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Environmental Risk Perception and Public Trust – from Planning to Operation for China's High-Speed Railway

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Abstract

China has the world's largest high-speed railway (HSR) network, but while HSR is meeting high transportation demand, the Decide-Announce-Defend approach to infrastructure policy and projects still prevails in China and is often criticized for not addressing public concerns of environmental and social risks. In recent years, researchers have investigated the economic and environmental impacts of HSR, yet few studies have evaluated the public's views on HSR risks or their views on the trustworthiness of key information sources, which are believed to be critical in predicting public behavior and reaction to infrastructure projects. Using random survey data from communities along the Beijing-Shenyang and Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway lines, our study shows that perceived risks of HSR are higher in the operating stage rather than during construction. We also find that in the construction stage, risk-related information is often obtained through informal channels, while the government becomes a more trusted information provider only after HSR goes into operation. Furthermore, we confirm that the public's perception of the level of knowledge, transparency, and attention to risk of the information sources¹¹ These are broad terms used in the survey to refer to information sources' general level of environmental knowledge, level of transparency with the decision-making process and information disclosure, and level of concern for environmental risks perceived by the public. are key determinants of their perceived trustworthiness. Lastly, this study reveals that socioeconomic characteristics are more important than project phase in explaining the regional differences in risk perception and trustworthiness of key information sources. This key finding calls for a strategy of stakeholder engagement that is carefully tailored to the demographics of the affected population in the decision-making and implementation process of HSR, as well as other infrastructure projects.

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Local acceptance of wind energy technology has become an important factor to consider when designing local and national wind energy technological innovation policies. Previous studies have investigated the factors that shape the local acceptance of wind power in high-income countries. However, to the best of our knowledge, these factors had not been investigated in China. Utilizing a survey and quantitative analysis, we have identified the factors that are correlated with local acceptance of wind power in China. We conducted our study in the city of Jiuquan, Gansu Province, which currently possesses the largest installed capacity for wind power generation in China. Two factors, namely, perceived economic benefits and perceived environmental costs, influence local acceptance of wind power in China most significantly. Local acceptance of wind power in China can be described as “not in my backyard, but not far away from me”. In other words, the acceptance rate is lowest when the source of wind power is located in their village or community, highest when the project is located in their county and city and decreases for projects that are constructed further away.
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This study claims that the synergic effects of collaborative governance and effective knowledge integration can solve the wicked policy issues. The function of collaborative initiators (CIs) is studied and defined. The mindset of leaders and entrepreneurs as CIs is generally different from that of public managers. Such mindset helps facilitate collaborative dynamics integrating otherwise distributed capacities and knowledge within policy networks. This study examines a case with reference to the site selection of a waste incineration power plant in Guangzhou, China. A unilateral process emerges among the residents of the district to accumulate the self-qualified knowledge before a general discussion was put forward. “Explicit knowledge” intensifies the hostile situation between the public and officials although such knowledge can be easily accessed through an Internet search. A general discussion reveals the potential for generating local knowledge conducive to abolishing the not-in-my-backyard mentality and prompting collaborative problem solving. District government officials are potential CIs whose roles remain in their infancy. This study finds that a collaborative initiator lacks entrepreneurship when faced with an influx of public opinions. The Chinese CIs vacillate between a rule-dominated manager and a policy entrepreneur with the evolution of China into a more diversified society.
Article
To ascertain the optimal reserve of the professional relief workers in China, the author defines and optimizes the reserve cycle of the professional relief workers in this paper. Based on the analysis of the optimal personnel reserve in a single cycle, the author gains the short-term and long-term security personnel reserves as well as the relevant optimal personnel reserves, and then analyzes and introduces the factors to influence the optimal reserve and the corresponding adjustment methods.
Article
Environmental impact evaluation system boundary of high-speed railway was defined based on the total life cycle theory, and the index system to evaluate the environmental impact of high-speed railway was established with the fuzzy analytic hierarchy method, and the matter-element evaluation model was established on the basis of the extension theory. By calculating its comprehensive interrelatedness, the evaluation rank of environment impacts of high-speed railway was determined. The numerical example shows that the model has vast prospect, which can not only expand the application areas of extension theory, but also change the traditional evaluation methods and provide new ideas and means for environmental impact evaluation of high-speed railway.
