A recent statewide survey revealed that there are deep regional differences among Californians when it comes to environmental issues. Being a life-long California resident with a heritage which goes back at least seven generations in the Central San Joaquin Valley, the survey confirmed what I already suspected. Conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) and released on July 27, the survey showed that in the San Joaquin Valley, the Inland Empire and Orange/San Diego Counties, some environmental issues are not considered as big a priority as in the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles County.
Climate change is one area where the more politically conservative areas of the Central Valley and the Inland Empire differ in opinions from the more politically liberal areas of the Bay Area and LA, as the following charts illustrate.
Support for regulating greenhouse gas emissions differs according to regions, with more in the Bay Area and LA County in favor of such measures.
When it comes to local efforts to address global warming, LA County residents are the most critical.
The good news is that 61 percent of all Californians think global warming effects have already begun, up from 54 percent in 2010. Californians more likely than adults nationwide to hold this view, and over six in 10 across regions say action should be taken right away to combat global warming.
Nuclear power and offshore drilling
When it comes to nuclear power, only 38 percent of all Californians support building more nuclear power plants.
When it comes to air pollution, the views of Californians depend on how polluted their regions happen to be. Overall, two in three Californians consider air pollution to be either a big problem (29 percent) or somewhat or a problem (37 percent), and only 33 percent say it’s not a problem. The biggest change in this perception occurred in the Central Valley, which since last year, is up eight points.
The State of the Air 2011 report by the American Lung Association shows that in LA County, the Inland Empire and the Central Valley pollution is a huge problem. Counties in LA, the Central Valley and the Inland Empire are all in the top 25 most polluted counties for both short term and long term air pollution. However, Orange and San Diego Counties are also on the 25 list for short term pollution. Clearly, residents in both counties need to be educated about short term pollution in their regions.
What the numbers represent
The difference in numbers among California’s regions represents the vast political and cultural differences in those regions. For example, the Central Valley has much more in common with the Midwest and the South than it does with California’s other regions. It’s considered to be the agriculture center of the world, and as such, is largely rural, with only one large city, Fresno. Although Central Valley residents are aware of how polluted their region is, which isn’t surprising given the high asthma rates here, there are some who still don’t believe in global warming. I’m not sure educating hardened climate deniers works. I speak from experience as there are people I know who fall into this category. However, educating children does work, for children are the future of any region.