google and environmental conservation

From a recently published paper by McCallum and Bury on Google search patterns in the journal Biodiversity and Conservation it comes to light how public interest in environmental issues in general have declined during the last years. The authors, analysing search data from Google, have highlighted how the search behavior by the public has changed and the interest has shifted towards other issue. Despite the limitations of the study, the findings are quite “scary” considering that public interest is the main force driving policy choices and programs.

Malcolm L. Mccallum M.L., Bury G.W. 2013. Google search patterns suggest declining interest in the environment. Biodiversity and Conservation 22(6-7): 1355-1367.

Public interest in most aspects of the environment is sharply declining relative to other subjects, as measured by internet searches performed on Google. Changes in the search behavior by the public are closely tied to their interests, and those interests are critical to driving public policy. Google Insights for Search (GIFS) was a tool that provided access to search data but is now combined with another tool, Google Trends. We used GIFS to obtain data for 19 environment-related terms from 2001 to 2009. The only environment-related term with large positive slope was climate change. All other terms that we queried had strong negative slopes indicating that searches for these topics dropped over the last decade. Our results suggest that the public is growing less interested in the environment.

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