The University of Arizona

Public knowledge, attitudes and perception of ecological debt

Efi Drimili, Efthimios Zervas


The concept of ecological debt describes the ecological relations between industrialized (developed) and developing countries and the environment. It refers to the responsibility held by those who live in industrialized countries, as well as their accomplices in the South, for the continuing destruction of the planet due to production and consumption patterns. Ecological debt is a potentially powerful tool for re-discussing relations between North and South and for rethinking sustainable development policies. The aim of the current study is to evaluate the public's knowledge, attitude towards, and perceptions of topics related to the concept of ecological debt. A survey was conducted using a structured questionnaire among residents of Athens, the capital of Greece. To the best of our knowledge this is the first time that this issue has been explored, with regard to public opinion and this is the beginning of a discussion on public understanding of ecological debt. The survey reveals that the concept of ecological debt is not widely understood; but the participants seem to agree on the causes of its generation and on its association with external financial debt. The research findings guide alternative proposals to relevant social movements and/or organizations for the design of wake-up policies.

Keywords: ecological debt, sustainable development, public acceptance, financial debt

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