Scientists have studied environmental attitudes for years, but the paper notes that it's behavior that ultimately counts. There is a growing body of literature on environmental attitudes and behavior in China, yet little is known about how people perceive and respond to personal exposure to environmental harm.
Chen and co-authors Liu; Nils Peterson of North Carolina State University and a CSIS alumnus; Vanessa Hull, doctoral candidate in CSIS; Chuntian Lu, MSU sociology doctoral student; and Dayong Hong of Renmin University in China used China's General Social Survey of 2003, which was the first nationwide survey to address this issue.
Some 5,000 urban respondents were asked specifically about their environmental behavior -- if they sorted their garbage to separate recyclables, re-used plastic bags, talked about environmental issues with family or friends, participated in environmental education programs, volunteered in environmental organizations or took part in environmental litigation.
The people taking the survey were allowed to define environmental harm for themselves.
The authors found that actions that resulted in direct results such as environmental litigation were the ones that people most likely turned to after being exposed to environmental harm. Other actions, such as trash recycling programs, may produce indirect results. However, people's views about the environment are most likely to inspire them to participate in environmental behaviors if those behaviors are ones that they can control, such as re-using plastic bags and talking about environmental issues.
"Basically, it means that if people are affected by environmental harm, they feel they should do something positive, and something they themselves can control," Chen said.
The findings, Chen said, can help instruct policy to transform recognition of environmental harm into environmental action.
|Contact: Sue Nichols|
Michigan State University