Three incredible Chinese women working in environmentalism
Today is International Women's Day, and in honour we're celebrating three badass women in China who are marked by their gutsiness, passion and impact they've made on the environmental movement in China. Their work spans business, activism and the arts, but together they share a no-holds barred approach to life that deserves a fair helping of admiration!
Image © Greenpeace / John Novis
Zhong Yu, Greenpeace Senior Action Co-ordinator
Over the last seven years Zhong Yu has been with Greenpeace down in the trenches, leading big actions and undercover investigations. Whether it's preventing deforestation from the Sinar Mas Group APP in China, scaling glaciers to document climate change, organizing relief work after the Wenchuan earthquake or knee deep in the Dalian oil spill, Zhong Yu is Greenpeace's iconic lady of action.
"Humans are just one of many species in the natural world, and we don't have the right to destroy or consume more than our fair share. By becoming an environmental protection worker I seek to prevent powerful environmental vandals from doing harm.
"Environmental disaster sites have always left a deep impression on me. In seeing them I become even more determined to continue environmental protection work.
"I think all environmental issues are important—whether we're talking climate change, food safety, toxic pollution—they're all threatening the survival of mankind. The most important thing is not to become concerned about which issue over another, but instead remember that the power of the individual can lead to positive change."
One piece of advice to give to other environmentalists? Less negativity, and more positivity. Less complaining, and more action. Less finger-pointing, and more co-operation.
Ruby Yang, Filmmaker
Born in Hong Kong, Ruby Yang is an accomplished filmmaker whose work explores Chinese themes. Her film 'The Warriors of Qiuguang' tells the story of how a group of Chinese villagers put an end to the poisoning of their land and water by three chemical plants, and won Best Documentary Short Subject Award nomination at the 83rd Academy Award. She has previously won that award for her film 'The Blood of Yingzhou District'.
"When I was filming 'The Warriors of Qiuguang' I saw that around the village there were several chemical plants. The sewage from these plants directly discharged out into irrigated farmland, and farmers were using this water. And then the crops they produce would of course enter the market, creating a vicious cycle the farmers were perhaps not consciousness of.
"In 2000 I went to the countryside of Hunan to film and saw that the vegetables grown there were completely organic, and you don't see the ominous shadow of garbage. While the economy and standard of living were improving, the surrounding environment of these rural areas had also changed a lot. Garbage and dust pollution could be seen everywhere, which troubled me."
"Just as there are a number of challenges while filming, there are also limitations to deal with regarding broadcasting the documentary. It's difficult for my kind of films to have any mainstream release but I hope that through non-governmental organizations, research and development groups and universities people can end up seeing my films."
One piece of advice to give to other environmentalists? I've always filmed public service announcements or documentaries made from the perspective of public life. The films allow people to realise one can't simply live life for one's self, because your actions impact others in society. Every person is a lamp, the more you light yourself, the less darkness will be.
Image courtesy of Ruby Yang.
Jing-Jing Wang, Assistant Secretary-General and Chief manager of SEE
For over 10 years Jing-Jing Wang has worked in business management and market research analysis, now specializing in NGO organizational development and management. She currently works at Alashan SEE (Society Entrepreneur Ecology) Ecological Association, which seeks to encourage sustainable development in China.
"There are a number of hurdles people in my line of work have to face. From a macro perspective, those with a lack of faith, organizational lack of funds and resources, lack of personnel and lack of systematic order to ensure the efficiency of the management system. These problems are often found in local grass-roots environmental organizations. And it's a vicious cycle. The more an organization lacks capital, the more they continue to fail to attract capital and talent.
"There are a lot of issues I believe the public need to become more aware of in China: water pollution, air quality, food safety and health-related environmental issues. Of course if I begin to include social issues, there's just far too many.
"On a brighter note, I've been touched by a lot of stories in my time as an environmentalist. I don't think there's one single, profound story—more the ongoing stories of endurance by activists."
One piece of advice to give to other environmentalists? Practice what you preach and teach others by the examples. Do not be a giant in your language, but a dwarf in your deeds.
Image courtesy of Jing-Jing Wang.
The National Hurricane Center has run out of names for tropical storms this year and has now moved on to the Greek alphabet during an extremely active hurricane season. Late Monday night, Tropical Storm Beta became the ninth named storm to make landfall. That's the first time so many named storms have made landfall since 1916, when Woodrow Wilson was president, according to NBC News.
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By Karen L. Smith-Janssen
Colette Pichon Battle gave a December 2019 TEDWomen Talk on the stark realities of climate change displacement, and people took notice. The video racked up a million views in about two weeks. The attorney, founder, and executive director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy (GCCLP) advocates for climate justice in communities of color. Confronted with evidence showing how her own South Louisiana coastal home of Bayou Liberty will be lost to flooding in coming years, the 2019 Obama Fellow dedicates herself to helping others still reeling from the impacts of Katrina face the heavy toll that climate change has taken—and will take—on their lives and homelands. Her work focuses on strengthening multiracial coalitions, advocating for federal, state, and local disaster mitigation measures, and redirecting resources toward Black communities across the Gulf South.
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"These are not just wildfires, they are climate fires," Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington State, said as he stood amid the charred remains of the town of Malden west of Seattle earlier this month. "This is not an act of God," he added. "This has happened because we have changed the climate of the state of Washington in dramatic ways."
