Nations With More Press Freedom Have Better Environmental Quality, Study Finds

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Well, this seems intuitive: a new Michigan University study published in the Social Indicators Research journal reveals that countries whose governments protect freedoms of the press also boast better environmental quality. The report additionally finds that a free press also leads to a fundamentally happier citizenry—also an eminently sensible conclusion.

From MU:

Edson Tandoc, Jr., a doctoral student in the MU School of Journalism, says that press freedom directly predicts life satisfaction across the world.

“We already know that having reliable, objective news sources can benefit democracy, but in this study, we found that press freedom also benefits communities by helping improve the overall quality of life of citizens and, in the process, by also making them happier,” Tandoc said ... Tandoc also found that countries with higher levels of press freedom enjoyed better environmental quality and higher levels of human development, both of which also contribute to life satisfaction. He credits this to the watchdog function of the press, which helps expose corruption of all levels in a community.

“A country with a free press is expected to be more open about what is wrong in their societies and with their environments,” Tandoc said. “A free press is likely to report about poor human conditions and environmental degradation, bringing problems to the attention of decision-makers. It should not come as a surprise, therefore, that press freedom is positively related to both environmental quality and human development.”

Obviously, you won't find a lot of investigative reporting about China's hellish air pollution woes in China's state-run newspapers. A citizenry clearly needs true and accurate information about an environmental problem, whether it's water contamination or deforestation, before it can push its government or the local private sector for specific changes.

As such, the green-inclined should be especially wary of our nation's percolating tendency towards press-stifling tactics—think of the authorities' heavy-handed, journalist-corralling response to the #Occupy protests—and the fact that the United States has dropped rank to 47th, tied with Romania, on the international Press Freedom Index.

Tags: Activism