China gets ready

From 27-30 June, 50 World Cleanup Day organisers came together from all over China for a Let’s Do It! China Leaders Academy – to connect and upskill in preparation for the big day, on 15 September. The event, which took place at the China East University of Political Science and Law, Shanghai, involved workshops, panels, […]

From 27-30 June, 50 World Cleanup Day organisers came together from all over China for a Let’s Do It! China Leaders Academy – to connect and upskill in preparation for the big day, on 15 September.

The event, which took place at the China East University of Political Science and Law, Shanghai, involved workshops, panels, roundtable discussions, excursions, as well as spontaneous meetings between the participants themselves.

Below is an inspiring account of this Leader’s Academy written by its facilitator – long-time member of the Let’s Do It movement, Nara Petrovič (pictured below, centre).

 

High prospects for a clean China

By Nara Petrovič

I didn’t need to visit all corners of China to get to know the diverse characters of this immense country. All were present on the Leaders Academy in Shanghai, attended by 50 people from the majority of provinces.

When I tell them I am from Slovenia, in the Balkans, they have no idea where this is. Well, I don’t have any idea where Chongqing and Changchun provinces are either, so what can I expect. A new friend from the Academy tries to convince me his province is the most beautiful in China. After the cleanup on the 15th of September it will be even more beautiful.

The city of Shanghai produces 20,000 tons of waste per day. There are 8 incinerators in the city and more being built. More than 100 cities in China have populations of over 1 million people – and many of these with up to 10 million or more. The extent of urbanisation is staggering, and urbanisation means trash. A lot of it.

According to a scholarly article, China produces 200 million tons of waste.  By 2050, this will become 500 million tons, with the core strategy for dealing with this problem being hundreds of incinerators.  There will soon be more than 400 of them in China.

Chinese environmental organisation AIFEN strives towards Zero Waste solutions, while Pickup China coordinates World Cleanup Day 2018. Citizens of China are uniting and organising around this huge and vital issue, despite this being far from easy in their complex political reality. Everyday people who see the trash around them want to deal with it responsibly. They see that burning waste just transforms the problem, it doesn’t solve it.

The Leaders Academy for World Cleanup Day 2018 inspired me in every way: great organisation, and fantastic participants – capable, bright, and heartful. Despite the language gap the level of understanding was extremely high. It was astonishing to see the extent of environmental awareness among participants; they were informed, active citizens, conscious of their political context. They know they have to operate within this context with all its pros and cons, but they weren’t discouraged by this. In that respect, we are in the same situation everywhere in the world: we have to operate in our respective contexts and not get disheartened by our harsh realities.

Cleaning up China will be difficult, there’s no doubt about it. But with the determined, smart leaders we met in Shanghai I believe it is possible. And once the movement grows sufficiently and strikes the right keys in communications with the central government, who knows, they might even reverse the incineration policies and institutionalise Zero Waste. Why not?