I never imagined myself as a blogger, but recently I’ve felt a lot of opinions welling up inside of me—particularly about social justice, the environment, and, of course, China. I say “of course” because I have spent the past ten years of my life learning about China, traveling there, studying there, working, eating—you get the idea. Six years into my China studies, I had a life-changing experience. I worked for an NGO in Qinghai and had the wind knocked out of me—almost literally because of the high altitude—by the beautiful landscape. This was the first time I fully grasped how large China was, and the variety of environments and ecosystems the country contained. This was also the first time I could directly see how the effects of my actions in the states—zooming down the highway in Texas, leaving lights on whenever I wanted—affect people across the globe. The worst part was that I realized the people I (we consumers) affect are often living perfectly sustainable lifestyles. I realized I had a lot of work and studying to do to correct this injustice.
As I began studying, I realized there was a void between climate science and social justice issues. Most literature on the environment focuses heavily on the scientific parts without considering the human element involved. Now there are more and more academics combining the two in studies. But those experts that create policies in conventions (much like the one coming up in Paris!) include few anthropologists, sociologists, or local indigenous people that the policies affect.
There was one other issue I saw in the literature and media. Westerners LOVE to point fingers at China. (Don’t they know that when they point their fingers, three point back at themselves?) Urban air pollution in China is certainly not perfect, but painting the picture of these places as an “airpocalyptic” zone of turmoil about to erupt into protest is not very helpful for solving the problem either. As an American, I am defensive of my own country at times, but with almost half of my life being devoted to China, I have become quite defensive of the latter as well.
In short, I’m hoping to further develop opinions and explore the unexplored areas of climate change and environmental issues in China by also reflecting on my personal experiences and passion for social justice.