This month we speak to Roots & Shoots’ Lucy Liu, who is the International Programme Coordinator, about the organization’s work in Beijing.
beijingkids: What is Roots & Shoots?
LL: World-renowned primatologist and conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall founded the Roots & Shoots Programme (R&S) along with local students in Tanzania in 1991. It is an international hands-on environmental education program that is operating in more than 80 countries. The program launched in Beijing in 1994, and there are currently more than 1,000 active R&S school groups throughout China. Through R&S, we encourage youths, enterprises, and individuals to address pressing “green issues” of today, with a focus on environmental conservation, animal welfare and community building.
bjk: Can you tell us a bit more about the work that you are doing locally in Beijing?
LL: We work with the various local Roots & Shoots school groups through service learning, but we also work with corporates and local communities to raise awareness and effect change. Some of the projects we will focus on in 2019 include promoting sustainable living, tackling climate change, reducing plastic pollution and protecting reserves and wildlife in China. We will also be unveiling a new summer camp in Kenya for students and their families to experience conservation and protection of wildlife in Africa. Campers will visit Dr. Goodall’s Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, learn how to survive in the wild, patrol with rangers and understand the impact of wildlife poaching and trafficking.
bjk: Can you tell us about some of the projects and initiatives that are happening in Beijing schools?
LL: All of our Roots & Shoots groups work very hard to make an impact and we are very proud of them all. The winner of our 2018 Roots & Shoots Achievement Award went to the International School of Beijing (ISB) Roots & Shoots group. The group consists of almost 50 members and is supervised by 4 teachers. Together, they organized environmental actions including an Innovation Expo and Upcycling Carnival; raised funds and food for shelter animals through their Holiday Hounds project and Animal Awareness Week; and brought together the community through selling food, bubble teas, roses and even luggage tags to raise funds for their sister school in Sri Lanka as well as migrant children in China.
Western Academy of Beijing (WAB) has also done spectacularly in our Zero Ivory Competition to protect elephants from poaching by calling on people to pledge not to consume ivory. The students collected approximately 4,000 pledges.
bjk: What changes do you see in international schools in terms of their environmental awareness and commitment to environmental issues?
LL: I have seen students grow from strength to strength in their years of being a “young shoot”, to taking on difficult leadership roles and tackling challenging environmental issues within their school and community. Some of our Roots & Shoots group members continue their enthusiasm by studying environmental science at university or working in the environmental sector. When you see youth striving towards something they are passionate about; when their eyes light up after a brilliant idea pops into mind; when they’ve successfully planned, launched and executed a conservation project, that’s when you know what you are doing is worth something.
I have seen teachers work just as hard as the students in promoting environmental awareness in their schools, providing the students with strong leadership and guidance. Without the teachers’ dedication and support, the international schools’ service learning programs will not be where they are today.
bjk: In what ways can individuals or communities become more involved in what you are doing here in Beijing?
LL: People can start their own Roots & Shoots group in schools, offices, clubs, et cetera, and can also support our work by donating to Roots & Shoots. We always welcome more volunteers to help us carry out Dr. Goodall’s mission in China.
bjk: What are your hopes for humanity and our relationship with the planet?
LL: In Dr. Goodall’s words, “the greatest danger to our future is apathy,” and apathy is so prevalent in our society today. We must wake up from our state of emotional numbness and emerge from feeling too small to have impact. We have achieved more in the last century than our ancestors can imagine. Surely, we have the capacity to also right our wrongs? The hardest step is admitting that we have wronged our planet Earth. That’s why the awareness-raising work of our Roots & Shoots groups is so important. It plants seeds of compassion in people’s hearts. Today, they are aware. Tomorrow, they will care. I hope that we will soon find it in our hearts to care for the only home we have.
Those who should get in touch
– Students and teachers who would like to start their own R&S group in their school
– Families who wish to learn more about our conservation camp in Kenya
– Corporates for sponsorship and CSR
– Individuals who wish to volunteer or apply for internship
Email email@example.com for more information.
This article first appeared in the beijingkids March 2019 Sustainability issue
Photos: Kipp Whittaker, Courtesy of BCIS