New research shows why some communities embrace environmental conservation and others don't

Jul 08, 2010

Continued support for off-shore oil drilling by Gulf Coast residents who are dealing with one of the most devastating environmental disasters in U.S. history might seem surprising, but new research from the University of New Hampshire shows that local factors such as unemployment and population growth influence views about the value of environmental conservation and regulation.

The research is presented in the most recent issue of the journal Rural Sociology in the article "Place Effects on Environmental Views."

"Our research shows that people who live in rural areas with high unemployment rates are less likely to support environmental regulations. Economic pressures help to understand why, in spite of the devastation caused by the BP oil spill, many residents of the Gulf Coast oppose a moratorium on off-shore drilling," said Larry Hamilton, professor of sociology, senior fellow at the Carsey Institute at UNH, and lead author of the study. The study is co-authored by Chris Colocousis, assistant professor at James Madison University, and Mil Duncan, director of the Carsey Institute at UNH.

Researchers surveyed more than 7,800 people in 19 rural counties of nine states. The states consisted of seven geographic regions -- the Rocky Mountains, Pacific Northwest, Northeast, Midwestern farm country, Appalachia, , and Alabama's Black Belt - that represented four broad types of rural places characterized by resource and population decline, amenity-driven population growth, amenity-driven population growth and decline, and chronic poverty.

People in rural areas with high unemployment rates are less likely to support conservation efforts and restrictive environmental regulations, the researchers found. "People living in areas with high unemployment rates may perceive environmental rules as a threat to their economic livelihood," Hamilton said.

People in rural areas with high rates of population growth are more likely to support conservation efforts and environmental regulations. "In such places, population change could be altering the environment in visible ways and make it seem more in need of protection," Hamilton explained.

Looking at other factors that influence views on conservation, the researchers confirmed classic patterns that show that Republicans, older respondents, and those who frequently attend religious services are less likely to favor conservation for future generations. Women, nonminority, and better-educated respondents are more likely to favor conservation.

Similar to views on conservation, the researchers confirmed previous research that shows environmental regulations are supported more by younger, better educated, and less Republican respondents.

Despite the results, the researchers say that rural areas do not adhere to one model and vary in countless respects besides rates of and unemployment. Understanding the views of people in specific areas must take into consideration the shared context of a particular area.

"For example, in our Rocky Mountain counties, the growing economy based on recreation and natural amenities gives people less reason to perceive conflict between jobs and conservation. In Appalachia, on the other hand, coal mining interests have cast debates over mountaintop-removal mining as a choice between jobs and ," Hamilton says.

Explore further: Genes play a key part in the recipe for a happy country

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Coordination needed to support green-fingered youths

Aug 13, 2009

The project, which was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), found that many young volunteers travelled long distances from cities to short-term projects in rural areas and felt they were being punished ...

Debunking fears: Latino growth does not boost crime

Dec 09, 2009

Rural industries, such as meat-packing and textile manufacturing, create job opportunities that have brought significant numbers of Latino workers and their families to small- and medium-sized towns. This influx of Latino ...

Rural America more prosperous than expected

Dec 02, 2009

For many people "rural" is synonymous with low incomes, limited economic opportunity, and poor schools. However, a recent study at the University of Illinois found that much of rural America is actually prosperous, ...

Agriculture's impact far more than economic, study says

Jun 25, 2008

Agriculture is important, of course, for generating jobs and income. But it has a host of non-economic benefits, too, according to a Cornell study that asked New Yorkers about the value of local agriculture.

Recommended for you

How people respond to a catastrophe on social media

15 minutes ago

When an earthquake hits, it makes more than just seismic waves. Extreme events such as earthquakes, tsunamis, and terrorist attacks also produce waves of immediate online social interactions, in the form ...

Making cities more accessible for everyone

26 minutes ago

Ron Buliung's interest in urban design initially started with his travels to Europe and India where he saw how different cities dealt with issues such as space, wealth, poverty, street life, congestion and ...

Scientists show IQs on the rise

1 hour ago

(Phys.org) —Human intelligence is thought to improve with each generation and a unique study of people born and raised in Aberdeen has proved that those in north-east Scotland are getting smarter.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.