor for the journal Herpetological Conservation and Biology.