Study of wolves will help scientists predict climate effects on endangered animals — Scientists studying populations of grey wolves in the USA's Yellowstone National Park have developed a way to predict how changes in the environment will impact on the animals' number,…
Climate sensitivity to CO2 more limited than extreme projections — A new study suggests that the rate of global warming from doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide may be less than the most dire estimates of some previous studies - and, in fact, may…
Saving Da Vinci's Last Supper from air pollution — Having survived long centuries, political upheaval, and even bombings during World War II, Leonardo Da Vinci's masterpiece Last Supper now faces the risk of damage from air pollution…
After 25 years, sustainability is a growing science that's here to stay — Sustainability has not only become a science in the past 25 years, but it is one that continues to be fast-growing with widespread international collaboration, broad disciplinary composition…
Markets drive conservation in Central Africa — Certification has shown that commercial forestry can co-exist with conservation objectives in the Congo Basin, according to conclusions reached at an international seminar 'Forest management…
Great Plains river basins threatened by pumping of aquifers — Suitable habitat for native fishes in many Great Plains streams has been significantly reduced by the pumping of groundwater from the High Plains aquifer - and scientists analysing…
Rivers may aid climate control in cities — Speaking at the URSULA (Urban River Corridors and Sustainable Living Agendas) Conference, in Sheffield, Dr Abigail Hathway, of the University of Sheffield, will demonstrate how rivers…
Vultures dying at alarming rate — Vultures in South Asia were on the brink of extinction until Lindsay Oaks and Richard Watson, from The Peregrine Fund in the US, undertook observational and forensic studies to find…
Predicting future threats for global amphibian biodiversity — Amphibian populations are declining worldwide, and their declines far exceed those of other animal groups: more than 30% of all species are listed as threatened according to the Red…
Study shows deforestation causes cooling — Deforestation, considered by scientists to contribute significantly to global warming, has been shown by a Yale-led team to actually cool the local climate in northern latitudes, according…
Where am I? > Home > News > Environment

Scientists: Big city life may alter green attitudes

Science Centric | 18 January 2011 17:35 GMT
Printable version A clip for your blog or website E-mail the story to a friend
Bookmark or share the story on your social network Vote for this article Decrease text size Increase text size
Hareless: Yellowstone's rabbits have vanished
Hareless: Yellowstone's rabbits have vanished — A new study by the Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife Conservation Society found that jack rabbits living in the Greater Yellowstone…
Fishermen and UCSB scientists explore ways to improve management of California spiny lobsters
Fishermen and UCSB scientists explore ways to improve management of California spiny lobsters — Unique, collaborative ways to manage fisheries are emerging in Southern California. Currently the California spiny lobster…
More Environment

People with good jobs found in large cities are more likely to engage in pro-environmental activities. So says a new study of China's environmental behaviour published this week in the British journal Environmental Conservation.

For the first time, scientists weighed employment and leadership when considering how people act regarding their natural surroundings. They found the status and political power of companies in cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin strongly influence the conservation practices of their employees.

Moreover, the scientists found employees who work for these companies - especially the workplace leaders - are particularly likely to engage in environmentally friendly activities that signal a desire to be green by, for example, sorting trash and participating in environmental litigation.

Scientists at the Centre for Systems Integration and Sustainability (CSIS) at Michigan State University led the study along with collaborators in the United States and China.

'Employment matters with regard to pro-environmental behaviour due to many different reasons,' said Xiaodong Chen, who conducted the study with colleagues while working on his doctorate in sustainability science at MSU. 'First, people may be affected by peers in their workplace through the diffusion of environmental values.

'Second, some pro-environmental behaviours need facilitating support such as equipment for classifying garbage or social groups who can organise these activities. Employment settings sometimes provide such support,' he said regarding specific findings in urban China.

Chen and colleagues analysed data from China's General Social Survey of 2003. The survey questioned some 5,000 respondents from different-sized urban areas about their environmental behaviour.

'It is essential to study human behaviour because behaviour directly affects the environment,' said Jianguo 'Jack' Liu, CSIS director and a co-author on the paper. 'As China is the world's fastest growing economy and cities are the economic engines with severe environmental challenges, understanding environmental behaviour of urban residents in China is particularly important.'

Thomas Baerwald, a Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems program officer at the National Science Foundation (NSF) agreed. 'Because China's rapid economic growth is likely to continue, China will provide a setting where U.S. researchers and decision makers can learn much about the ways to sustain both environmental quality and economic prosperity,' he said.

NSF's Program on Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems partially funded the study.

'By monitoring attitudes and behaviour through the use of instruments like general social surveys, scientists and decision makers can better understand the ways people respond as economic and environmental conditions change,' said Baerwald.

China's General Social Survey asked if people sorted their garbage to separate recyclables, recycled plastic bags, talked about environmental issues with family or friends, participated in environmental education programs, volunteered in environmental organisations or took part in environmental litigation. People who live in large cities showed significantly more green behaviour than people in smaller cities.

'In our models, we included a variable for 'employment status' and 'employment rank,' in addition to a separate variable for 'income,'' said Chen.

Employment status indicated whether an individual had a job. Employment rank indicated whether the individual had a leadership position in his or her workplace. Income was a monetary representation of the person's salary regardless of his or her role in the workplace.

'We found that employment status and rank of respondents mattered for five out of the six pro-environmental behaviours we studied, while income only mattered for one pro-environmental behaviour,' Chen said. 'People who were in a job and people who were in a leadership position in their workplace reported more pro-environmental behaviours than people not employed and people in non-leadership positions' regardless of salary.

'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 behaviour 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 organise or provide support for organising pro-environmental behaviour, and encourage - and under many circumstances require - employees to participate in environmental behaviour. 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 behaviours 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.

Source: National Science Foundation

Leave a comment
The details you provide on this page [e-mail address] will not be used to send unsolicited e-mail, and will not be supplied to a third party! Please note that we can not promise to give everyone a response. Comments are fully moderated. Once approved they will be posted within 24 hours.
Expand the form to leave a comment

Find the topic you want. Science Centric offers several RSS feeds for the News section.

Or subscribe for our Newsletter, a free e-mail publication. It is published practically every day.

AAHL reduces environmental footprintAAHL reduces environmental footprint

— A series of equipment upgrades undertaken over the past five years at CSIRO Livestock Industries' Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) in Geelong has resulted…

Wind turbines produce green energy and airflow mysteriesWind turbines produce green energy and airflow mysteries

— Using smoke, laser light, model airplane propellers and a campus wind tunnel, a team led by Johns Hopkins University researchers is trying to solve the airflow mysteries…

Smarter energy storage for solar and wind powerSmarter energy storage for solar and wind power

— CSIRO and Cleantech Ventures have invested in technology start-up Smart Storage Pty Ltd to develop and commercialise battery-based storage solutions. Director of…

Wildfire letdowns and wake-up callsWildfire letdowns and wake-up calls

— With damage estimates at more than $1 billion following recent October wildfires in the state of California, an important question comes into view: how will residents,…

Popular tags in Environment: climate · ecosystem · nitrogen · pollution