, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 52–60 | Cite as

How Perceived Exposure to Environmental Harm Influences Environmental Behavior in Urban China

  • Xiaodong Chen
  • M. Nils Peterson
  • Vanessa Hull
  • Chuntian Lu
  • Dayong Hong
  • Jianguo Liu


Rapid environmental degradation in China makes understanding how perceived exposure to environmental harm influences environmental attitudes and participation in pro-environmental behaviors among the Chinese people crucial. We used a nation-wide survey dataset in urban China to test two hypotheses: experiencing environmental harm directly affects environmental behavior; environmental attitudes mediate the relationship between experiencing environmental harm and environmental behavior. We found respondents who experienced environmental harm had more pro-environmental attitudes. Experiencing environmental harm positively influenced pro-environmental behavior both directly and indirectly through the mediation of pro-environmental attitudes. Among the pro-environmental behaviors, environmental litigation was most strongly related with exposure to environmental harm. Our results suggest that more participation in pro-environmental behaviors may be expected as rapid economic development increases public exposure to environmental harm in urban China.


China Environmental attitudes Environmental harm New environmental paradigm Pro-environmental behavior 



We thank the General Social Survey of China project for providing the data. We thank two anonymous reviewers for their constructive criticisms on an earlier version of this paper. We gratefully acknowledge the financial support from National Science Foundation and Giorgio Ruffolo Fellowship in Sustainability Science at Harvard University, as well as AgBioResearch at Michigan State University.


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xiaodong Chen
    • 1
  • M. Nils Peterson
    • 2
  • Vanessa Hull
    • 3
  • Chuntian Lu
    • 4
  • Dayong Hong
    • 5
  • Jianguo Liu
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  2. 2.Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology Program, Department of Forestry & Environmental ResourcesNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA
  3. 3.Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, Department of Fisheries and WildlifeMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  4. 4.Department of SociologyMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  5. 5.Department of SociologyRenmin University of ChinaBeijingChina

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