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Fighting China’s Water Woes

(To read other articles in our Arts-Policy Nexus series click here.)

By Henry Yuan 

Environmental problems such as climate change, ozone depletion, water pollution, and resource degradation are compounded by the expanding world population and increasing social mobility. These issues are often at the heart of many political and social challenges states face. Thus, environmental stewardship is a cornerstone of social welfare. Water is an indispensable and irreplaceable natural resource. It is an essential element for all human and animal life, as well as for any sustained socio-economic development.Public policy needs to address a broad range of transnational environmental issues that require mutual understanding and international cooperation to solve.

Yuan Xikun, an artist, educator, and environmentalist who resides in China (a country facing a severe water crisis), realizes the significance of water. Xikun launched the water awareness campaign, Champion of Water Alliance, to address the policy and cultural implications that relate to environmental and relevant trans-boundary issues by embracing a cross-disciplinary and intercultural approach. Champion of Water Alliances is dedicated to promoting the wise use of water resources  through campaigns such as marking water bottles, washing cars with one bucket of water, and educating young people. The idea that "we do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our future generation” inspires Xikun’s activities. He aims to bring his creativity and sense of social responsibility to this important issue through this innovative initiative.

With the increasing complexity of social issues and cross-national interactions, culture and arts policy offers an opportunity to advance cross-sector collaboration. Art plays a unique role in connecting visual understanding with social issues. Since both culture and environment have the power to unite people through their unique features and transcend boundaries. Champion of Water Alliance explores new hybrid forms of integration that promote private-public partnership, civic engagement, and multilateral agreement on solving trans-boundary issues.

The “Marking Your Water Bottle” initiative was implemented as a practical water-saving solution by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) during the 'Green Economy Conference in Beijing. The conference is co-hosted by UNEP Executive Director – Achim Steiner.

The founder of Champion of Water Alliance, Professor Yuan Xikun, demonstrates the technique of 'wash a car with a bucket of water' to media, school communities, and households. He is joined by youth actors and actresses.

The Beijing Tourism Development Committee joined the campaign of Champion of Water Alliance, through which they mobilized more than thousands of local hotels and restaurants to set the measures and metrics to reduce the water consumption. Yuan presented the sculpture 'Urgency of Polar Region' to the Director of the Beijing Tourism Development Committee to highlight the role of energy and water in the larger context of climate change.

The "Marking Your Water Bottle" initiative of Champion of Water Alliance was implemented during China's two political Sessions (National People's Congress and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference). Legislators and policymakers all joined the campaign and expressed positive support for the initiative, while generating the coalitions needed to pass important environment- and water-related legislation.

In partnership with schools, educational institutions, and youth groups, Champion of Water Alliance highlights the importance of the educational aspect of water conservation. The campaign engaged with more than 30 schools and universities and nearly 20,000 students.

Parental engagement is one of the key components of the 'Washing the car with the bucket of water' initiative, which stresses the significance of parent-school partnerships to raise awareness for increasing efficiency of water usage in a community. 

By working with experts and teachers from education and technology sectors, we introduced a series of curriculum and workshop for students to learn technological solutions, techniques, and knowledge about alternative approaches to increasing the efficiency of water usage and to reduce water consumption. This experimental project generates a unique opportunity for students to apply knowledge from text books to real life experiences.     



Henry Yuan is the Secretary of Champion of Water Alliance and advisor to Thirst, a global water awareness campaign initiated by the Young Global Leaders of the World Economic Forum.

[All photos courtesy of Champion of Water Alliance]     

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