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Wednesday, 2 October, 2002, 07:30 GMT 08:30 UK
Internet 'best' for green news
President Bush holds hands apart   AFP
Expansive: But Mr Bush has not replied to the pollsters

The internet is the best place to go for news of the environment, according to an online poll.

Most respondents said the recent World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in South Africa had been valuable.

Johannesburg marchers   AP
WSSD march: Most thought the summit worthwhile
Twice as many people were worried about the environment as the numbers concerned about terrorism.

The poll, conducted for the Andreas Papandreou Foundation of Greece, involved more than 25,000 respondents in 175 countries.

It was the brainchild of the Greek Foreign Minister, George Papandreou, and a US friend, Phil Noble, founder of the PoliticsOnline website.

E-democracy experiment

Mr Papandreou told journalists at the WSSD, where the poll was launched: "This poll gives citizens across the world the chance to express their views.

"I think the democratic challenge in this globalising world will be one of the most important for humanity in the decades ahead, if not the most important of all."

The poll's findings include:

  • 71% of respondents were unhappy with the state of the world, with 28% happy
  • the two biggest problem areas mentioned were economic (poverty, jobs and living standards) (33%), and the environment (28%)
  • terrorism was "a distant third" at 13%
  • Europeans were the most pessimistic, with 82% of them giving negative responses
  • most respondents said water pollution was their main global concern, and air pollution their local environmental worry
  • "people's behaviour" was judged much likelier to improve things than taxes
  • 68% would give up at least 1% of their income for real environmental improvements, and 23% would give more than 5%
  • 38% said the internet was the best source of environmental news, with newspapers and TV each chosen by 17%
  • 60% said the WSSD had been valuable, with 36% disagreeing.

Online polls

Mr Papandreou said: "This experiment in e-democracy created a unique opportunity for ordinary people to participate in a global debate about the critical issues that affect their daily lives.

Boy at computer   BBC
Users turn to net for green news
"The inspiration for this global poll draws on the forms of direct democracy first developed in Greece 2,500 years ago.

"In public assemblies, people could express their concerns before their leaders and fellow citizens simply by jumping onto a rock," he said.

"As long as they shouted loud enough and had something valuable to contribute to the debate, their voice would be heard.

"In keeping with the spirit and the democratic tradition of Greece, as of January, online polls, debates and referenda will be a vital component of the Hellenic presidency of the EU Council in 2003."

Still thinking?

The poll asked respondents to answer more than 30 questions, some about themselves but most about their opinions on the environment in their own country and worldwide.

Asked to list the biggest problem in the world, they were offered a choice between economic concerns, crime, education, environment, health care, terrorism, peace, and several others.

The BBC and two other media organisations, AOL/Time Warner and Microsoft, promoted the poll on their websites.

The organisers sent the questionnaire to President Bush, who did not attend the summit. They are still waiting for an answer from the White House.

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01 Sep 02 | Africa
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