Article
Understanding spatial conceptions is critical to the analysis of local protest strategy formation. Spatialities provoke inquiry into the drivers that may prompt local actors to adhere to particular strategies, and the implications this has on forms of contestation and the way protest is organized. It is argued that local protest can ‘respatialize’ when actors are embedded in social movements and translocal assemblages associated with controversy over development, and that this warrants reconsidering the role of ‘place’. A case study of a proposed megaproject framed in the national interest – a high-speed rail network called HS2, in the United Kingdom – is used to investigate local protest respatialization. Fieldwork was conducted in the Chilterns, an area of high scenic beauty which will be adversely impacted by HS2. The results show how the perceived need to respatialize protest away from the local to the national domain reconfigures debate to focus primarily on economic issues. Respatialization also has implications for the dynamics of protest assemblages with unlikely alliances developing around a need to engage with or engender debate in the national polity. It is concluded that local actors may opt to respatialize their protest in response to their interaction with social movements and protest assemblages that disengage from specific place-based interests. The paper recommends that future research on the geographies of social action take forward spatialization as a powerful lens for investigating protest strategy formation.
Article
While numerous cross-sectional studies find modest gender differences in environmental concern within the general publics of North American and European countries, this pattern has not been examined over time—primarily due to a lack of suitable data. Using twenty-two years of nationally representative survey data from the Swedish general public, we test whether the theoretically expected relationship between gender and environmental concern—where women are modestly more proenvironmental than men—is robust over time. Results from our multivariate ordered logistic regression models reveal a consistent pattern over the time period. Across all available years of data, women report greater environmental concern than men in the Swedish general public. Specifically, Swedish women report greater worry about environmental destruction, greater worry about climate change, and greater support for environmental protection than men. Thus, this gender difference in environmental concern is indeed robust. The theoretically expected relationship between gender and environmental concern is robust not only across environmental concern indicators and countries of study but also over time.
Article
This paper conducts a sustainability analysis on the newly opened Wuhan–Guangzhou High-Speed Railway (the Wuhan–Guangzhou Passenger Dedicated Line, or the Wuguang PDL) in China. This analysis focuses on the efficiency and equity aspects of this rail line's direct transportation impacts and indirect nontransportation impacts. The Wuguang PDL has significant transportation and nontransportation impacts on the cities and megaregions along the line. However, it still has generated geographic and social inequity issues yet to be addressed. Due to the opening of the Wuguang PDL, Hubei, Hunan, and Guangdong Provinces, along with the Wuhan, Changsha, and Pearl River Delta megaregions, will be more closely integrated with synergistic effects, although the benefits are still distributed unevenly across different regions.
Article
The notion that people with higher income are more concerned about environmental problems is deeply entrenched in economics and some other disciplines. Studies have shown a positive income effect on the intention to pay for environmental improvement. Perception of environmental risk, however, follows a different pattern of variation. This paper demonstrates a negative income effect, using data extracted from a cross-national social survey involving 36 countries. An inverse relationship is observed between people’s reported income and their perception of long-term environmental risks associated with climate change, genetic modification of crops and the use of nuclear power. Lower-income individuals see the potential environmental consequences of these human interventions as extremely dangerous - more so than the higher-income ones. Richer people are relatively less concerned about the long-term environmental risks. A possible explanation is that material insecurity reinforces the feeling of risk and danger. People living under more difficult economic situation are more vulnerable and see greater danger. A key implication of these findings is that concern does not follow ability to pay. People facing higher environmental risks are potentially less able to afford risk reduction support despite they are likely to be in greater need for it.
