Greenpeace provides student perspective for China's environmental programs

February 14, 2012
Evan Brooks working in Beijing on a Greenpeace project.

By Evan Brooks

During my research of Chinese environmentalism, I've come to many milestones, but none compare to the experience I had working at Greenpeace in Beijing. 

My job with Greenpeace was to improve and expand relations with foreign correspondents in China. It was a great way for me to hone my Chinese language skills and see the reality of my research in action.
Before working in Beijing my interpersonal communication skills in a Chinese workplace and my understanding of Chinese environmentalism were both rather academic. I was educated and well trained in both these areas, but it was with Greenpeace where thought became practice.
Because about 90 percent of the employees in the Beijing office are Chinese, I found myself using Chinese every day while reading news and internal reports, turning a Chinese message into an English media release or participating in heated discussions over future campaign plans. After a time, I found I had learned things about Chinese environmentalism that I had only read about, which became invaluable for my research.
Before I started work with Greenpeace, my concept of Chinese environmentalism, gleaned through research, was fundamentally correct, but far too shallow. This seems to be a trend with my research so far. I imagine it's not unique to my experience alone.
The depth and breadth of my knowledge increased vastly after several months with Greenpeace. I went from organizing litter clean-ups before Greenpeace to explaining to reporters the major reasons behind China's air and water pollution. I went from preaching about the environmental harm of using disposable chopsticks to helping our campaign team stop illegal logging in Hainan.
All the while, I made lots of new friends and experienced Chinese culture from a perspective I couldn't gain in a classroom. My experience with Greenpeace was indeed a pleasant and rewarding one. It was my work with Greenpeace that opened my eyes to real possibilities for positive change in China's environment. Further, it was through my education with Ohio State that I gained the proper foundation for having the chance to work with Greenpeace.