Pollution Control and Well-Being in Rural Areas: A Study Based on Survey Data

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Pollution Control and Well-Being in Rural Areas: A Study Based on Survey Data


2.1. Literature Review on Pollution Control and Well-Being

Rural ecological environmental governance plays a crucial role in promoting ecological civilization and serves as a pragmatic necessity for comprehensive rural revitalization. Existing literature primarily focuses on the evaluation of pollution control efficiency and the factors and mechanisms affecting residents’ happiness. Within the context of assessing pollution control effectiveness, studies have paid attention toward its influence on residents’ trust in the government and their political participation. They have focused on evaluating the social security effects of pollution control [11], public perceptions [12,13], issues of concern, public participation [14,15], and environmental awareness. By utilizing data related to air pollution [16,17], land pollution [18,19], and water pollution [20,21], the study analyzes the effect of pollution control through a differential analysis, logistic regression, and index integration methods. Some studies have emphasized collaborative air pollution control, spatiotemporal evolution trends [22], influencing factors, and policy outcomes in water and haze pollution control [23,24]. Other studies have analyzed the effects of fluctuations in climate and aerosol types on the thermodynamic stability of the planetary boundary layer (PBL), aerosol vertical distribution, and aerosol–PBL interactions using in situ aircraft measurements, ground observations, and the Weather Research and Forecasting model coupled with Chemistry simulations. It helps with the identification of priority pollutants based on weather conditions and encourages more accurate air pollution control [25], thereby paving the way for sustainable economic and high-quality environmental development. In addition, some studies have focused on port pollution control, believing that ports play a crucial role in the economic, environmental, and social sustainability of cities and urban areas. The most important solution to address port decarbonization barriers is embedded in policies and management tools. Countries and ports need to develop decarbonization strategies with appropriate packages of policies, and when required, introduce grants, subsidies, investments, performance standards, and tasks along with adequate communication and educational activities, as well as carbon taxes [26]. At the same time, these studies call for a re-evaluation of port sustainability in alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals; this can provide port practitioners and policy makers with valuable references for reliable decision making, serving the wider goal of global sustainable development [27].
In terms of research concerning the factors that affect residents’ happiness, most research has explored the relationship between residents’ income and happiness [28]. These studies have concluded that income disparities and unequal opportunities significantly diminish residents’ happiness [29,30,31]. Other research has investigated trends in national happiness, assessed the influence of government quality on residents’ happiness [32], and analyzed the effect of fintech development on rural family happiness [33,34]. When looking at the mechanisms through which environmental governance influences residents’ happiness, some studies have argued that farmers’ subjective perceptions, physical and mental health, interpersonal relationships, and farming activities mediate their happiness [35]. Scholars have suggested that environmental pollution harms residents’ health and diminishes their subjective well-being. Furthermore, some studies have stated that building an ecological civilization enhances residents’ happiness by fostering a favorable ecological environment, creating diverse cultural industries, and nurturing a harmonious social environment [36]. Other studies have discussed the effect of rural pollution control on residents’ happiness through the lens of traditional village culture integration [37], believing that the diversity of social culture effectively enhances people’s sense of happiness. These studies provide valuable insight into enhancing rural ecological environmental governance, advancing the creation of habitable, functional, and aesthetically pleasing rural communities, and further enriching the theory and practice of ecological environmental governance.
Surprisingly, few existing studies have examined the influence and mechanism of ecological civilization construction on rural residents’ happiness. Most studies have concentrated on the effects of environmental governance [38], ecological environment quality [39], green development [32,40], and residents’ happiness, often focusing on specific regions or particular pollutant mitigation measures. Such studies may not entirely capture the breadth, depth, and scope of rural residents’ perceptions of the ecological environment. Thus, they may not fully reflect the extent to which rural residents absorb and utilize ecological resources, making it challenging to reveal the intricate connection between pollution control and residents’ happiness. As a significant component of rural ecological civilization establishment, rural pollution control plays a critical external role in people’s physical and mental health, happiness, sense of achievement, and sense of security. Taking rural pollution control as the starting point for research can more accurately depict how the level of rural ecological environment governance can improve people’s sense of happiness.

By exploring the effect of pollution control on the happiness of rural residents, this research aims to depict residents’ awareness of ecological environment management, evaluate current pollution control outcomes, and map out directions for future improvements more accurately. Moreover, it explores the efficacy of grassroots social governance. Accordingly, this paper sheds light on the ways rural pollution control influences and effectively enhances rural residents’ happiness. It employs a more comprehensive set of indicators for assessing rural pollution control and examines the pathways through which pollution control affects happiness, including individual health, family harmony, and village environment. By analyzing the heterogeneity present in eastern, central, western, ordinary, and affluent villages, this study aims to gain a deeper understanding of the effect of pollution control in different regions on people’s well-being. This is conducive to conducting a comprehensive evaluation of the effectiveness of rural pollution control and can provide innovative policy insights for grassroots community governance.

