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Living With Chronic Contamination: A Comparative Analysis Of Divergent Psychosocial Impacts

C. Messer, Alison E. Adams, T. Shriver
Published 2019 · Psychology

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Scholarship on contaminated communities has highlighted how residents living with the reality of significant environmental hazards often experience similar negative psychosocial stressors. However, relatively less is known about the mitigating factors that can explain divergence in these impacts such as levels of community efficacy and empowerment. This is critical as insight into these dynamics can provide answers as to why certain communities maintain a sense of efficacy whereas others do not. To address this question, we conduct a comparative analysis of two heavily contaminated communities in Oklahoma and Colorado. Our data come from extensive fieldwork, including in-depth interviews (n = 105) and participant observation. Our findings revealed a set of similar psychosocial outcomes in the two communities, but we argue that specific revitalizing events in one community played a crucial role in sustaining residents’ feelings of empowerment and persistence. Our paper concludes with a discussion of the implications of our research for future work on contaminated communities, technological disasters, and citizen participation.
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