Blog 1 Environmental Discourse and Diversity in Urban Setting

It is more likely for a person from rural areas to engage in environmental sustainability. When they move from a place surrounded by forests to an “urban jungle” in which concrete buildings become normality, it makes sense that they try to restore the loss of “nature.” However, it does not necessarily assume that people living in urban settings detach from environmental practices at all. Even in a highly metropolitan area such as New York City, various individuals articulate, negotiate and execute environmental work with diverse approaches. Thus, our team will continue working on the project titled “Environmental Discourse and Diversity in Urban Settings,” obtaining and analyzing data from various individuals and organizations on their environmental practices in the urban environments. 

In September, we had our first group meeting this semester, where all of us reflected the results and personal experiences from the summer research program. While we understand that environment-related organizations might have particular official agendas to the public, the individuals could have different opinions and environmentality compared to the organization they worked in. However, we found it difficult sometimes to approach the potential participants while contacting the organization. Our team had to change research methods to adapt to the situations. In the meantime, we also reflected on the positive sides of the research process. Some stated that they were worried before meeting the participants, that they might not have enough questions to ask about, but they soon practiced interview techniques during the process and the conversations went well in the end. Finally, in attempting to explore the diversity and complexity of practicing environmentality in New York City, we will seek for more potential research subjects and look into expanding our current data collection. 

My focus on the research would be on business perspectives, which include environmentally friendly products and relevant business activities. For example, I have been searching on Airbnb websites, whereas locals provide unique experiences for visitors to have a taste of authentic New York life. I have located in locals who offer environmental-related experiences such as thrift shops shopping and house plant conversations. Such events would be ideal places for conducting participant observation; I will record my reflections and observations while participating in the experiences. Furthermore, it will allow me to stay in contact with the individuals and seek further interview opportunities. Moreover, participating in the experiences can open another gate to look for other research subjects. So far, I have exchanged emails with the local guides and made appointments for future interviews; I also encountered several places like environmental social enterprise or shops that I could save for further investigation.  

The “Environmental Discourse and Diversity in Urban Setting” is teamwork, which has been a unique experience for me to work with other students on research. Each team member has brought their own perspective and technique into the project, which could benefit me from listening to different research experiences. Meanwhile, working in a team means that we could contribute to and share a vast amount of research data, that individual work could not be able to obtain. Accordingly, every team member will be able to use the data and further their individual projects.  I am looking forward to working with my teammates and gaining more research experiences in the future. 

 

Pollution and Culture: Final Report

Research Summary

The survey has collected over 221 surveys in China across different campuses. Among them, 202 participants are Chinese native speakers, 21 years old on average. There are 92 female and 76 male respondents, mostly from Chongqing University. Although the participants are across disciplines, it is noted that engineering major occupies over 47% of the participants since they mostly come from the largest Engineering-led college Chongqing University in the city. In addition to that, there are around 45% of 164 responses claiming that they have been living in Chongqing over 4 years, while 30% of them just stay in the city between 1 to 2 years. Accordingly, around 48% state that they just come to study in Chongqing at most 2 years, while 30% of the participants have been staying in local universities at least 5 and more years.

The survey also collected 96 responses from US college, among which 90 participants’ primary language is English. The participants’ average age is around 21 years old. There are 52 female and 30 male participants recorded on the survey, mostly from Pace University at New York City. Among 84 responses, Arts and Humanities (27%) and Social Science (26%) majors occupy the most, followed by Business (19%) and Other and Undecided (14%). Although 47% of respondents state they have only been at the university at most one year or below, 47 out of 84 respondents have already lived in the city for over one year.

Research Findings

So far, I have been focusing on using qualitative data analysis such as content analysis, free listing and discourse analysis to interpret the data. Here are some general ideas that I have taken from the collected data.

1) Pollution
Among the US students, pollution means destructive; words like “contamination”, “negative” or “damage” have been frequently appearing in the responses. Although both student groups in two cultures have mentioned how pollution damages the environment, US students seem to associate “pollution” more with the “ecological system” and “natural environment”, whereas Chinese students are more likely to put “health” and “the effects of pollution” together. It is interesting because when it asks the US students to list environmental-changes in New York City, several participants do mention they have health problems such as breathing issues after coming to the city. However, it seems that Chinese students might feel more threatened about their health by the effects of pollution than US students.

2) Economy and Environment
Both Chongqing students in China and New York City students in the US agree, that the city where they currently live in should prioritize “environmental protection” instead of “economic development”. However, it does not necessarily mean that the students in two cultures consider the “economy” and the “environment” as a set of contradiction. In the following question, students indicate that they believe the two factors can, in fact, support each other in terms of better development.

