Rural teachers from all over China to share their personal experiences on environmental changes in their villages
Since 2016, Zigen has cooperated with the center for Chinese Ethnic Education And Multiculturalism Research of Beijing Normal University(BNU) to hold "Creating a Countryside of Sustainable Development: Teacher Training". By 2019, nearly 4,000 teachers from the nine-year compulsory education school system have participated in the training course, and Zigen has supported the establishment of nearly 100 green eco schools throughout China. Participants came from more than 20 counties in more than 10 provinces, including Guizhou, Yunnan, Henan and Hebei. The aim is to train teachers to integrate sustainability issues; such as, climate change, biodiversity and local culture into their teaching. On the topic of environmental education and classroom practice, the trainers (from BNU) asked participants to describe the changes in the land, water and forests they had personally seen and experienced. Here are some of their comments
Xinjiang, Shanxi Province:
Our land pollution, soil consolidation, excessive use of chemical fertilizers, soil erosion, turned the former grain field into an abandoned industrial park. Because the tire factory started in our town, not only the land pollution and the air has become unbearable, but also the places where people in love could stroll and where our drinking water was from have become garbage dumps infested with mice. This is my hometown and it became our sore spot.
When I was young, there were towering trees everywhere. Some ancient trees could be embraced by two or three people. The village was surrounded by green trees, such as, jujube trees, pear trees, willow trees,… Now they were cut down for furniture and houses. Sadly, the giant ancient trees that were once worshipped as sacred trees have also been cut down.
In the past, we could catch fish and frogs in the river, let the chickens and pigs run wild in the field, and also catch grasshoppers there, too. Now that pesticides have been widely used, the varieties have been greatly reduced. In the past, there were a lot of things planted in the field, such as sorghum, corn and rice. Now the main crop is corn and the variety of seeds has been reduced; such that, even if we want to have certain grains, we no longer have seeds for them!
Linxi, Inner Mongolia:
At one time, many mushrooms could grow out of fallen leaf piles in the forest. Now the climate is drier and we have fewer trees so that the wild mushrooms are hard to find!
Torreya yunnanensis is a pine tree that grew for hundreds of years in our area. It was so valuable that one tree could fetch for up to 500,000 or 600,000 RMB for furniture makers. They have been hacked down in a frenzy since the 1980s. Nowadays there are only handsful left.
Huang Suyan, a professor from Guizhou Normal University, commented, "We come from all over the country; but, we have the same problem!"
China's Biodiversity Crisis
Yang Shuhui, an expert from Dali Agricultural Science And Technology Institute in Yunnan Province, and others believe that with the continuous, rapid and extensive growth of GDP in recent years, China's agricultural biodiversity is facing severe situations from agricultural environment diversity to crop diversity; and, from animal diversity to farmland species diversity.
Data show that in China, over the past half century, more than 200 species of the well developed plants are extinct, and about 4,600 species of them are endangered. The number of species in the country is decreasing by an average of one new species a day.
From extensive research and data collection it is evident that bio-benevolent species such as bird, snake, insect, nematode, worm and ants, etc. are rapidly decreasing in population and in diversity; whereas harmful creatures such as rats and other verminous agricultural and forestry pests are in rampant population growth.
The disappearance of one species will inevitably lead to a break in the food chain, it will further induce or exacerbate the survival crisis of 10-30 other species. With the current simple, intensive and large-scale production methods, the management and consumption patterns, the diversity of botanical and zoological organism, as well as the species diversity and genetic diversity are facing unprecedented challenges, threats or crises!
Crisis for Millions of Species is a Worldwide Phenomenon
In May 2019, one hundred and fifty experts from fifty countries spent three years compiling a draft of the global assessment report. It warned that as many as one million species, or one in eight of the world's species, out of about eight million known to humanity, could become extinct within a few decades. Unless urgent action is taken to reverse the trend towards extinction of plants, insects and other living things, humans living today, as well as wildlife and their descendants, are at risk of extinction, the report reveals.
The main cause of natural collapse is the transformation of forests, wetlands and other wild landscapes into arable land, dam reservoirs and concrete cities. The draft report shows that three-quarters of the world's land surface has been severely altered, and that humans continue to destroy the ecosystems on which we depend on by emitting carbon dioxide and spreading invasive species.
At present, most attention is focused on the global temperature target of 1.5 degree Celsius climate change, but less attention is paid to biodiversity at risk of extinction. There has to be a shift from protecting the individual species and regions to a systematic shift in consumption and production.
Something Must be Done
According to Robert Watson, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), "We are losing biodiversity at a truly unsustainable rate that will affect the well-being of current and future generations. If we don't take action, humanity will be in trouble, but we can take a series of actions to protect nature and achieve the goals of human health and sustainable development."
UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres said biodiversity is critical to human health and well-being, from individual species to entire ecosystems. The quality of the water we drink, the food we eat and the air we breathe depend on the health of the natural world. He stressed that we must act quickly to reverse these trends and promote transformational change. He urged all parties, including governments, businesses and civil society, to take urgent action to protect and sustainably manage the network of life on earth.
The 15th Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, to be held in Kunming, China, in 2020, will set a new 20-year target to replace the one reached in Aichi Prefecture, Japan, in 2010.
Translated by Min Chang, Board Director, Zigen Fund.
Edited by Biklam Lee, Board Director, Zigen Fund.
By Yang Guiping, Zhang Huan