Comparing perceptions of the important environmental characteristics of the places people engage in consumptive, non-consumptive and spiritual activities

Joanna Burger, Michael Gochfeld, Christian Jeitner, Taryn Pittfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Managers, risk assessors, tribal leaders, public policy makers, and the public are increasingly interested in the characteristics of natural habitats where people like to engage in recreational, subsistence, or spiritual activities. Such data are critical for making decisions about human and ecological risk deriving from contaminants, as well as resource protection and land use. In this study we examined the perceptions of Native Americans and Caucasians about the natural places they prefer to engage in consumptive, non-consumptive, and spiritual activities which might expose them to contamination or other stressors. Subjects were interviewed at Post Falls and Fort Hall in Idaho, Cookeville in Tennessee, and at two sites in Long Island, New York, and northern New Jersey. Our objectives were to determine differences in perceptions as a function of category of activity, type of activity, location, and ethnicity. The data indicate that: (1) the highest rated characteristics were unpolluted water, lack of radionuclides that present a health risk, clean air, and no visible smog in the air; (2) all four were among the top-rated ones for each of the four sites; (3) all four were among the top-rated ones for places to perform consumptive, non-consumptive, and spiritual activities; (4) at each site, mean ratings were lowest for spiritual activities; (5) where there were differences, Native Americans rated all characteristics as more important than did Caucasians; and (6) where there were differences, ratings in New Jersey/New York were lower than those from respondents elsewhere. There are many statistically significant response differences between Native Americans and Caucasians, but overall one is impressed by the similarity in relative rankings. These perceptions will be helpful to risk assessors and risk managers in evaluating risk and potential solutions, to land managers for managing environmental resources, and to public policy managers for evaluating how people view natural environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1219-1236
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Risk Research
Volume14
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Engineering(all)
  • Strategy and Management

Keywords

  • Department of Energy
  • activity patterns
  • land use
  • perceptions
  • risk

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