As part of my ongoing work as adviser for Future Forests, the NGO dedicated to combating the spread of deserts in China, and throughout the world, I was invited to serve as the judge for a series of talks by Chinese and Korean students about how we can come together to fight the environmental crisis—most specifically desertification in Northern China. The series of talks were held at Sungkyunkwan University on October 24, 2012 and featured five teams making PowerPoint presentations about their vision of what is possible. This “Korea-China University Student Forum” (한중대학생표럼: 中韩大学生论坛) brought together Korean and Chinese students to discuss the concrete issues of desertification in person and to put forth their ideas.
I have seen plenty of talks in which a condescending professor like me gives a lecture to students about what they should do, or what they should know. The utility of that approach is rather limited. We want to think we help, but it is doubtful that we do. In this event, however,it was the students who came up with the ideas and made the presentations. I could see as a result of the approach a real enthusiasm.
Moreover, there was one team that was made up of both Korean and Chinese students. That part impressed me. There are plenty of Koreans who study at Chinese universities and plenty of Chinese who study at Korean universities, but the occasions on which Chinese and Korean students get together to try to solve a real intellectual problem, a moral problem, are truly limited.
The five presentations were:
Desertification and the responsibility of youth
(extremely well orchestrated presentation that gives an honest assessment of the need for youth to take note of how their actions impact the environment)
The role of youth in promoting sustainable development
(a mixed Korean/Chinese team talking about how students can work together)
The diet of food and the promotion of sustainable development
(this team promoted vegetarianism as a necessary step for sustainable development and offered examples of attempts in Korea to promote vegetarianism. I was very proud)
Low-carbon Ecocities in China: Youth’s role in development and strategy
(very ambitious proposal to transform China’s cities. Very much in line with Asia Institute’s work since 2008)
Starting a conversation between youth in China and Korea for better cooperation
(inspiring interviews with Chinese and Korean students who are engaged in intellectual exchange)