Amelie Van Den Bos is program coordinator for Global Village of Beijing (GVB), and she is helping to organize Earth Day 2000 in China.

Monday, 28 Feb 2000


This week Global Village of Beijing (GVB) is fortunate to have Denis Hayes, chairman of the Earth Day Network, as a guest. GVB is a Chinese non-governmental organization specializing in environmental education through media and community activities. Founded by Sheri Xiaoyi Liao in 1996, GVB is currently the coordinator for the China Earth Day Committee, a group made up of six Beijing NGOs. A series of Earth Day 2000 China activities begins this week with a launching ceremony to be attended by NGOs, journalists, students, scholars, government officials, and industry representatives.

Denis arrived in Beijing last night, weary from a long journey but ready to tackle his full China schedule. He checked into Room 2222 on the 22nd floor of his hotel, which we all took to be a good omen. Early this morning, we had a welcome breakfast for him, with the other members of the China Earth Day Committee: China Youth Development Foundation, World Wide Fund for Nature, China NGO Cooperation and Promotion Committee, China Environmental Journalists Association, and the Environmental Development Research Institute.

After a short press conference — attended by reporters from China Central Television (CCTV), China Environment Daily, China Youth Daily, and China Daily — Denis, the China Earth Day Committee, and several reporters proceeded to the State Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) to meet with its head, Mr. Xie Zhenghua. Denis and Mr. Xie discussed China’s environmental accomplishments, including legislation, model cities, eco-agriculture sites, and the government’s relationship to environmental NGOs and the media. Denis stressed the importance of energy-efficient technology as a means of environmental protection for China. At the end of the meeting, Mr. Xie promised his support and participation in Earth Day 2000.

By the time noon rolled around, we were on our way backwards in time to visit the former head of SEPA, Mr. Qu Geping, the current chairman of the Environmental and Natural Resources Protection Committee of the National People’s Congress of China. While fumbling with chopsticks and meat in slippery sauces, Denis and Mr. Qu had a frank conversation about China’s environmental shortcomings and the role of NGOs.

Qu: The NGO voice is not loud in China, but it is getting louder, especially in Beijing.

Denis: How loud a voice is necessary?

Qu: Sheri Liao’s voice is loud enough, and it is broadcast nationwide on CCTV, but there are few like her.

Sheri sure enough began to talk, using GVB’s work in “green communities” in Beijing as an example of Chinese NGOs’ work with the public. She explained that, right now, changing people’s daily habits is one of the most important ways to promote sustainable development in China. Yet NGOs need the government’s help to establish citywide garbage collection and recycling programs.

Mr. Qu concluded the meeting one and a half hours later with the announcement that he would accept Denis’s invitation to become an Earth Day Network Council member. It was the perfect ending to a very successful morning.