MSc Dissertation: Ecotourism on the Tibetan Plateau: Culture, Conservation and Economic Development


This dissertation will focus on ecotourism initiatives on the Tibetan Plateau. I ask how Tibetan-owned ecotourism organizations contribute to environmental conservation and local economic development on the plateau. Previous research on ecotourism in China has focused on natural parks or ethnic tourism in Yunnan and does not include impacts of political tensions. Therefore, this research will analyze ecotourism in a new, understudied area. Due to existing literature on community-based ecotourism, the hypothesis is that Tibetan-led ecotourism initiatives focus on conserving the environment and improving local economic development. The findings show that Tibetan-led ecotourism initiatives prioritize cultural preservation, which includes environmental protection, and local economic development to improve education, employment, and growth of local business. However, these organizations’ influence on the ecotourism industry is limited due to reliance on Western tourists and restrictions on movement set by the Chinese government.

Undergraduate Thesis: Airpocalypse Now? Environmental Perceptions and Reasons for Action and Inaction against Pollution in China


Given the worsening pollution and increasing social unrest over environmental issues in China, this thesis seeks to understand motivations for citizen political action against pollution. Drawing from 25 hour-long interviews with middle class Beijing residents, 10 short interviews with street vendors, one month of participatory observation at the Center for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims (CLAPV), and data collected from 100 legal case at CLAPV, I argue, contrary to existing research on Chinese environmental activism that portrays class as a motivating factor, that environmental activism in China is not a class-based phenomenon, but one linked with perception of risks and efficacy. I reconcile the differences between apathetic citizens, such as Beijing interviewees, and activists, such as pollution victims, by showing that citizens who feel a greater risk from pollution and have more confidence in activism’s efficacy are more likely to take action. Current research suggests that environmental activism will lead to an environmental movement. However, I conclude that such a movement will not occur unless perceptions of risk and efficacy change. These findings are important theoretically for contributing to existing literature on environmental movements and practically for showing that changing perceptions should be the focus of China’s environmental activism.

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