Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Climate change affects even the most remote

By Fu Jing (China Daily) Updated: 2015-08-04 08:10

Climate change affects even the most remote

Smoke billows from a factory in Dezhou, Shandong province. To reach mandatory efficiency goals, the government had to take some extreme steps, including power cuts and limits on electricity supply in 2010. [Provided to China Daily]

Many of the principals in the schools in China's poorest and mountainous regions have never taken a flight; never even traveled out of their provinces in some cases. So it was truly impressive to see the passion and eagerness that some of China's least privileged teachers from underdeveloped regions in eight provinces, such as Qinghai, Sichuan and Guizhou, displayed in a day of mock UN negotiations on climate change efforts in Beijing last week.

Every summer over the last six years, a group of fellowship winners from China's poorest mountainous regions have attended one-week eye-opening training courses in Beijing, with the support of devoted volunteers, as well as financial and logistical help from businesses and academic institutions.

Their curriculum includes team-building exercises, learning about the education systems in Europe and the United States, visiting the World Bank offices in Beijing, and also how to provide care to left-behind children, because on average, more than half of the parents of the kids in rural regions earn their daily bread by working outside their villages.

This year's attendees, most of whom took a flight for the first time in their lives to get to the capital, expressed their deep appreciation for this rare opportunity. I had the good fortune to become involved in these efforts in previous years and I would like to extend the same profound appreciation towards them. The determination, sacrifices, pureness of spirit and hard work of people such as them has helped turn the dreams of kids like me into reality. For years, children just like me have walked out of mountains and lived a better life thanks to their devoted efforts and the dedicated efforts of people like them.

Last week, the visiting principals, (one of whom has worked in a remote mountain village for more than 30 years and three of whom teach in villages 4,000 meters above sea level) participated in a day of mock United Nations climate change talks, mimicking the next round of the international community's talks on efforts to mitigate global warming that are expected to take place at the upcoming UN climate change talks in Paris in December.

Before the discussions, we gave the attendees information about the positions of various countries and explained the process of such international talks. And then, we asked them to represent various positions such as those of the United States, the European Union, China, Russia, India, Brazil, South Africa, small countries, island countries and others.

They quickly got into their roles, and were soon busy holding meetings on the "sidelines" and lobbying to gain more support.

Their passion was evident; these principals know firsthand how the rivers in their areas are polluted and how the soil is contaminated. Most importantly, they know extreme weather is a threat to villagers.

One school principal, who was representing China, concluded his speech by saying: "We should ask the developed economies to shoulder their due historic responsibilities for carbon emissions, but, I think equally important, we should take more radical efforts to reduce our own carbon emissions, and set a positive example for the rest of the world."

It is greatly encouraging to see the awareness of the issues involved shown by these principals, and it gives some hope for the future. With such awareness and vision echoed at the grassroots level worldwide, the ripples of awareness they create, embodied in each of the children they teach, can have a profound effect.

This process, I believe, will be just as important as the UN talks in the long run, perhaps more important.

The author is China Daily chief correspondent in Brussels.

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