Chinese, American college students discuss eco-civilization in California

On a beautiful spring day, Chinese and American students sit together, discussing issues about eco-civilization in a Pitzer College classroom in Claremont, California.

On a beautiful spring day, Chinese and American students sit together, discussing issues about eco-civilization in a Pitzer College classroom in Claremont, California.

The students listen attentively, taking careful notes as their peers present passionate ideas. The chairs are placed in an intimate circle, and a screen at the front of the room shows a presentation in both English and Chinese.

Some of the Chinese college students have flown over 12 hours across the Pacific Ocean to take part in this rare face-to-face exchange with American students on ecological civilization.

The 1st International Youth Forum on Eco-civilization was part of the 12th International Forum on Ecological Civilization. Themed "Ecological Civilization and Symbiotic Development," the two-day conference ended Saturday was hosted by the Institute for Postmodern Development of China, a non-profit organization.

In the 12 years the forum has been held, ideas have been successfully exchanged between China and the United States on how the two countries can work together to support and protect our global home.

This year, students were invited to present on the topic of ecological civilization. Students had the opportunity to discuss shared problems and come up with creative solutions.

"The idea is to begin to start the exchange of ideas. It's nice when we have old grey-haired people talking about the future and what it's going to look like, but it's really this younger generation that's going to bring it into being," explained Andrew Schwartz, Ph.D., Executive Director for the Center for Process Studies at the Claremont School of Theology.

Schwartz moderated the student panel, where students discussed challenges that we can combat together as global inhabitants, despite differences in culture and language. Adrian Luis Poloni, a staff research associate from the University of California Cooperative Extension, addressed invasive insects - an ecological challenge that both countries are facing. Andrew explains, "One of those invasive insects happens to be in Southern California and in China killing urban trees - so that's kind of an interesting connection."

Emma McElroy, a student at Scripps College expressed, "It's very important to take opportunities that are given to you to learn about different cultures." In her presentation, McElroy spoke about the importance of using global knowledge to solve global problems.

"We should really use that to our advantage and learn from other people," said McElroy.

Zhang Shenglin, a student from the Hubei University of Technology was one of the students who traveled from China to present in the youth forum. "The exchange today was so meaningful, I was able to experience a different understanding, a different culture, experience different points of view," she said.

China has rapidly developed into the world's second largest economy, and in that growth now faces many environmental concerns such as river and air pollution. The United States is also dealing with environmental challenges such as dangerous wild fires, blizzards, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. Faced with these environmental issues, people around the world are increasingly concerned about global efforts to protect the environment. It has become an important issue to the younger generations, and youth around the world are increasingly active in environmental protection efforts.

John B. Cobb Jr., a 93-year-old member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, emeritus professor of Theology at Claremont college, and well-known philosopher gave his support for the student involvement, "That's a good sign that concern for these matters is increasing among students."

"I think young people are finding ways to relate to each other, and for the sake of the future it must be done," he told Xinhua. Cobb has visited China several times in recent years to meet Chinese scholars and officials, seeing firsthand how China is developing.

The international youth forum will be included again in plans for the 13th conference next year.

"It's absolutely crucial that younger voices are engaged in this discussion," emphasized Philip Clayton, President of the Institute for Post Modern Development, and a well-known activist in the field.

"Young scholars, young activists are ready to think outside the box... the event today was an important step forward in achieving these goals of mutual understanding and mutual learning as a foundation for future collaborations."

Special Reports