Article
China, as a ‘double risk’ society, is in urgent need for effective environmental risk management systems. Compared with other risks, man-made environmental risks have not been given due weight. Public awareness and perceptions of environmental risks are crucial in all phases of effective risk management. However, little is known about public perceptions of environmental risks in China. To contribute to better understanding of public perception of environmental risk, a questionnaire survey was conducted among university students in Beijing, who represent a group with high level of education and a generally high sensitivity to new information. The results show that even this group has limited knowledge about environmental risks and current risk management systems. Further studies are needed to understand the social construction of environmental risks in China and to seek ways to involve the Chinese public in emergency response and risk management.
Conference Paper
Information is one of most important bases in unconventional emergency response. The paper establishes system dynamics simulation model of informational control based on the law and principle of information behavior in unconventional emergency response. A case study of "723" high-speed railway accident reveals that information channel load, information technological development, information professional level etc., have important role in emergency response. Emergency managers should pay attention to improvement of information receiving and processing to enhance emergency decision-making efficiency and rapid response capability. one of the most important bases in unconventional emergency response. The paper establishes system dynamics simulation model of informational control based on the law and principle of information behavior in unconventional emergency response. A case study of "723" high-speed railway accident reveals that information channel load, information technological development, information professional level etc., have important role in emergency response. Emergency managers should pay attention to improvement of information receiving and processing to enhance emergency decision-making efficiency and rapid response capability.
Article
Public opposition toward new energy infrastructure is often labeled “NIMBYism” (Not In My Backyard), despite strong criticisms of the concept’s validity. Research on technology acceptance has followed two pathways: first, investigating the role of place attachments and sociodemographic characteristics; second, investigating project-related constructs such as perceived impacts, trust, and procedural justice. This study aimed to integrate these research pathways and deepen understanding of the specific role of place attachments by measuring intensity of attachment and specific varieties. A total of 503 residents of a town in South West England completed a questionnaire survey on proposals to construct a high voltage power line in the vicinity. A hierarchical linear regression analysis indicated significant effects of education, length of residence, the discovered variety of place attachment, and four project variables: positive and negative impacts, trust in the developer, and procedural justice. Conceptual, methodological, and applied implications of the findings are discussed.
Article
Some of the world's most profound environmental changes are under way in China. Studying the underlying forces of environment-related behaviors at all levels in China is therefore extraordinarily important. This essay helps people outside China increase their understanding of these variables by summarizing findings of Chinese-language surveys conducted in China to measure environmental awareness, attitudes, and behaviors. People in different parts of China have differences in perceptions and behaviors. The article takes a macroscopic snapshot of how the Chinese view their environment as a prelude to analyses of more particularistic perceptions and actions. This snapshot depicts environmental destruction and rampant resource exploitation that is likely to continue for decades to come. However, by understanding this trend it may be possible to findways of eventually slowing it and thereby mitigating long-term environmental damage. The article includes an annotated bibliography of Chinese-language reports on environmental attitudes and behaviors.
Article
China's 12th Five-Year Plan (2011–2015) announces a shift to a new development model and a new green governance approach. Can we indeed identify a specific Chinese transition mode in moving from a monolithic economic growth path to a sincere green development model? To understand China's environmental management transition and address this question we assess whether and to what extent China has been shifting course in resource use and limiting environmental pollution. This review paper provides a comprehensive overview of the development of environmental management in China based on existing sources of information. Four major environmental challenges are identified for the future environmental management of the biggest emerging economy in the world.
Article
This study estimates of the life cycle greenhouse gas inventory for construction of high-speed rail infrastructure from San Francisco to Anaheim indicates it will result in 2.4 million metric tons of CO2 with material production comprising 80% of emissions and transportation of construction materials, 16%. While tunneling and aerial structures account for only 15% of the route’s length, they are responsible for 60% of emissions. Based on estimates of avoided emissions from operation of the system of just over one million metric tons of CO2 per year, construction emissions would be recuperated in about two years and their global warming effect in about six after services begin. This range of recuperation times is relatively short given the long-life of the constructed infrastructure. Avoided emissions estimates are dependent on ridership and if low ridership lead to a 75% decrease in offset emissions, recuperation times may increase to more than 20years.
