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Knowledge and Perceptions in Costa Rica Regarding Environment, Population, and Biodiversity Issues

Karen D. Holl, Gretchen C. Daily and Paul R. Ehrlich
Conservation Biology
Vol. 9, No. 6 (Dec., 1995), pp. 1548-1558
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2387198
Page Count: 11
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Knowledge and Perceptions in Costa Rica Regarding Environment, Population, and Biodiversity Issues
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Abstract

Public understanding of general environment- and population-related issues is critical for successful conservation efforts. We interviewed 300 residents of Costa Rica, distributed among three socioeconomic groups, to survey knowledge and perceptions about the environment. We focused on Costa Rica because it is an international model for sustainable development and because of its direct economic interest in biodiversity preservation for ecotourism. Our results indicate that Costa Ricans generally have a limited awareness of environment- and population-related problems. In all socioeconomic groups environmental problems were considered less important than various other problems, but 91% of respondents indicated a willingness to pay more for water or electricity if the extra money were used to protect biodiversity. Residents of San Jose's lower-class neighborhoods more strongly perceived the effects of population growth and environmental degradation than did residents of urban, upper-class, or rural neighborhoods. Of those interviewed, 69% thought the rate of population growth should decrease. Only 52% of those surveyed, however, perceived any link between population size or growth rate and environmental quality; of those, 33% could not describe the link. Our findings and others suggest a number of ways to enhance the effectiveness of environmental education programs worldwide: (1) include information on the relationship between population and environmental quality; (2) explain the socioeconomic implications of environmental degradation; (3) in addition to formal education, utilize the mass media more; (4) tailor messages to local circumstances.

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