Faculty Research & Creative Activity

Document Type


Publication Date

January 1999


Although considerable attention is devoted to environmental monitoring and assessment with respect to both pollutants and the status of particular plant or animal populations, less attention is devoted to assessing people's attitudes about the relative importance of ecological resources. In this paper we examine the attitudes and perceptions about ecological resources of people living around the Department of Energy's Savannah River Site (SRS), in South Carolina. Our overall hypothesis is that people who are directly affected by the possible outcomes and consequences of a particular hazard (i.e., those people employed at SRS) will undervalue the risks and overvalue the potential benefits from future land uses that favour continued site activity, compared to people who live near but are not employed at SRS. We interviewed 286 people attending the Aiken Trials horse show on 14 March 1997. There were few gender differences, although men hunted and fished more than women, women ranked three environmental concerns as more severe than did men, and women were more concerned about the effect of SRS on property values. Maintenance of SRS as a National Environmental Research Park ranked first as a future land use; nuclear production ranked second, followed by hunting and hiking. Only residential development ranked very low as a future land use. There were many differences as a function of employment history at SRS: (1) people who work at SRS think that the federal government should spend funds to clean up all nuclear facilities, and they think less money should be spent on other environmental problems than did non-employees, (2) people who work at SRS ranked continued current uses of SRS higher than did people who never worked at SRS, and (3) people who work at SRS are less concerned about the storage of nuclear material or accidents at the site than are people who never worked at the site.

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