Article
This article considers how Schwartz's norm-activation model has been applied in the context of individual contributions to public goods, and how it might be extended to better reflect the full gamut of behavioral determinants in such situations. A review of literature in political economy, psychology, and sociology suggests that the translation of Schwartz's model from situations of isolated individual helping to the public goods context requires the role of organizations, policy initiatives, and notions of justice to be more explicitly incorporated within the model. Existing elements of the model also need to be broadened to encompass some of the unique characteristics of public good contributions, such as shared (as opposed to diffused) responsibility, and lower levels of individual decisiveness. A qualitative environmental case study illustrates some of the required extensions.
Article
Accumulated research findings show that women tend to express higher levels of concern toward technology and the environment than do men, but that the tendency is not universal. The findings are particularly clear-cut for local facilities and/or nuclear and other technologies that are often seen as posing nisks of contamination; findings appear to be more mixed for broader patterns of environmental concern. Although the differing patterns have been reported with enough consistency to be considered relatively robust, less progress has been made to date in explaining the underlying dynamics. Five main hypotheses can be identified. One hypothesis, the expectation that increased knowledge will lead to decreased concern, has received so little support, despite repeated examination, that it can be discarded. Another, that women tend to express greater concern than do men about the health and safety implications of any given level of technological risk, has received consistent support. The remaining 3 hypotheses require additional empincal examination.
Article
Based on a nationwide survey conducted in mainland China between September 1993 and June 1994, this study explores the impact of propaganda of the Communist government on people's attitudes toward specific political institutions and toward the government in general. Our study shows that the news media in China have negative effects on people's attitudes toward political institutions in general and make people distrust government. Several competing interpretations are offered to explain the negative correlation between media exposure and political trust. Despite serious efforts, we are unable to falsify the relationship between media exposure and people's attitudes toward government. These findings clearly demonstrate that the propaganda of the regime failed in nurturing supportive sentiment among people in Chinese society in the post-Tiananmen era.
Article
This article develops a conceptual framework for advancing theories of environ- mentally significant individual behavior and reports on the attempts of the author's research group and others to develop such a theory. It discusses defini- tions of environmentally significant behavior; classifies the behaviors and their causes; assesses theories of environmentalism, focusing especially on value-belief-norm theory; evaluates the relationship between environmental concern and behavior; and summarizes evidence on the factors that determine environmentally significant behaviors and that can effectively alter them. The article concludes by presenting some major propositions supported by available research and some principles for guiding future research and informing the design of behavioral programs for environmental protection. Recent developments in theory and research give hope for building the under- standing needed to effectively alter human behaviors that contribute to environ- mental problems. This article develops a conceptual framework for the theory of environmentally significant individual behavior, reports on developments toward such a theory, and addresses five issues critical to building a theory that can inform efforts to promote proenvironmental behavior.
Article
Purpose A longstanding quantitative finding from surveys of public perceptions of hazardous technologies is that women and men respondents tend to express different levels of concern when asked about environmental and technological hazards. Traditional psychometric risk perception research has provided extensive empirical descriptions of this “gender effect”, but is criticised for having less success in developing substantive theory linking observations to socio‐cultural explanations to explicate this effect. The purpose of this paper is to build a theoretical platform to account for the existing empirical findings on gender and perceptions of risk. Design/methodology/approach The paper presents a critical synthesis, drawing upon theory in contemporary risk research, gender theory, social studies of science and feminist studies of epistemology. Findings A theoretical platform is developed concerning the operation of gender as a regulatory process involving norms and discourse. The role is identified of moral discourses, hegemonic masculinities/gender authenticity, and epistemic subjectivities as plausible ways of understanding the gender–risk effect in risk perception. Research limitations/implications A novel theoretical exploration is provided of the relationship between gender and risk perceptions. Conceptual development in the gender and risk arena could be further refined by applying the theoretical platform developed here to empirical analyses and, to investigate its relevance to understanding how people discuss, deliberate and reason about risk issues. Originality/value Much of the existing literature fails to offer adequately grounded theoretical explanations for the observed empirical finding on gender and risk. This paper is the first to utilise a non‐essentialist reading of the gender‐risk effect by developing the “effects made by gender” approach.