2.2. Theoretical Analysis of Pollution Control and Well-Being

“Happiness” represents a state of life that manifests as a subjective sentiment within individual life experiences and is a personal perception subject to observation and evaluation [33]. As a subjective feeling, happiness involves value judgments made by individuals based on objective facts and their own evaluation criteria. These evaluations are influenced by value concepts, individual characteristics, and environmental factors [41]. For rural residents, happiness represents their perception and judgment of their living environment, along with satisfaction derived from it. Amid economic and societal development, the ecological environment has emerged as a crucial factor affecting residents’ happiness.
Pollution control, rooted in the restoration of an ecological environment, aims to provide people with an aesthetically pleasing production and living environment [42]. It fosters the adoption of ecologically friendly ways of living and working [3,16], enhancing the spiritual outlook of rural areas, fostering community and family cohesion, and enabling residents to coexist harmoniously within their environment, ultimately boosting their happiness.

In terms of the effect of pollution control, regions with more effective pollution control measures tend to experience higher levels of happiness among residents. Furthermore, different forms of pollution control, such as soil, water, air, and noise pollution control, have varying degrees of influence on residents’ happiness. Notably, the criteria for experiencing and judging happiness are subjective, and the extent to which pollution control affects residents’ happiness is closely related to the internal and external conditions and characteristics of villages, individuals, and families. Based on these observations, the following hypothesis is proposed:

Hypothesis 1.

Pollution control significantly affects the happiness of rural residents. Particularly, the control of soil, water, air, and noise pollution can significantly improve the happiness of rural residents.

Amid rapidly accelerating urbanization and industrialization, environmental pollution has garnered significant attention due to its adverse effects on ecological environments and public health. This necessitates an urgent requirement for precise and scientific environmental pollution control measures [43]. On a macro scale, pollution control can enhance the village environment, creating a conducive space for production and living, alleviating tensions among various groups, and promoting harmonious coexistence between humanity and nature. At the same time, a favorable ecological environment fosters positive interpersonal relationships, enhances family harmony, and contributes to residents’ overall happiness [4].
At the individual level, pollution control can enhance people’s aesthetic sensibilities by providing a beautiful ecological environment. It also helps alleviate individual stress and tension, promoting a relaxed and contented state of mind while contributing to individuals’ physical and mental well-being. While enjoying the gifts of a beautiful ecological environment, people are more inclined to actively participate in rural pollution control, consciously protect the environment, and create a living space that aligns with their personal growth and development. In this mutual interaction, rural ecological environments continuously improve, the quality of life and physical and mental health of residents are comprehensively enhanced [10], and overall happiness is increased. On the basis of the above analysis, the following hypothesis is proposed:
Hypothesis 2.

Pollution control enhances the happiness of rural residents by improving the village environment, promoting family harmony, and improving individuals’ physical and mental health.

Rural pollution control plays a pivotal role in ecosystem improvement, the promotion of sustainable development, and ultimately, the enhancement of individual health and well-being [44]. Current rural areas face the intertwined and escalating issues of three major pollutants [5]: domestic, agricultural, and industrial pollution [45]. The overproduction of pollution not only inflicts severe damage on the rural ecological environment but also significantly impedes rural residents’ quest for improved living conditions. Harnessing the collective enthusiasm of all stakeholders and enhancing pollution control efficiency through diversified cooperation have become crucial tasks [46].
Given the vast geography of China, there exist pronounced disparities in economic development across its regions. Pollution control has a more pronounced effect on cities with a higher concentration of heavily polluting industries and larger populations, particularly in the central regions [47]. When viewed from the perspective of the development levels of villages across various regions, those with higher collective economic and residents’ incomes tend to allocate more funds to pollution control efforts, resulting in positive outcomes. However, residents’ understanding may still be limited. Conversely, the effect of pollution control in ordinary villages is slightly improved, and residents’ happiness is significantly enhanced [48,49]. Hence, the efficiency of pollution control has a stronger effect on the well-being of rural residents in the central region and ordinary villages. Thus, the following hypothesis is proposed:
Hypothesis 3.

Pollution control has a stronger effect on the well-being of residents in central regions and ordinary villages.

On the basis of the above analysis, the analytical framework of this paper is shown in Figure 1.

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