Mar. 23, 2023
NGOs help with environmental protection in ways

NGOs help with China’s environmental protection in ways welcomed by public

Source: People’s Daily (Overseas Edition)

Reporter: Ning Chunzhu, Shen Hui and Zhang Jiafei

On March 26th, a concert was held in Shuiqianmailuo Teahouse in Beijing SOHO New Town, but this was a concert without bright lights and amplifiers.
 Watched by an audience of almost one hundred, eleven groups of independent musicians turned off all the lights and, lit by just a few candles, came together in music for “Earth Hour”.
“We hope we can use music to raise people’s awareness of environmental protection and to draw more attention to the planet upon which we all depend”, says Ge Fei – organizer of “Caotai Echo”, a musically-orientated environmental organization.
Organizing environmental events, publishing books, handing out leaflets, holding lectures, arranging training programs, writing media reports – over the decades environmental NGOs have worked tirelessly in spite of challenges, using every possible method to spread environmental education. This has made them an important force in promoting the improvement and development of the environmental cause both in China and worldwide.
Various ways of conveying the environmental message
There are currently over 200,000 people working for environmental NGOs in China. Websites, forums and organizations run by environmental volunteers have also emerged. With their own strengths and specialties, NGOs practice what they preach to advance the development of the environmental protection cause in China.
“Caotai Echo” is a special kind of environmental organization whose members are music lovers from all over China. Most of the songs they write focus on the environment and are performed “unplugged”, which is a further way of advocating the idea of a “low carbon lifestyle”. “We should make more reductions in life, use fewer resources to accomplish more and, what’s more, enjoy these simple conditions”, says Ge Fei.
“Caotai Echo” held their first unplugged concert in Beijing’s 798 Art Zone in August 2009. Since then they have successfully held a sequence of over 50 unplugged concerts in Fangjia Alley and Shuiqianmailuo Teahouse.
Travel is a favorite pastime for many people, and low-carbon travel has always been advocated by environmentally-minded travel lovers. Beijing Hanglun Sports Bicycle Club – with the motto “Green, Healthy and Low Carbon” – is one such group.
“We are passionate about the sport of cycling, value cycling culture and advocate green cycle tours”, says Zhang Rongqin, the club’s organizer. “Currently most of our members are young or middle-aged, but there are also senior citizens over 70 years old, and we hope that more people will take part in our environmentally-friendly travel activities.”
College students have always been active in environmental protection. Xiao Chen is one such student; when she started college in 2009, she immediately joined the school’s environmental society, often sending out flyers that discussed environmental protection and spreading the message about the benefits of environmental protection amongst her classmates. It can be tiring sometimes, but thoughts of clear water and blue sky fill our hearts, says Xiao Chen with a smile.
“NGOs are playing an increasingly important role in China’s environmental protection”, says Li Yujun, director of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ Institute for Urban and Environmental Studies and its Department of Environmental Economics and Management. He explains that environmental NGOs do not depend on government support and that as third parties they have independent points of view, with methods that are more relevant to real life and are welcomed by the public, which makes them an important supplement to government environmental protection efforts.  
Working together for positive outcomes
In recent years, NGOs have become an essential force in promoting China’s environmental protection cause.
In 1995, China’s first environmental NGO – “Friends of Nature” – launched an initiative to protect the Yunnan snub-nosed monkey and the Tibetan antelope. Following the efforts of various parties, the local forestry industry made changes and the habitat of 200 Yunnan snub-nosed monkeys was saved. In the US, Newsweek treated this event as highly significant: “The activities of some environmental NGOs in China represent the awakening of the Chinese people’s green consciousness; what is more they are actively influencing government decision-making”.
In 2005 the environmental NGO “Friends of Nature”, together with “Blog China”, organized a “Seminar on the Protection of the Old Summer Palace’s Ecology and Artifacts”. In 2010 Yahoo China, together with National Geographic Traveler magazine, launched a large environmental travel scheme under the name “Around the world in 80 days”. With these and other events such as “Carbon Reduction 101”, “Making Our Homeland Green: Operation Low-Carbon” and Tree-Planting Day, environmental NGOs have continued to bring the environmental message into people’s hearts and minds.
Records show that by October 2008 there were already 3539 environmental NGOs in China. Of these, 58.6% took part in energy saving and pollution reduction work. Moreover, many organizations had begun to unite and to affect government decision-making by promoting public participation.
“Thanks to good cooperation between the government, NGOs and citizens, China’s environmental cause has made considerable progress in recent years”, says Zeng Xiaodong, Vice-Chairman and Secretary-General of the All China Environment Federation.
According to Zeng Xiaodong, environmental NGOs in colleges, communities and rural areas are now developing rapidly. NGOs now attract a higher quality of worker who is also more able to get involved. In the future, environmental NGOs will become an important force in driving China’s sustainable economic and environmental development, playing a significant role in improving all aspects of society.
Translator: Li Xiaohan

Proofreader: Samuel Harding/Karen Marshall