sclayton May 20th, 2009
Sichuan University – Susan’s Presentation
Sichuan University, one of the top universities in Southwest China, has been a pioneer in environmental education among Chinese universities. When I contacted them about visiting, they asked me to talk about my research to a small group of faculty and students. This was a nice springboard for some of the best conversations we’ve had so far about environmental attitudes in China. The faculty are all located in the College of Architecture and Environment, though specialties varied (economics, engineering) and their courses covered environmental law and health in addition to environmental education and sustainable development. Along with their students, they gave us information which we are still fitting into the jigsaw puzzle that is our developing impression of China! Here are some of the pieces:
- People in China do value experiences with nature, but engage in them rarely, primarily because they have very little leisure time. Work spills over into evenings and week-ends, and a day-long (or even half-day) family outing would be very unusual.
- Pets are quite common, mostly cats and dogs, and this is a change from previous times. Wildlife watching and organic food are also becoming more popular.
- Traditional zoos in China used to include signs about the ways in which the animals and their parts are used for food or in traditional medicines!
- The Tiger Leaping Gorge dam project has recently been cancelled — hooray! — due in part to local pressure.
- The national government does prioritize environmental protection. Local governments, however, are often more focused on economic development, particularly since there is still a great disparity between rural areas and the big cities, western and eastern China, in economic status and access to opportunity.
We hope to continue our conversations with the faculty at Sichuan University in the future, and we thank them — I had to say it! — for one of the best meals we’ve had so far on the trip.
Sichuan University Environmental Studies Faculty (with Wooster team)
Xi’an at Night