Wu Changhua who flies and fights for climate change

China Plus Published: 2018-12-13 14:57:15
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When Wu Changhua started her career as an English editor at China Environment News 28 years ago, she thought that environmental protection meant sweeping the streets and planting trees. Now, she has become one of Asia's leading scholars on climate change and a senior policy advisor.

Wu Changhua who flies and fights for climate change

Wu Changhua, Executive Director of Professional Association for China's Environment, takes an interview from China Plus. [Photo: China Plus]

Through her journey in this field, Wu has witnessed China's role change on the international stage. She shared with China Plus some of her insights about the country's changing role in the world for our new series "Deep Dive: Talks with Chinese Internationals".

You can also find the shows on Apple Podcasts.

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The Woman who Illuminates the Issue of Climate Change

By Manling, host of China Plus

Before interviewing her, I read as extensively as possible about Wu Changhua, one of Asia's leading scholars on climate change. Our research tells us that along with her growth of expertise in this field, she has been crowned with various titles such as a preacher of low carbon economy and lifestyle, an abridger of differences, educator, policy adviser and etc. Having the ability to rapidly think and speak, she is adept at dealing with media and publicity and keeps to her business attire with a very neat short hairstyle. While our Facebook livestream interview with her reinforces some of these qualities of hers, through days of searching, I have eventually come up with a Chinese expression to describe her: Ju Zhong Ruo Qing(举重若轻). Its literary meaning is to lift up something heavy as if it is light. It is often used to describe someone who can handle complicated things with ease. Therefore, my article about this very important activist,missionary and policy advisor is "The Woman who Illuminates the Issue of Climate Change."

A beneficiary of China's resumption of Gaokao, or the college entrance examination, and China's economic reform and opening up, Wu, like many of her peers, were washed to the front shore of every trade of life that overlapped with the outside world. As an English major student, Wu was assigned an editing job at a newspaper, China Environment News in 1990. At that time all her knowledge about environmental protection was cleaning streets and food hygiene. From an English editor at the newspaper, her career cannon launched the first shot and ever since, she has been all guns blazing in promoting environmental protection.

Wu Changhua who flies and fights for climate change

Wu Changhua poses for photos with Manling, host of China Plus, after an interview on Oct. 31, 2018. [Photo: China Plus]

In 1992, she was entrusted a role to participate in the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, and was exposed to the sharpest scorch of environmental knowledge she had ever had the chance to. By chance, and as thirsty as she was for knowledge, she embarked on a journey of no return. Wu said our generation of people didn't have options, so we did not have to choose and we didn't hesitate to pick up any opportunity along the way. She therefore invested all of her time on learning and absorbing new knowledge, but that was still not enough. In 1993, Wu decided to go to the United States and learn more. Years later, armed with a Master's degree in environmental policy from University of Maryland, plus work experiences from The World Resources Institute, ENSR, and The Climate Group, she came back to China and started to shuttle between the world and The Middle Kingdom (her home country), preaching, bridging and expounding all that is related to environment. Currently, she serves as an executive director of Professional Association for China's Environment (PACE). She is also a founder of TECONET, a start-up platform that focuses on systemic change, and China/Asian Region Director at Office of Jeremy Rifkin. With so much on her shoulders, Wu agreed to our request for an interview without hesitation, though we had to reschedule it due to her conflicting time slots. When we called her, it was four o'clock in the morning in Denmark and she said lightheartedly to our apologizing staff "Never mind," she was already up anyway!

Environmental protection, climate change, low carbon commitment, economically green and sustainable, these are heavy topics to discuss, since in the environmental protection field, actions are not speaking loud enough and realities are far from being satisfactory. However, throughout the interview, Wu Changhua carried out the conversation with vitality, ease and grace. In her eyes, the past decades have seen Chinese people's knowledge and awareness about environmental protection bubble up like volcanic lava. Just like herself, people's awareness grew from the notion that environmental protection was all about street sweeping and cleaning the kitchen and toilet. Presently, low carbon and green economic lifestyle concepts is coming out of everyone's lips, regardless if they are primary school kids, damas in the street, politicians, businessmen, or even scholars. Wu wants no more slogans but actions. She says low carbon has already become an old cliché and we should now talk about the fourth industrial revolution. Wu said this without the slightest sign of frustration. I then asked how she would feel if she saw farmers and people using water pipes to irrigate crops, water plants and wash cars, especially in a water scarce city like Beijing. Would she feel distressed that she may not see the result of her efforts within her own life time? She responded to my question in a way that enlightened me and reignited my hope in future that has been gradually looming away from me. She said she believes since it's about humanity, the protection of our common home, and concerns the future of mankind such as the wellbeing of everyone, the sustainability of our economies, no matter if one is from a developed or undeveloped country, people will one day wake up and be able to calculate the cost. Her remarks reminded me of the latest move taken by the Chinese government to increase the price of farming water, so that farmers are forced to reconsider the way they consume it and perhaps this policy could lead people to consider investing in dripping technology.

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