This is the second post in our series ‘Inconvenient Youth Around the World’. In the first post, we saw Austria and met Dorian Rammer. Now, we go to Shanghai, China and meet IY Advisory Board member Daniel Dong.
What inspired you to get involved in fighting climate change?
I was first inspired by Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth in eighth grade. Before the documentary, I did not really get any information about the devastation we were doing to the environment. I learned a bit from from the Discovery Channel, intermittently, but did not understand it was an issue that concerned the survival of humanity. Later on, I was affirmed to fight climate change with the information from Jared Diamond’s book, The Collapse. The book talks about how the crisis we are facing today is not that different from what previous civilizations faced. It was then I decided I should start making changes to assure that we won’t repeat our mistakes.
As a student and club leader, I’m doing as much as I can to help the environment in the limited time I have. I have very devoted and enthusiastic club members. Last year, we were promoting environmental changes such as recycling papers and saying no to plastic cups. After a discussion with our school administration, we succeeded in banning the use of plastic cups in our school. We also participate in the voluntary opportunities dispatched by Shanghai Roots & Shoots, such as office and school auditing – we use a scientific rubric to suggest things the building can do to improve it’s environmental impact.
As for now, we are working on creating daily activities, such as trivia games and a basketball competition, so as to maximize the exposure of environmental messages among our peers. We are also doing presentations and environmental campaigns in our primary schools. The Recycling Relay with the kids was especially fun – seeing people engaging is the best thing we can hope for.
How do people in China feel about climate change?
We cannot blame people for wanting to raise the standard of living, yet the question is whether such an action would ultimately kill our natural resources and be worse in the long run. Right now, China is facing the dilemma of ‘to be or not to be’. China is filled with opportunities because of the cheap production costs. Such large demand is also the reason that there are fewer people starving each day. Considering how the Chinese have come along in recent history, it is hard to say no to producing un-environmentally when prosperity is right next to you and the consequences far, far away.
Though there are people who just don’t care, I am seeing a shift of the perspective for some people almost as fast as China’s economic growth in the decade. Because of the pursuit of the living standard, people begin to realize the need of fresh air instead of polluted chemicals. Because of the rising car sales, the corporations begin to realize that only fuel-efficient cars can be the way to go. Because of the stability that the government has promised to the majority of the people, the government has planted forests, banned plastic bags and started to regulate industries. People are more concerned with fighting climate change as environmental messages are more exposed in radio and TV broadcasts and on the internet (i.e. WWF’s earth hour campaign was a huge success). Students care the most because it is their future. A lot of them are interested in taking sustainability-oriented courses in college and, right now, practically every school in Shanghai has an environmental club, and a lot of the clubs participated in events like Earth Hour.
Though China still has a long way to go, there are people that have started to act and realize the importance in fighting climate change and a lot of the next generation see it as an opportunity. The government is also working hard to push environmental regulations and changes (though we see local government refusing to comply). How do people in China feel about climate change? Urban people are beginning to realize the importance. Some just don’t care. Some face the dilemma, but, more importantly, some begin to see it as an opportunity.
What do you think is the most important thing teens can do to help?
Teens can do many things to help. As teens are the leaders of the future, there are many things that we can do today to shape tomorrow. Although teens are not now the majority of society, they will be. So, it is important that we make sure that whoever becomes the leader of tomorrow understands the crucial issues we will face. That’s why, among peers, we can do many things to help influence each other to understand the environmental issues of today. That’s why, in school, we can start debates about the failures of today. That’s why, today, we can start to do voluntary works for our society. However small the contribution might be, the knowledge that we can change society, that we can help people, is most important. Climate change will affect all people, rich and poor, if we don’t do something about it. Teens can do many things today, and the greatest of all is that they can shape the future.
Tell us about yourself.
I am currently a rising junior in Shanghai High School International Division. I grew up in Taiwan and moved to China when I was in fifth grade. Such an opportunity broadens my vision of the world as it has been and as it is becoming. The workload from our school is rather intensive, so whenever I have spare time, I’d rather rest and read, or spend time with family. I believe in sustainability firmly, not only because of its scientific aspects, but also because I think sustainability is a philosophical issue: it reminds us that we can never be too greedy, that we have to think of the consequences before we make our decisions, and that mankind has, throughout history, made the same mistakes. It gives mankind the opportunity to evolve. Sustainability is an idea that I’d want to get involved with continuously in the future, and I’d be very happy to work in any part of that chain.
Thanks Daniel. Keep saving the Planet!