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Pollution can make citizens - both rich and poor - go green
Date:7/30/2012

Nothing inspires environmentalism quite like a smog-filled sky or a contaminated river, according to a new study that also indicates that environmentalism isn't just for the prosperous.

People living in China's cities who say they've been exposed to environmental harm are more likely to begreen: re-using their plastic grocery bags or recycling. Moreover, the study, published this week in the international journal AMBIO, indicates that the poor would sacrifice economic gain to protect their environment.

"The human and natural worlds are tightly coupled and we cannot protect the environment without empirical studies on how rich and poor people are understanding and reacting to the natural world around them." said Jianguo "Jack" Liu, a co-author of the AMBIO paper and director of the Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability (CSIS) at Michigan State University.

The paper, "How Perceived Exposure to Environmental Harm Influences Environmental Behavior in Urban China," flies in the face of the conventional wisdom that the poor cannot afford to protect the environment.

"We feel it's a major contribution to provide empirical evidence that environmental harm is one of the most important predictors of environmental behavior," said Xiaodong Chen, who conducted the study while working on his doctorate at CSIS.

"Environmental harm could be more important than economic status in predicting environmental behavior. If people are affected by degraded environmental conditions, then even people with low economic status still may sacrifice some economic benefit in order to protect the environment."

Indeed, the growing environmental consciousness in China has been accompanied by increased involvement by the public in environmental protection. For instance, the paper notes that in 2005 there were some 1,000 protests per week related to environmental pollution in China, a number projected to increase ra
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Contact: Sue Nichols
nichols@msu.edu
517-432-0206
Michigan State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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