Story of Local Environment Hero, Changcheng Hu
Ancient Athenians believed that the world is flat – when you reach the Cape of Hope, you will see the end of the world. Later, the courageous Phoenicians sailed past the so-called endpoint, and boundless land unfolded before them in the sun. You will never know how grand the world is until you step outside of your town. I have told myself many times in the past that if I have the chance of telling the story between environmentalism, Shanghai Roots & Shoots, and me, the story will go as follows.
Buddhists say that everything that happens in this world can be traced back to one of the twelve origins; my story with Roots & Shoots began from a nap at high school. During my junior year, I overslept at noon and missed the monitor meeting, therefore chosen unanimously as the Environment Club leader by the attendants. This seemingly absurd incident was actually quite reasonable: at that time, the Environment Club had been a “shell entity” for more than a year, and consequently no one was going to grab the hot potato – the absentee at the meeting was naturally chosen for the mission. Fortunately, I had long been interested in the environment and volunteerism; even more fortunately was that my high school Environment Club joined the big family of Shanghai Roots & Shoots that same year.
My first time to the students’ meeting hosted by Shanghai Roots & Shoots, I did not have too much faith given my past experience. I presumed that this would just be another boring meeting filled with an abstract agenda and exhausted attendants. Unexpectedly, the conference at the Roots & Shoots office was a happy surprise – student representatives from hundreds of schools, exceptionally exuberant atmosphere, all sorts of creative plans and vivacious yet prudent staff opened my mind and broadened my horizons.
As a result, I recruited new members, participated in the low-carbon program, and designed my own environment theme day – with the help of members from Roots & Shoots. My little Environment Club grew steadily. Later, we conducted water research in Cao He Jing, gas residual supervision and clean-up of school cafeteria. We also participated in Intel Theme Debate. Thanks to our joint efforts, our school was awarded by the district for outstanding work in the area of environmental protection.
At the same time, I was changed by Roots & Shoots. In May, 2006, I boldly signed up for a Roots & Shoots trip to Guangxi Province, hoping to care for the leprosy patients in a local village. I was the only adolescent in the group. In that village, I watched and listened, met many people and learned even more. I am changing the world.
I enrolled in college in 2007. As the Chinese old saying goes, the approach to profound studies is to cultivate and promote integrity; it would be too easy a task for college students if all they had to care about was their grades and not their responsibility for society. I busied myself at college when I was the class monitor, student union vice president and school debate team leader, all at the same time; meanwhile, I always set aside time to volunteer at Shanghai Roots & Shoots, dedicating efforts to my beloved cause.
I volunteered for annual Roots & Shoots student festivals, mentored high school clubs to evaluate carbon emission and supported a school in rural Anhui. Roots & Shoots, school work, student union, and debate team seemed a lot to juggle. Sometimes I had to stay up late to finish work on my plate. Those were exhausting and yet enriching times in my life.
Helping out at a rural school in Anhui was the most memorable Roots & Shoots experience I have. It lasted for only a week, but the natural wonders and the lovely children connected with me deeply. When I was on an exchange program to Hong Kong in 2009, I attended a Mass in a church at Christmas; when the bell struck, the faces of the children from Yang Mountain Village popped in my mind amongst the voices of prayers. I wished them all the best.
The philosophy of Roots & Shoots had a great impact on me. I managed to have some impact on people around me as well. My topic of each presentation in class was related to environmentalism, and the professors said they were motivated to know and act more for the benefit of the environment. In my junior year, I started a “black coffee” environmental campaign, positively received by hundreds of college students. That was when I discovered that we were not alone in protecting the environment.
I graduated from East China University of Political Science and Law in 2011, and went to Hong Kong to study maritime law for my master’s degree. I lived and studied in Hong Kong for two years, and even though I was not able to participate in Roots & Shoots activities, my passion for environmental protection never diminished.
Hong Kong is a city surrounded mountains; the well preserved forests provide the local residents with many beautiful paths up in the hills – I used to hike the mountains with several friends, collecting the garbage along the away.
My major, maritime law is closely related to the environmental protection cause. In 2012, I visited the internationally recognized Ship-owners Mutual Assurance Association Corporation. One of its major purposes is to, under the framework of international regulations, settle claims with victims and urge the responsible party to eliminate the impact of petroleum pollution on sea. During this visit, my fellow colleagues in the corporation and I exchanged our experiences and methods regarding the sea pollution issue. Experience of regions with advanced shipping inspired me greatly. At a maritime convention, I was honored to have met the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Mr. Leung Chun-ying. Mr. Leung expressed positive outlooks on Hong Kong’s long-term commitment to keeping the sea clean. Hong Kong and Shanghai have many differences, but I do feel that behind these differences, we are connected, for we are all children of the earth.
With honor and pleasure, I had wonderful eight years of my life with Roots & Shoots. Your stage is as big as your dream. When you cut out the trivialities of life and start doing something meaningful, you are embraced by a boundless sea of possibilities.
(Translated by WFLMS Crunchy Zoo Language Club)