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The value of citizen science: The controversy over municipal solid waste incineration and dioxin pollution in contemporary China

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Municipal solid waste incineration (MSWI) has become the subject of one of the most heated environmental debates in mainland China. While government officials and industry representatives are in favour of this technology, claiming that incineration is the most advanced and effective way of managing waste and that the risks are minimal, residents in the vicinity of incinerators are concerned about toxic pollutants, particularly dioxins. This article traces the rise of the anti-incineration movement in China since 2006. It shows how citizens have mobilised, gathered evidence, and informed themselves with the help of internet bulletin board systems; joining forces with NGOs and independent scientific experts, they have petitioned the government and called on government representatives to respond to their concerns in public debates. Dioxin pollution from MSWI continues to be a problem, but the controversy has demonstrated the resourcefulness and determination of Chinese citizens in making their voices heard.
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Keywords: China; citizen science; dioxins; municipal solid waste incineration

Document Type: Special Article

Publication date: 01 April 2017

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  • The half-yearly journal Global Environment: A Journal of History and Natural and Social Sciences acts as a forum and echo chamber for ongoing studies on the environment and world history, with special focus on modern and contemporary topics. Our intent is to gather and stimulate scholarship that, despite a diversity of approaches and themes, shares an environmental perspective on world history in its various facets, including economic development, social relations, production government, and international relations.
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