Poor ambient air quality affects 92 percent of the global population and is responsible for one out of every nine deaths on the planet (WHO 2020), posing one of today’s greatest environmental risks to global human health and wellbeing (Bazyar et al. 2019; Ebenstein et al. 2017).
Anthropogenic air pollution from mobile, area, and point source emissions, along with prescribed and wildland fire smoke and dust transport from land use and land cover change, degrades air quality in remote wilderness (Zajchowski, DeSocio and Lackey 2019) and urban settings (Zhu et al. 2019). Resultant cascading ecological health impacts from local, regional, and transboundary emissions are well documented (c.f. Rosseland 2020), as are human health impacts (c.f. Butt et al. 2020). However, comparatively less scholarship has focused on the human dimensions of air quality or the myriad ways in which individuals, groups, and societies experience, interact with and make decisions about collective air resources (Cupples 2007, 2009; Lu 2020; Mostafanezhad and Evrard 2020).
This special issue focuses on interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research involving social science that integrates and expands current understandings of the complex affective, cognitive, and behavioral relationships humans have with air quality. Within protected area contexts, the management of air resources continues to evolve due to shifting policy mandates, social, cultural, and economic practices (Clifford 2020; Parsons and Daniel 1988; Zajchowski, Lackey and McNay 2019). This is despite the value visitors place on clean air and scenic views (Kulesza et al. 2013) and the impacts of degraded air quality in protected area contexts (Keiser, Lade and Rudick, 2018). In urban, exurban, and rural settings, emerging work on the “political-economic geography of air” (Choy 2012 p. 27) examines how air quality is differently understood, experienced and governed (Adey 2014; Bickerstaff 2004; Cupples 2007; DuPuis 2004; Ramirez et al. 2017). Human geographer, Julie Cupples (2009: 208) demonstrates how air pollution is as much a cultural issue “as it is a question of the amount of harmful particulate matter in the environment.” Thus, across settings, knowledge of the underlying social, cultural, and psychological drivers and barriers to individuals’ decisions to promote and access good air quality remains deserving of further inquiry and synthesis. Click here for more information.