Theoretical Background

Energy is a very important commodity in today’s society. We could not function without it. Sources of energy are a very controversial subject, as we continue to strive to find a clean, renewable, and sufficient source of energy. We did this real data analysis to compare how different countries obtain their energy, and how clean it is. We are doing this by comparing the energy uses of America, China, and Japan during 2010, as well as the air quality of the country in 2010. We hope to reveal from our research the effects of a country’s energy use to their air quality.

We have concluded that the perception of the importance of energy sources does indeed differ by location and philosophy. When we asked people in the US what they thought of the energy sources used here, they were all comfortable with the means that the US produces electricity. However, when we asked students at the RDFZ school in China, they said that they were not comfortable with the energy policy and the pollution there, but they choose to live with it.

This is partially explained with Erik Erikson’s theory of personality. Erikson emphasizes the importance of intimacy vs. isolation as the first stage of adult development. In this phase, we begin to form lasting connections – not only to people, but to places as well. I predict that the students in RDFZ in China are comfortable with their environment, becoming intimate with their surroundings, and choosing to accept it instead of trying to change it. However, us students in the US are intimate with relatively clean living environments, and we see anything below us as inhumane and degrading – hence our fascination with the energy issue in China. We’ve become comfortable with our lives, approaching stagnation, as stated by Erik Erikson.


Video about China Pollution (“How China’s Pollution Became a National Emergency” by Journeyman Pictures):

Five Questions to RDFZ Students

1. How has the air pollution in Beijing affected your life?

2. What are you future education plans (college, careers, etc.)?

3. How competitive is your school/college application environment?

4. Where do you think your water comes from?

5. Do you think China should prioritize an energy reform over everything else?

Results and Reflection


People agree that China should make improving air quality its top priority.

People agree that China’s air quality is detrimental to the health of its citizens.

People agree that air quality in the United States is much better than in China.

People agree that China should lessen its dependency on coal for energy production.

People agree that the United States produces more clean (renewable) energy than China.

People agree that China needs to find a new source of energy, despite the economical and political impact.

People agree that China’s energy demands are constantly increasing.

People both agree and disagree that the United States is healthier than China because of reduced pollution.

People disagree that the United States will eventually reach the pollution levels of China.

People disagree that they would live in China, despite the air quality concerns.


I did not find the results of this survey very surprising. People seem to agree that China’s air quality provides many issues to the development of the country, and that they need to make immediate reforms in order to keep China sustainable.

If I were to re-do this project, I would ask more questions and collect more data. It’s fairly difficult to conduct such analysis with a broad range of answers. I would also reach out to more people, maybe people in China too (people who live in the US are obviously biased).

In Depth Interview

Sally Chen

1. How do you think the people of China can improve air quality?

China can improve air quality by reducing air pollution (regulating factories and cars) and finding cleaner sources of energy (coal is very dirty, use solar/wind/other renewable sources instead).

2. How does poor air quality in China affect its citizens?

Poor air quality affects the lungs of Chinese citizens, which puts them at risk for cardiovascular disease and lung cancer.

3. Does the US need an energy reform to prevent air pollution?

The US is okay in terms of energy sources and air pollution, and we have better things to worry about, so I do not believe that the US needs an energy reform at the moment.

4. Should China make energy reform its top priority?

Yes- an energy reform would revitalize the industry in China. It would lead to financial gain, improved health quality, improved quality of life for everyone, and greater support from foreign nations.

5. Are renewable energy sources worth the initial monetary investment in the long run?

Yes- especially China. Considering the amount of energy they need to run all the factories, an energy reform would be beneficial in the long run, despite the large initial investment.

A Question

Would you move to another city (like Boston) because of air quality concerns?

Do you think the air quality issues in China will have a material impact on your health?

How have you adjusted to the air quality issues – do you take any preventative measures or have you adjusted to it?

Conclusion and Citations

We have determined that our data and our classmates all agree that China is in need of an energy reform to reduce air pollution, making its citizens healthier and making China a better place to live.

Japan Total Energy Consumption. (n.d.). Retrieved October 10, 2014, from

Energy policy of the United States. (2014, October 10). Retrieved October 10, 2014, from

Renewable Energy. Retrieved October 17, 2014 from,