"You don't have to be rich to consider environmental issues," said Chen. "Even if people are poor and their material needs are not as well met, they still consider the environmental quality because those people may be threatened more by environmental problems."
"The results of this project demonstrate the importance of examining the environmental attitudes and behavior of people over longer time periods," said Baerwald. "This study challenges widely held beliefs that maintaining environmental quality is a luxury that can be justified only in wealthier settings."
The researchers say companies in big cities likely have resources to promote environmental initiatives, such as education. These companies can organize or provide support for organizing pro-environmental behavior, and encourage -- and under many circumstances require -- employees to participate in environmental behavior. In addition, people who live in the largest cities are more widely exposed to media reports about the environment than people who live in smaller cities.
As its urban areas continue to grow, the findings will help China determine which audiences to target to encourage behaviors that can help counter the environmental costs associated with rapid economic growth. The researchers also say the study can benefit the United States.
"China's leadership increasingly pays more attention to China's environmental issues and also the employers increasingly encourage more participation of their employees in environment related issues," said Liu. "This top down approach has produced some good environmental results in China," he said.
|Contact: Bobbie Mixon|
National Science Foundation