Georgia’s Coast: Interest, Knowledge & Attitudes
Environmental literacy refers to an individual’s knowledge, skills, and motivation to make responsible decisions that benefit our environment and related issues. Environmental literacy encompasses all five objectives of environmental education—helping learners to gain awareness, knowledge, appropriate attitudes, citizen action skills, and, finally, the motivation to become active, engaged citizens within their community. At a time when Georgians are being asked to make critical decisions for our land, wildlife, and the health of our families, we need the knowledge and tools to make responsible choices.
In order to understand how Georgians understand and act upon the coastal issues presented in this dashboard, the GCC team conducted extensive surveys throughout 2019. These surveys attempted to better understand how respondents interact with our coast, the value they place on our coastal resources, and their support for related conservation measures. Surveys will be replicated annually in order to capture increases or decreases in attitudes and values over time. We have also created an interactive quiz (see below) to measure in real time our citizens’ understanding of the critical issues facing our coast.
What We Learned
Georgians overwhelmingly value our coast, its intrinsic beauty, and its contributions to science, education, and the health of our planet. Large majorities of visitors pointed to coastal Georgia’s natural resources and related recreational activities such as hiking, beachcombing, and wildlife viewing, as primary reasons for their trip.
In self-assessments, respondents rated themselves most knowledgeable about issues frequently discussed in the media, such as wildlife conservation, climate change, and trash and litter pollution. Our coastal literacy quiz will provide further insight into Georgians’ knowledge about key coastal issues, such as coal ash pollution and sea level rise.
While respondents felt that responsibility for solving coastal Georgia’s environmental problems fell to a variety of groups, the majority agreed that individual citizens and local governments should play an important role. The majority prioritized the environment when making decisions about who to vote for in elected office.
Interesting Questions and Results From the First Survey
How important is Georgia’s coast to you (beaches, waterways, rivers, etc.)?
|Not at all important||0.00%||0|
|Not very important||0.00%||0|
|I don’t know||0.23%||1|
What made you decide to visit/spend time on Georgia’s coast? (check all that apply)
|I have not visited Georgia’s Coast||0.67%||3|
|Playing with /walking my dog(s)||26.23%||117|
|Boating (including personal watercrafts, sail boating and motorboats)||41.93%||187|
|Paddling (including paddle boards, kayaking, canoeing)||47.76%||213|
|Historical or cultural tours||68.16%||304|
|Beachcombing/Relaxing on the beach||82.06%||366|
|Other (please specify)||15.70%||70|
Younger respondents were significantly more likely to report swimming/wading than older respondents. They were also more likely to report playing with/walking my dog(s) than middle age or older respondents. Middle aged respondents were significantly more likely to report hiking/walking/ jogging, and birdwatching/wildlife viewing than younger respondents.
Coastal residents were significantly more likely to report hiking/walking/jogging and playing with/walking my dog (s) than Georgia mainland residents. Georgia mainland residents were significantly more likely to report hunting/fishing than coastal residents.
Households with children were significantly more likely to report swimming/wading and beachcombing/relaxing on the beach than households without children.
The top five activities identified by non-Georgia residents are as follows:
|Beachcombing/Relaxing on the beach||79.63%||43|
|Historical or cultural tours||59.26%||32|
Respondents reporting lower- and middle-income annual household income reported significantly less interest in hunting/fishing activities. Those reporting a higher-annual household income were significantly more likely to report interest in paddling activities compared to middle- income responders.
Based on the last time you engaged in recreational activities on Georgia’s coast, which of the following would be true? (check all that apply)
|I haven’t been to Georgia coast.||0.70%||3|
|There was enough accessible parking.||49.53%||213|
|It was not overcrowded with visitors.||64.19%||276|
|I was comfortable with the behavior of other visitors (e.g. no criminal, offensive or inappropriate behavior).||76.74%||330|
|I felt safe.||87.44%||376|
|There was enough lighting.||51.40%||221|
|I was comfortable swimming in the water (or letting others).||48.14%||207|
|It was free from litter.||38.14%||164|
|There were enough trash receptacles.||38.84%||167|
|I observed other people enjoying the beach or oceanfront.||79.77%||343|
|I felt that the community was invested in the coastal environment and natural habitats||57.44%||247|
|I don’t remember.||0.93%||4|
The following is a list of coastal ocean and beach challenges that Georgians are concerned about. To what degree are you CONCERNED about these issues for Georgia’s coast?