3) Global and Local
On the one hand, among the 70 responses of US students population,  49% states that “local environmental protection” should be prioritized while 51% puts “global environmental protection” first. On the other hand, the majority of Chinese students population (62%) agrees strongly that people should focus on “local environmental protection” first. In the following question asking the reason behind their choices, it suggests that Chinese students seem to show a strong sense of community-based value system on the national level.

Learning Experiences

The undergraduate-faculty led program has been a challenging and rewarding experience for me. Professor Pajo has been an amazing mentor to me from the very beginning, helping me develop the research design and analyze the data. I cannot say how incredible that was to me, as it helped me apply what I have gained from class into research practices. By collaborating with Professor Pajo, I learned to analyze qualitative data by using quantitative approaches, which I will implement in future research. Furthermore, I would like to point out that the seminars offered by the UGR program are extremely helpful to me. I not only learned how to effectively read and research for my project but also practical skills including resume writing. Overall, the conducting of the undergraduate research program has broadened my horizon and encouraged me to pursue future academic goals.

Pollution and Cultures: Data Collection (US)

Preview

The research has been conducting a survey focusing on the environmental views of students from two cultures: US and China. Previously, the researcher has collected over 130 responses from students in Chongqing, China. Accordingly, this semester the research will concentrate on distributing surveys and collecting data from students in New York City, United States of America. The survey contains both quantitative and qualitative questions.

Sample

So far, the researcher has collected data from 50 students who are English native language speakers at Pace New York Campus. Their average age is 21 years old. 65% of them are female, while around 34% are male respondents. Additionally, 38% of the responses have been living in New York City one years and below, while around 52% have lived in the city for over 2 years. Accordingly, 35 out of 50 students are studying at Pace campus less than 2 years, while around 35% of them have been on campus for over 3 years. Among all, Art and Humanities discipline has occupied the most of the sample.

Data Analysis

In the survey, it asks which goal the city should prioritize in terms of development, 39 out of 50 respondents choose “environmental protection” over “economy” as its priority. When it comes to specific reasons, many address that economy and environment are intertwined, indicating that good environmental protection could be the foundation for economy growth. Some even go further claiming that without a good environment, economy would not matter so much. Furthermore, “survival” becomes a common addressing issue in their statement. The answers express the respondents’ uncertainty of whether people will continue to live on the planet if we do not prioritize environment. In addition to that, the respondents who choose economy over environment does not necessarily mean they do not care about the nature. For instance, one respondent expresses that he “[loves] the environment”, but “people will be less willing to protect the environment if they don’t have enough money.” The beliefs like “without economy we can’t help environment” are common shared among the respondents.

Half of the respondents choose to prioritize “local” environmental protection, while the rest choose “global” first. For those who choose “local”, they believe that starting from small parts can eventually lead to the changes in larger structures. In other words, they tend to believe that starting from local issues is one of the strategies leading to the formation of global environmental principle. On the other hand, the rest of 50% respondents claim that local initiatives are not enough; because everyone shares the same planet, individualized principle is not sufficient in succeeding environmental efforts.

Conclusion

The US students have already shared some similarities with the students in China. They both address concerns on “survival” on the planet; health and wellbeing are the most frequent theme appearing in their statements. For instance, they both identify air pollution as the most pressing issue. Simultaneously, the researcher finds quotes about “breathing in the clean air” from both groups, despite of their differences in native languages.

One of the results that the researcher finds it interesting is that US students tend to talk more negatively about their country taking responsibility in global environmental efforts.

 (Do you think your country has done well in taking responsibility of global environmental protection? — US students response)

As the graph shows, 20 out of 50 respondents think US is done poorly, while 12 respondents believe it “terrible”; only 18 respondents believe US is above average.

(Do you think your country has done well in taking responsibility of global environmental protection? — Chinese students response)

As for Chinese students, the majority of them think China’s global environmental efforts are “on average”, and there are 39 out of 132 respondents think China is doing “good”. It might be due to the factors which we have not yet measured, such as differences in shared public discourse in environment from both cultures.

So far, the researcher has identified some similarities and differences between the students from US and China, but it needs to further analysis and more data collection. Thus, the researcher will continue on collecting responses on a larger scale.

Blog 2: Pollution and Cultures: Data Collection (China)

Survey Design

Although designing an appropriate survey is never easy, the researcher benefits a lot from the process including mistakes. Before completing the final draft, the team sent out a pilot study among a small sample of students, both in China and US, in order to improve its design.

First, the pilot study shows that too many open-ended questions might result in the low quality of answers; participants tend to skip the questions because they might be exhausted of writing, which makes the researcher aware that the non-response bias can skew the results. Meanwhile, some of the participants regard the survey as disorganized; it jumps from one topic to another and does not have a clear structure.