'These Aren't Wildfires'<p>Sam Ricketts, who led climate policy and strategy for Governor Jay Inslee's 2020 presidential campaign, tweeted on September 11 that "These aren't wildfires. These are #climatefires, driven by fossil fuel pollution."</p><p>"The rate and the strength and the devastation wrought by these disasters are fueled by climate change," Ricketts told DW of fires that have burnt well over 5 million acres across California, Oregon, Washington State, and into neighboring Idaho. </p><p>In a two-day period in early September, Ricketts notes that more of Washington State burned than in almost any entire fire season until now, apart from 2015. </p><p>California, meanwhile, was a tinderbox after its hottest summer on record, with temperatures in Death Valley reaching nearly 130 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. National Weather Service. It has been reported as the hottest temperature ever measured on Earth.</p>
<div id="29ad9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8346fe7350e1371d400097cd48bf45a2"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1306969603180879872" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Drought-parched wetlands in South America have been burning for weeks. https://t.co/pjAKdFcKPg #Pantanal https://t.co/ImN2C5vwcp</div> — NASA Earth (@NASA Earth)<a href="https://twitter.com/NASAEarth/statuses/1306969603180879872">1600440810.0</a></blockquote></div><p>As evidenced by Australia's apocalyptic Black Summer of 2019-2020, fires are burning bigger and for longer, with new records set year-on-year. Right now, Brazil's vast and highly biodiverse Pantanal wetlands are suffering from catastrophic fires.</p>
#climatefires Started in Australia<p>Governor Inslee this month invoked the phrase climate fires for arguably the first time in the U.S., according to Ricketts.</p><p>But the term was also used as fires burnt out of control in Australia in late 2019. In the face of a 2000km (more than 1,200 miles) fire front, and government officials and media who <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/trump-climate-change-denial-emissions-environment-germany-fake-heartland-seibt/a-52688933" target="_blank">played down the link to climate change</a>, Greens Party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and a friend decided that reference to bushfires was inadequate. </p><p>"We both just said, we've got to start calling them climate fires, that's what they are," the Australian Senator told DW.</p><p>Hanson-Young says scientists have been warning for decades that these would be the effects of global heating. "We've been told these kinds of extreme weather events and destruction is what climate change would look like, and it's right here on our doorstep," she said from her home state of South Australia — where by early September fire warnings had already been issued.</p><p>"Calling them climate fires was making it absolutely crystal clear. It is essential that there's no ambiguity," she said </p><p>Having deliberately invoked the term, Hanson-Young soon started to push it on social media via a #climatefires hashtag. </p>
How to Talk About the Urgency of Global Heating<p>The need to use more explicit language when talking about extreme weather events linked to climate change is part of a broader push to express the urgency of global heating. In 2019, activist Greta Thunberg tweeted that the term "climate change" did not reflect the seriousness of the situation. </p><p>"Can we all now please stop saying 'climate change' and instead call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?" she wrote. </p><p>"Climate change has for a long time been talked about as something that is a danger in the future," said Hansen-Young. "But the consequences are already here. When people hear the word crisis, they understand that something has to happen, that action has to be taken."</p><p><span></span>Some terms are now used in public policy, with state and national governments, and indeed the EU Parliament, declaring an official climate emergency in the last year. </p>
Words That Reflect the Science<p>But while the West Coast governors all fervently link the fires to an unfolding climate crisis, U.S. President Donald Trump continues to avoid any reference to climate. In a briefing about the fires, he responded to overtures by Wade Crowfoot, California's Natural Resources Secretary, to work with the states on the climate crisis by stating: "It'll start getting cooler. You just watch." Crowfoot replied by saying that scientists disagreed. Trump rejoined with "I don't think science knows, actually." </p><p>It was reminiscent of the anti-science approach to the coronavirus pandemic within the Trump administration, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/donald-trump-admits-playing-down-coronavirus-risks/a-54874350" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at least publicly</a>. Fossil fuel companies are also benefiting from his disavowal of climate science, with the Trump administration having <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/opinion-trumps-paris-climate-accord-exit-isnt-really-a-problem/a-51124958" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pulled out of the Paris Agreement</a> and reopened fossil fuel infrastructure like the Keystone XL pipeline. </p><p>But the science community has responded, with Scientific American magazine endorsing Trump's Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden, the first presidential endorsement in its 175-year history. </p><p>Hanson-Young says the use of explicit language like climate fires has also been important in Australia due to the climate denialism of politicians and the press, especially in publications owned by Rupert Murdoch. As fires burnt out much of Australia's southeast coast, they were commonly blamed on arson — a tactic also recently used in the U.S.</p>
Climate Rhetoric Could Help Decide Election<p>The language of climate has begun to influence the U.S. presidential election campaign, with Democratic nominee Joe Biden labelling President Trump a "climate arsonist."</p><p>Biden is touting a robust climate plan that includes a 2050 zero emissions target and a return to the Paris Agreement. Though lacking the ambition of The New Green Deal, it has been front and center of his policy platform in recent days, at a time when five hurricanes are battering the U.S. Gulf Coast while smoke blanketing the West Coast spreads all the way to the East. </p><p>People are experiencing the climate crisis in a visceral way and almost universally relate to the language of an emergency, says Ricketts. "They know something is wrong."</p>
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