As a graduate student in the Keough School of Global Affairs at the University of Notre Dame, I am thrilled in helping peacekeeping operations including food issues and climate change, pursuing the sustainable development and strategic peace. Once in the classroom, the professor spoke of the values of vulnerability, referring to the most affected people who are most affected by climate change, and Bangladesh is one of two of the nations most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Since China’s farming industry is very vulnerable to climate change, this country is facing the same challenge as well.
I used to be the former executive director of a nonprofit organization in China, where I had the opportunity to work as an innovation leader and change maker on various topical issues including water safety, air pollution, and sustainable development in many parts of China. Although I worked for this grassroots environmental protection NGO for more than four years, I didn’t realize the food issue is so strongly connected with climate change and later, as the coordinator of Good Food Hero Summit program (which took place in Yangzhou, China in August of 2017), I gained a complete understanding about how urgent food issues are in China.
The Good Food Hero Summit program is part of the Good Food Academy, which is aiming to build the most reliable and respectable food-related Chinese-language knowledge hub on the Internet. The Good Food Academy is informed and inspired by those who are interested in “the true costs of food” with an emphasis on the impacts of industrial animal production and consumption to environment, climate change food safety，public health .etc, and in “(re)discovering” Good Food that is healthy, non-violent, mindful and culturally diverse.
This work started with a documentary filmed in China, named “What’s For Dinner?” directed by award-winning independent director Jian Yi, which provided a unique look into the rapidly growing consumption of meat in China and the increasing industrialization of agriculture. Through interactions with people across Chinese society, the films examine the impacts these big shifts in food production and consumption are having on sustainability, public health, food security, climate change and animal welfare.
As one of the coordinators for the initiatives this year, I started to work on two projects: the “Good Food Academy” and “The Good Food Hero Summit.” As I shared at the beginning of this article, I lacked any knowledge about food-related challenges and the relationship with climate change in China (and the world). Moreover, this lack of awareness is very common among the Chinese young people.
This is partially the reason we designed the Summit. In two three-day sessions in Yangzhou, in Jiangsu province, a hundred food activists from across China, learnt about animal ethics, journalism/investigative reporting, food education, and food politics from international experts. Participants shared their ideas and plans with one another and the mentors to expand projects. They took part in workshops on how to develop effective means of communication, engage in creative research, and capture the spirit of entrepreneurship.
When talking about climate change and food issues in the context of China, it is first important to know the facts. For example, a report released by New York-based GRACE Communications Foundation, on September 21, 2017, stated that，（China）the world’s largest country consumes half the world’s pork, and now raises and slaughters more than 700 million pigs each year (in addition to importing nearly three million metric tons of pork). For comparison, the US processes about 106 million pigs each year, 97 percent of whom are raised on factory farms.
These facts about food consumption and these programs, in fact, the first change is my own daily life. I began to focus on every purchase behavior, and gradually reduced the consumption of meat. I began to visit the local vegetarian restaurant consciously and tried to understand the food source of the restaurant. And one of the reasons why I care about COY is that I agree with and emphasize the importance of youth engagement and spreading the facts of these challenges we are facing and trying to make changes from the individual perspective. I hope to have more opportunities in the future to learn about COY and understand how young people in this world have a common desire to make a positive change. I also earnestly hope that more and more Chinese young people will join the Good Food Academy and become food and climate change activists, to be the change agents China and the world.
Zhu Qing is the former executive director of Tianjin Green Collar, a nonprofit environmental organization in Tianjin, China. Zhu is now a first year graduate student at the University of Notre Dame, Global Affairs, peace studies concentration. He is also the coordinator of the Good Food Academy, a food-related Chinese-language knowledge hub on the Internet.