Since then, the researcher focuses on quantifying most the questions to avoid non-response, while maintaining the balance of quantitative and qualitative questions as the numerical data cannot reflect all the details of what the participants believe. The researcher also learns to concentrate on the issues that she wants to press on. The latest questionnaire is divided into two section: the first one will concentrate on the participants’ environmental opinions on the city where they live, whereas the second one focuses on their opinions towards global environmental protection.

 

Sample

After the pilot study, the researcher decides to focus on collecting data mainly from local students in universities at Chongqing, China, leaving the US students sample for next semester. So far, it has collected over 130 surveys across different campuses. Among them, 129 participants are Chinese native speakers, age ranging from 18 to 30, and around 56% of the participants are female. In addition, there are 48% of 113 responses claiming that they have been living in Chongqing over 4 years, while 22% of them just stay in the city between 1 to 2 years.

Accordingly, around 40% out of the 112 responses state that they just come to study in Chongqing over 1 or 2 years, while 30% have been staying in local universities at least 5 and more years. Although the participants are across disciplines, it is noted that engineering major occupies almost 50% of the participants since they mostly come from the most famous and largest Engineering-led college in the city – Chongqing University.

 

Data Analysis

Although the data collection is still processing, there are two particular results that have captured the researcher’s attention. In one of the researchers’ hypothesis, it assumes that Chinese students might favor “economic development” over “environmental protection” because China is still considered as a developing country which has to prioritize economy as its development goal. However, the survey shows that 73 out of 102 responses value environmental protection first in terms of better development in the city. When it comes to reasons, several responses suggest that the environment is the foundation for long-term development, both economically and socially. One of the participants even goes further questioning if the environmental protection cannot be promised, there is no point in advancing economy. More importantly, even for those putting economy ahead of the environment, many participants seem to agree that sustainability is the key to the future.

At the end of the survey, when it asks which one, local environment [protection] and global environment [protection], should be prioritized, 67 out of 104 responses prioritize the local environment. However, it does not mean the participants care less about environmental issues globally. In the following question, several participants associate these two factors together. Many responses also mention the term “small”, indicating that starting from fractions can eventually lead to the global environment protection. Therefore, the participants seem to believe that protecting the local environment can benefit the world globally.

Pollution and Culture: Environmental Views of College Students in Two Cultures (China and America)

Pollution is not only a matter of nature-society argument, but also a matter of culture; pollution consists of shared ideas or values about environmental concerns, expressed informally in customs or formally in policy-making. Yet, the cultural variation of environmental values has not been received sufficient attention. Is there a difference between the two environmental cultures? How large is the difference? Can the differences be measured? How do the experiences of living in metropolitan cities impact on individuals’ environmental views?

In terms of the questions, the study proposes to follow both researchers’ interests in China and US comparing these two countries’ environmental views, focusing on the college students in two major metropolitan cities: Chongqing (China) and New York City (United States). The two cities, one in southwest China, the other in northeast US, are home to millions of people. While New York has been at the center of global flows of capital, goods, and information, Chongqing, traditionally an industrious city, just started a new chapter 20 years ago. The historical developments both on national and local scale of the two cities have deeply constructed their residents especially for the younger generation’s social recognition.

Although the sample of college students is not representative of the population, they are young and in the process of becoming well-educated in an era of globalization. They are also constantly being exposed to the global flow of information from media, perhaps more aware and concerned about local and global environmental issues than the general population in China and America. Since some students grow up in the city, while others just move to the city to attend university, so we will be able to collect a variety of views that students bring with them from surrounding regions. In this light, college students are an ideal sample population for this study.

The study will construct an online survey using Qualtrics, to be administered in English and in Chinese to a sample of students in Chongqing and in New York City. This can allow us to collect and manage large amounts of comparable data from individuals across different universities in both cities. The students in both cultures will be presented the same select number of environmental issues, such as global warming, pollution, environment policies, etc. It is to find out whether there are any significant correlations between variables. Furthermore, the survey answers contain both standardized quantitative as well as qualitative data, in order to observe the individuality between respondents’ perspectives across a representative range of social and cultural backgrounds, exploring the authentic voices of students from China or US and setting their voices into wider social contexts.

This research is one step towards knowing how social scientists observe and understand the world. During the process of constant revising the questionnaire designs, with Professor Pajo’s guidelines and supports, I start to train myself to think like scholars: what results am I expecting to gain? How does our hypothesis affect the questionnaire designs? Does that question fully represent the research’s interests? As the study gradually develops, I am able to adjust my approach and prepare for intellectual challenges.

Working out data collection and analysis has also been a major goal for me to participate in the project. Research so far allows me to grasp a more in depth foundation for quantitative data techniques; I have learnt to use Qualtrics and explored how it can benefit my future study. Meanwhile, since the questionnaire contains qualitative data, I will also expect to apply qualitative analysis that I have gained from my anthropology class into practice. As a result, the project can give the opportunity to prepare myself for the future academic study and research.