Where: Guangzhou, China
When: We met on 7th November 2014. CYCAN has been running since 2007, and became a charity in 2012.
Who: I met Ellery and Crystal who are university students in Guangzhou – Ellery is studying Information Security and Crystal is studying Environmental Science. They are both part of the South China chapter of CYCAN; there are 11 core people in this team. In northern China, there are 6 full time people, centred around Beijing where there is an office. There is also a small team based in the USA. Across the whole of the organisation, around 100 volunteers are dedicating time regularly to CYCAN.
What: CYCAN are raising awareness about climate change and citizenship. In Southern China, a key programme relates to cross-border relations between China, Hong Kong and Macau. They are aiming to spread the higher environmental awareness that exists amongst Hong Kong and Macau citizens to China too. Their plan is to use Environmental Impact Assessments to increase public awareness, connect people with the issues and the local government, and join actions to show their commitment to environmental issues.
Why: Recognising the huge challenges that climate change poses, CYCAN provides a platform for young people to get involved in doing something about this issue, and aims to get more people involved and work with the government to address the issue. Crystal got involved because she is concerned for others’ wellbeing and cares about nature; Ellery got introduced to CYCAN through a friend and is interested in the relationship between the government and the general public.
Personal reflections: It’s great to see the commitment of Ellery and Crystal – assuming that’s a reflection of everyone involved in CYCAN that’s a positive picture! They have plans for getting more universities involved this year, since most volunteers are students. I guess the challenge then is keeping momentum and continuity with student turnover being high. It was great to see how the work and close linkages with Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan is helping to propel actions in China going forwards. It was also interesting to hear of the different nature of challenges in different parts of China – in our meeting, there was discussion about how civil society is much stronger in Guangzhou (in the south) than, for example, Beijing, where the government is much more powerful. It reminds me that whenever China is mentioned in the media, whether in relation to environmental issues, civil society or something else, we should not think it is a uniform picture everywhere across China – it is one huge country with diverse and changing contexts throughout.