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Improving public engagement with air pollution: exploring two-way communication formats, public perception, and the voices of women.

Loroño-Leturiondo, Maria (2019) Improving public engagement with air pollution: exploring two-way communication formats, public perception, and the voices of women. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

Cities worldwide are experiencing high levels of air pollution, with severe consequences to human health, the economy, and the natural environment. Greater Manchester (GM), a conurbation in the United Kingdom, has declared an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) as air pollution levels are sometimes above or close to limits set by the European Union. Transport is one of the main contributing sectors, and rapid policy and lifestyle changes are needed when it comes to public transportation, walking, or cycling. Public engagement is central to this aim, but one-way provision of information is not effective in encouraging the needed behavioural changes. Through a systematic review (n=50), this thesis provides a comparison of how five different two-way communication formats (i.e. social media, educational programmes, serious games, citizen science, and forums) have been employed worldwide to create dialogues between experts and the public in relation to air pollution. A one-size-fits-all communication strategy is not sufficient in engaging the public in socially diverse cities where the environment and sustainable lifestyles are conceptualised in a myriad of ways. Through a questionnaire study (n=365), this thesis explores how the public in GM perceives air pollution and accesses environmental information, as well as how this varies with gender, educational level, age, postcode district, and income. Through qualitative interviews (n=30), this thesis also provides an in-depth exploration of the experiences of one particular group in society that has traditionally been underserved: women. The focus on women is necessary because a greater responsibility for unpaid work, economic inequality, longer life expectancy, and greater fear of crime shape how women travel and access the city, and consequently, their experiences of air pollution. The fact that these findings are specific to women, however, does not make them less valid in relation to society at large. A transportation system that is environmentally sustainable as well as safe, economical, and that facilitates combining paid and unpaid work, is beneficial to all. These findings advance knowledge in the field of public engagement with air pollution, and provide recommendations for policymakers or charity organizations. These include communication of air pollution as something physical, moving away from the invisible adjective that encourages people to avoid the problem altogether; and the further exploration of the health and wellbeing frame, as it can be effective in motivating active forms of transport.

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