|Not at all concerned||Not very concerned||Neutral/No opinion||Somewhat concerned||Very concerned||Total|
|Climate change/sea level rise||4.17%||17||3.43%||14||5.64%||23||15.20%||62||71.57%||292||408|
|Wildlife conservation (e.g. sea turtles, shorebirds, marine mammals)||0.00%||0||0.49%||2||0.49%||2||13.79%||56||85.22%||346||406|
|Dredging/Offshore dredge disposal||1.47%||6||1.72%||7||7.84%||32||26.23%||107||62.75%||256||408|
|Offshore drilling/seismic testing||0.98%||4||1.97%||8||6.39%||26||12.78%||52||77.89%||317||407|
|Mining of minerals (including sand)||1.72%||7||1.97%||8||11.06%||45||24.82%||101||60.44%||246||407|
|Habitat loss from coastal development||0.00%||0||0.98%||4||0.74%||3||12.53%||51||85.75%||349||407|
|Air and water pollution (such as mercury, PCBs, sewage, pesticides, industrial contamination)||0.00%||0||0.74%||3||1.72%||7||14.99%||61||82.56%||336||407|
|Coal ash (removal, disposal and storage)||0.75%||3||2.00%||8||10.22%||41||20.45%||82||66.58%||267||401|
|Trash and litter (e.g. plastics)||0.00%||0||0.49%||2||2.72%||11||18.27%||74||78.52%||318||405|
To what degree are you KNOWLEDGEABLE about these issues for Georgia’s coast?
|Not at all knowledgeable||Not very knowledgeable||Somewhat knowledgeable||Very knowledgeable||Total|
|Climate change/sea level rise||0.25%||1||8.37%||34||59.36%||241||32.02%||130||406|
|Wildlife conservation (e.g. sea turtles, shorebirds, marine mammals)||0.25%||1||5.90%||24||56.76%||231||37.10%||151||407|
|Dredging/Offshore dredge disposal||4.19%||17||34.24%||139||50.49%||205||11.08%||45||406|
|Off-shore drilling/seismic testing||5.43%||22||27.65%||112||51.36%||208||15.56%||63||405|
|Mining of minerals (including sand)||11.33%||46||42.12%||171||37.93%||154||8.62%||35||406|
|Habitat loss from coastal development||1.23%||5||8.35%||34||55.28%||225||35.14%||143||407|
|Air and water pollution (such as mercury, PCBs, sewage, pesticides, industrial contamination)||2.46%||10||22.91%||93||56.16%||228||18.47%||75||406|
|Coal ash (removal, disposal and storage)||10.34%||42||35.47%||144||43.35%||176||10.84%||44||406|
|Trash and litter (e.g. plastics)||0.50%||2||6.68%||27||48.02%||194||44.80%||181||404|
With which statements do you agree? (check all that apply)
|I get pleasure from experiencing Georgia’s coastal beauty (e.g. marshland sunsets, beachscapes, woodland settings, etc.).||98.38%||365|
|I value the role Georgia’s coast plays in maintaining a healthy planet.||94.88%||352|
|I value the contribution that Georgia’s coast makes to science and education.||94.88%||352|
|I value the role Georgia’s coast plays in my heritage and/or our country’s history.||83.83%||311|
|My employment and household income is tied to Georgia’s coast.||22.10%||82|
|Georgia’s coast is vital to the state’s economy.||90.57%||336|
|It is important for the government to enforce ordinances that protect wildlife and habitats on Georgia’s coast (e.g. lighting ordinances, leash laws, etc.), even when it causes personal inconveniences.||95.15%||353|
|Environmental education should be taught in schools.||94.61%||351|
In which activities do you or your family engage? (select all that apply)
|Conserve water (e.g. take short showers)||82.48%||306|
|Turn off lights when leaving a room||96.77%||359|
|Use alternative forms of transportation (e.g. bikes, public transportation, carpooling, etc.)||46.09%||171|
|Use phosphorus-free lawn fertilizer||28.30%||105|
|Other (please specify)||22.37%||83|
Would you say that climate change is best described as a crisis, a major problem but not a crisis, a minor problem, or is it not a problem at all?
|A major problem but not a crisis||21.35%||79|
|A minor problem||4.86%||18|
|It is not problem at all||2.43%||9|
Do you think reducing the negative effects of global warming and climate change will require major sacrifices from ordinary Americans, minor sacrifices, or won’t it require much sacrifice?
|Won’t require much sacrifice||4.85%||18|
Has your concern or interest in environmental issues on Georgia’s coast ever been an influence on who you vote for in an election (local, state or national)? (select one)
|Not at all||4.68%||17|
|Very much so||41.32%||150|
|I am not sure||5.79%||21|
Have you ever participated in any of the following activities? (check all that apply)
|Speaking to friends, family or others about issues that you care about||89.69%||322|
|Donating to or joining a nonprofit advocacy group||84.12%||302|
|Writing a Letter to the Editor||34.26%||123|
|Purchasing socially or environmentally responsible products and services||86.35%||310|
|Boycotting socially or environmentally irresponsible products and services||68.25%||245|
|Investing in socially or environmentally responsible companies||36.21%||130|
|Promoting/Sharing advocacy stories or articles on social media||57.38%||206|
|Attend an advocacy conference or lecture||50.70%||182|
|Communicate with an elected official (e.g. call, send letter, meet with)||62.95%||226|
|None of the above||0.28%||1|
Protect, connect, and enhance environments for coastal plants and animals to adapt to changes in sea level and benefit the community.
Maintain thriving, working landscapes and waterfronts that support the sustainable production of food and fiber for our communities.
Cultivate opportunities to enjoy and recreate in the special places and historic communities along Georgia’s coast.
Promote economic development that respects natural environments and preserves the character of our coastal communities.