Article
China is experiencing profound adverse environmental changes, many of them driven—and all exacerbated—by rapid economic growth. Attitudes toward the environment in China are ambiguous. Nevertheless, these attitudes are indicators of how the Chinese view the natural environment and how they are likely to behave toward it and respond to efforts to protect it. They are also important precursors to actions by the Chinese government to address environmental problems that affect the rest of the world. Environmental awareness and attitudes are associated with individuals' educational level, socio-economic status, living environment, and exposure to media. By understanding the Chinese view of the environment and the degree to which they prioritize it (or not) relative to other important issues, Chinese and international policymakers and stakeholders can enhance their capacity to perhaps start shifting these attitudes, values, and behaviors toward those that might do less harm to China's environment and the world's. This article reviews findings on environmental awareness, attitudes, and behaviors, and makes observations on their implications for environmental governance in China. Information is drawn from Chinese survey data, secondary Chinese-language sources, and related tertiary literature.
Article
Risk management and sustainable development are frameworks for studying and managing the environmental impacts of human actions; as such each requires indicators for monitoring, decision-making and communication. This paper compares the two frameworks as used in practice, and their experience of using indicators. Sustainable development is a systems-based concept with a long time horizon, a tendency to apply precaution in decisions, and a positive normative 'mission' (development). Risk management focuses on specific, linear chains of cause and effect over short time periods, is typically associated with cost-benefit decision-making, and concentrates on avoiding negative outcomes. However risk management is also potentially a tool for informing and implementing sustainability. Both risk and sustainability are multidimensional constructs which can be indicated in varied ways. The selection of indicators in both fields depends on technical (e.g. robustness, problem-orientation) and communicative criteria (e.g. truthfulness, informativeness, relevance, clarity and resonance). Lessons from risk indicators include a better understanding of communicative criteria such as resonance, and greater awareness of communication pitfalls. Sustainability indicators demonstrate the advantages of a participatory approach to selection for incorporating different values, echoing the experience of the US states' comparative risk assessment approach, as well as the need for a systematic perspective on problems leading to the use of multiple indicators. Risk management and sustainable development have much mutual relevance and could each benefit from more intensive exchange both generally, and regarding the use of indicators.
Article
The aim of this study is to provide an understanding of the legal requirements and implementation environment of public involvement (PI) in infrastructure planning processes at the national and local levels in China. China’s transportation planning is examined to understand the infrastructure planning framework stipulated in the laws and regulations on city planning. The city planning ordinances of 27 provincial capitals and 4 municipalities directly under the Central Government are investigated and their requirements for PI are classified. Factors affecting PI requirements are considered including: geographic location, population and level of economic development among others. The authors discuss the effect of the social environment, geography, economic development level and legal requirements on PI implementation. Legislative and regulatory improvements concerning planning procedures and PI are suggested, with the advanced cities to be used as models.
Article
This study aimed to explore, on the one hand, public perception of risks associated with different food-related hazards and, on the other hand, perception of reliability of various sources providing information on food-related risks. Some differences were found when consumers compared six food-related hazards in terms of perceived personal risk and their knowledge of potential food risks. The concern about food risks was found to be statistically significantly dependent on the perception of risk to the individual. As far as the perception of the reliability of information was concerned, a principal component analysis revealed some differences in terms of respondents’ perception when the sources were compared. Furthermore, a regression analysis showed that the perceived amount of information each source contained about food-related hazards was an important element in perception of reliability, as well as the degree of concern consumers believed the agencies had with protecting their health from food risks.
Article
There is substantial empirical evidence that both trust and risk perceptions influence public acceptance of new technologies. We reanalyzed 3 studies (on food technology) to compare whether (a) both trust and perceived risk are independently and directly associated with acceptance, or (b) the relationship between trust and acceptance is mediated by perceived risk. In support of Interpretation a, the (negative) correlation between trust and perceived risk was reduced when controlling for acceptance, whereas the correlation between trust and acceptance was somewhat reduced when controlling for perceived risk. Controlling for trust had little effect on the correlation between perceived risk and acceptance. These findings suggest that expressions of trust and perceived risk often might be reflections of prior attitudes toward the technology.