Global Survey of World”s Children Finds Concern Over Pollution, Natural Disasters

A global survey of more than 6,000 children in 47 countries finds that, although almost one in three 10-to-12-year-olds personally has experienced such catastrophes as drought, flood or fires, their most pressing ecological concern is not natural disasters but the growing threat of pollution.

More than one in four children (29%) cited various forms of pollution as the “environmental problem they worry about most,” edging natural disasters, named by 20 percent of children. Percentages citing pollution were higher within the industrialized world. One in three (33%) children in developed countries cited pollution as their top concern, with half as many (16%) singling out global warming. Within developing countries, pollution was named as the top choice by 26 percent of children surveyed, while 23 percent cited natural disasters.

Children in Africa and Asia placed natural disasters as their biggest worry, cited by 26 percent and 27 percent, respectively.

Among children in the Americas, pollution was far and away the biggest concern, selected by 43 percent of respondents. Next was deforestation, named by one in six (16%) children within the nine countries in Latin and South America and the Caribbean who participated in the survey.

“Their observations underscore the fact children on every continent understand the importance of sound environmental stewardship, even in the face of hardship and deprivation.”

Asked if they had personally experienced a natural disaster, almost three in 10 (29%) children said they had been the victims of floods, with a similar percentage (28%) saying they had endured drought. Another 24 percent said they had been through an earthquake and 22 percent a forest or bush fire.

The continent with the highest percentage of children experiencing a natural disaster was Africa. Almost half of the African children surveyed (46%) said they had gone through a drought; 44 percent a forest or bush fire; and 36 percent a flood. Within developed countries, more than one in three (35%) children surveyed said they had experienced an earthquake.

When asked if they could do one thing around their community to change the environment, one in five children overall (22%) said they would plant more trees or build more parks, which was also the top answer among children from developing countries (28%), especially those in Asia (36%). Among children from developed countries, the most popular answer was to stop or decrease littering, which was cited by 29 percent of respondents.