ESPP Students Publish Interdisciplinary Paper on the Social and Environmental Impact of Large Scale Infrastructure Development

August 12, 2021

Yingjie Li Yuqian Zhang Leigh Anne TiffanyThree ESPP students, Yingjie Li, Yuqian Zhang, and Leigh Anne Tiffany, have recently published a paper in the journal Environmental Science and Policy. The paper entitled “Synthesizing social and environmental sensing to monitor the impact of large-scale infrastructure development” originated as part of the ESPP Capstone Course led by Dr. Joseph Hamm that Li, Zhang, and Tiffany were enrolled in together.

The paper takes a unique look at two large-scale projects that are part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative in part to understand if early concerns about environmental damage emerged and if public sentiment turned critical. Utilizing remote sensing imagery and geotagged Twitter data, the team mapped the socio-environmental impact of these large-scale infrastructure projects.

“Our analysis shows that both projects have led to a substantial loss of natural land but gains in artificial land,” said Yingjie Li, a dual major PhD candidate with the Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability and the Environmental Science and Policy Program at MSU who is the paper’s lead author. “Despite this, we found that, overall, public sentiment toward the projects was largely positive and improved over time, which contradicts the prevalent pessimism by the Belt and Road Project critics. However, we further found that people in developed regions tended to show more and growing positive sentiments than people in other less-developed regions.”

For additional details, please see “Scientists meld Twitter and satellite views to understand epic impact.”

To download a copy of the paper, please visit