COVID-19 has reawakened environmental concerns among the public; immediate benefits such as cleaner air, renewed love of nature and space to exercise have all been highlighted in polls and surveys. But it remains to be seen whether this is transferred into long-term action to offset the looming catastrophic threat of climate change.
Over three weeks in August we conducted our first EHN/Extra reader poll, and 265 of you shared your thoughts on a range of issues – one of these was the environment and climate change.
We found that a huge majority of EHPs (91%) are personally concerned about climate change and other environmental issues and feel they could do more to help as part of their job if these issues could be more directly tied in. EHPs were either worried (50%) about these issues, or very worried (41%). And these concerns were shared almost equally across those working in the private sector and public sector.
The difficulty is that while there is strong personal concern among EHPs, only a small number felt these issues (17%) were very related to their job, though a decent proportion (48%) felt they were somewhat related to their role. Sadly almost a third (31%) felt they were not related at all.
The majority of EHPs (around 80%) felt that this was not the right approach, and that tackling environmental issues including climate change should be a bigger part of their role. While this was consensus, slightly more enthusiasm was detected from the private sector on this issue.
Public sector respondents felt EH could take on a slightly bigger role (37%) in tackling environmental issues or do much more (52%); whereas private sector EHPs felt the profession could play a slightly bigger role (10%), and could do much more (72%). However, it’s worth noting that there were more public sector respondents than private sector ones, so this may not be significant.
Just 8% across both sectors said this should not be part of the EH job.
What you told us
"EH needs to lobby the government far more on adapting the country’s housing stock, food system, and environmental laws, to an ever-warming world with more frequent natural disasters. COVID-19 is small peanuts compared to the never-ending chain of disasters that climate change will bring."
"Air quality is a major issue for health and climate change. Housing needs to be greener for the planet but also better for people to live in them – renewable energy, good sized rooms, gardens, cycling infrastructure, grey water systems, insulation."
"Planning guidance directly contradicts what we are trying to do with air quality and public health."
"The environment should be part of all areas. Look at the amount of litter and single use PPE being used at the moment. We should be advising businesses on reducing unnecessary waste."
The majority of respondents were living in England (90%), with smaller numbers living in Wales (6%), Scotland (1.5%), and Northern Ireland (1.5%). Public sector workers comprised the majority (72%) followed by private sector (11%), with some identifying as working in other sectors (17%).