In view of the increasingly worsening environment, a group of environmental protection volunteers in China has launched the Green Consumption campaign to encourage all Chinese people to work together to protect the nation's blue skies and green fields.
Chen Kaifeng, 39 years old, is one of the volunteers. By working odd jobs, he has managed to walk across 23 provinces in China, covering a total distance of some 60,000 kilometers. During his six-year long march, Chen has delivered nearly 2,800 speeches in a bid to call public attention to environmental protection. Today, he has been appointed by 1,200 schools as extracurricular instructor to teach students about the importance of environmental protection.
In a recent interview, Chen Kaifeng shared his story with the journal China Youth:
I was born in Zhenjiang, Jiangsu Province, in east coastal China. The world famous Grand Canal connecting Beijing and Hangzhou ran through my hometown. During my childhood I remember that the town was like a paradise, with blue skies and crystal clear water. Regrettably, in recent years the river is getting murkier and murkier.
When I was 33 years old, I worked for a newspaper as a correspondent. In my spare time, I hosted programs on a local radio station. But I felt suffocated by such an unchanging life. I wanted something new and exciting.
When my crazy idea came upon me, I was strolling along a river. I made up my mind right there and then that I would walk across the whole country and investigate our environmental protection situation. In every place I visited, I decided to set up an environmental protection organization. On my way, I would also collect various effective environmental protection methods and spread this knowledge to as many people as possible.
In 2001, I quit my job and finally prepared myself. On my departure day, my parents came to see me off. When I waved goodbye to them, I saw clearly the tears swirling in their eyes. Their reluctant farewell made my heart break. But I was bound to fulfill my duty and so I embarked on my journey.
In the past six years, I have developed a fixed set of working procedures. When I arrive at a new place, the first thing I will do is to collect information about the local environmental situation. I will then ask schools or resident communities for permission to deliver speeches, hold discussions, or conduct other activities like inviting people to sign a banner to show their support for an environmental protection drive.
Meanwhile, I keep updating my blog with my latest thoughts on environmental issues and my impression on the local landscapes and customs. Sometimes, I work with local authorities to investigate a nearby environment. Sometimes, I conduct investigations all by myself and then submit the investigation report to local departments later.
During my journey, I have suffered a great deal of illness, cold and hunger. I can still remember that on the vast Inner Mongolian grasslands in northwest China, I was attacked by a group of wolves; on a trail in Shandong Province on the middle of a plain, I came face to face with a wild boar; on the Wuyi Mountain in southeast China's Fujian Province, I was bitten by a poisonous snake. Fortunately, I have made narrow escapes time after time and always survived -- I have always been able to continue my trip.
When promoting this environmental protection campaign, I encountered great difficulties. It gave me great distress when I failed to make local people understand my goals and actions and when my suggestions were not accepted by the local authorities.
In a small town in Jiangxi Province, I found that the local market was filled with vendors selling frogs as food. These frogs were extremely popular among buyers. To my disappointment, the local authorities took no notice of what was going on at the market. We all know that frogs eat insects. Selling them for food is totally against the concept of green consumption. When I went to local environmental protection bureau to report this, however, the official receiving me said they could do nothing to help because this was the domain of the forestry department. So I went to the forestry department. There I was sent again to the fishing department. All officials tried to shun their responsibilities regarding this issue; they all gave me the run around. At my insistence, they finally conducted an investigation but concluded that farmers fed insects to all the frogs on sale, so it would do no harm to the environment if people ate them.
Similar things happened in many villages in rural China. People's indifference to environmental deterioration made me extremely worried. In villages, there are almost no effective measures to combat ecologically damaging activities. It is common to see in the countryside wheat chaff burnt in open air, trees logged at random, rare wild animals hunted indiscriminately, fish caught with electric currents and stones quarried by ruthlessly blasting mountains. Maybe most people haven't noticed it, but the environment has already taken its revenge on us. At present, the water quality is constantly getting worse in rural areas; it significantly affects people's health. To raise the farmers' awareness of environmental protection, I am now compiling a brochure to teach them about how to protect their environment.
I take great pride in my work, especially my advocacy work in local primary and middle schools. Enthusiastic students have set up plenty of environmental protection organizations in their schools. They are extremely fond of the environmental protection songs I adapted from the theme songs of popular TV serials.
During my journey, I have been confronted with many problems and difficulties, but they never depress me because I have also received much loving care and strong support from people I never knew before.
Still fresh in my mind is a grandfather I met in Shandong Province. When I met this old man, he had been waiting for me for two days. He learnt of my journey from the newspaper. Living on a moderate retirement pension, the old man managed to buy me a new bicycle. "It is too fatiguing to travel on foot. My good boy, you must take care of yourself," the grandpa told me when he held my hands tightly in his. I didn't accept his kind gift, but whenever I thought of his benign smile, I felt warm from the bottom of my heart.
Another thing that deeply moved me happened in Nanning, Guangxi Province, in southwest China. Two college youths visited me after hearing of my journey from the media. They insisted on giving me the wages they had earned by teaching kids during the weekends. Such things happened everywhere in China. All these kind people continue to give me constant inspiration during my long hard trip.
When I returned to the hostel today, it was already late afternoon. I bought a bag of mantou (steamed buns), which cost two yuan. With chili sauce and garlic, these mantou are my daily lunch and dinner. To save money, I have to keep my spending below 20 yuan per day.
Later at night, I will write in my blog diary. Tomorrow, I must go out to find a part-time job. There is not much money left in my pocket. After I spent all my savings I have to do various odd jobs to earn my living. I have worked in a coal mine, delivered gas tanks, and unblocked drains; however, even these jobs are hard to find. Sometimes I have even gone hungry for days when all my money was used up and I couldn't find a job in time.
When I travel around the country, I write poems and songs about environmental issues. I also developed a chess game with the theme of environmental protection drive. Tomorrow, I will contact some enterprises to see if they can sponsor me in promoting these songs and my game.
My parents live in my hometown. They always urge me to come back, find a girlfriend, and get married early. But how can I consider marriage when my goal has not yet been achieved? I have been living such a lonely, hard life for six years and now I am used to it.
Thanks to the journey, I have developed a stronger sense of responsibility. Environmental protection is a great undertaking of lasting importance. Although I am as ordinary as any other person on any street corner, I bear in my mind that a citizen should first show concern for his state and his last concern should be to seek to enjoy himself.
It is really gratifying that in the past six years, China has made much headway in environmental protection. The state has adopted a series of policies to safeguard environment; the Chinese people are growing a deeper awareness of environmental protection; the green consumption is now a hot topic of conversation; the "no paper consumption" campaign is in full swing in many offices.
I still need three to five years to complete my journey and I will devote all my rest of my life to promote an environmental protection drive in China.
(China.org.cn by Chen Xia, November 5, 2007)