The United Nations Environment Programme has named Chinese film star Li Bingbing as a goodwill ambassador to China. Her task will be to raise awareness of environmental and conservation issues in China. The tasks that Ms Li will undertake is not new to her as she is already active and vocal on environmental issues in the country.
Ms Li has her own L.O.V.E Green movement which promotes an environmentally-friendly, low-carbon lifestyle among her fans in China. She has also worked hard to mobilize the public to lead greener lifestyles. Ms Li has won many awards for her environmental work both domestically and internationally. These include
- Environmental pioneer medal from China Central Television in April 2009
- Most effective environmental ambassador by WWF in March 2009
- The first WWF Earth Hour ambassador in Asia in February 2009
- Elected Green Ambassador by the China Environmental Protection Bureau in 2004
Ms Li was also involved in the launch of the Million Forest Project that encourages people to be active in living a low-carbon lifestyle.
“I am honored to have this opportunity to work with UNEP on the environment. I am an environmentalist in my personal life and I try to share this passion with my fans and the wider public,” she said.
“If we are really going to protect the planet, we all need to be accountable for our behaviour, to realize that the natural resources that have been so generously given to us are limited and need protecting if they are going to be shared by future generations,” she added.
Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director said: “Li Bingbing is our first Goodwill Ambassador in China and UNEP is delighted to welcome her on board. UNEP commends her personal commitment to a greener lifestyle and her passion to influence the public.“
“As an actress, she has the ability to reach out and influence large numbers of people to change their behavior and to realize that a sustainable future depends on all of us working together,” he added.
The appointment comes at a critical time in China’s economic development. They have a fast expanding middle class with money to spare. This is leading to a large increase in energy demand and resource consumption. Increasingly China is becoming the same type of disposable society that affects the western world. Having a popular star active in encouraging the Chinese to think about what they buy and educating them about sustainability is a powerful tool for the green agenda.
The Chinese government is also becoming more active in looking at environmental issues – though sadly as in the case of Karma Samdrup it is quite patchy – and has started to introduce animal welfare laws and increasingly looking at enforcement of conservation measures.
But education is the way forward to combat unsustainability. One conservation area where education and peer pressure appears to be beginning to have an impact is with reducing the demand of shark fin soup. Each year up to 73 million sharks are killed for the shark fin trade. Most will end up in China where shark fin soup is a delicacy (other countries also have a market in shark fins) it is also a tradition for shark fin soup to be served at wedding banquets. Things are changing now, younger people especially in Hong Kong are turning their backs on having the soup served at their wedding. And with Hong Kong being the trend setter for mainland Chinese middle classes it is hoped that the same trend will soon be active and popular on the mainland.
Local seafood traders in Hong Kong confirm that the demand for shark fins have dropped over the last couple of years. Restaurants and hotels now promote shark free banquets to their clients.
Many people look to stars and follow their lives, film stars such as Li Bingbing can have a real influence on setting trends and fashions - and that’s not just clothes fashions. We live in a celebrity culture and what celebrities say and do can quickly impact on what people think, say and do. You’ve only got to look at the impacts of Elle MacPhearson’s ‘glib’ twitters on the taste of rhino horn in Chinese medicine to see the impact one person can have in today’s modern instant communication world.
We wish Ms Li the best of luck in her new role, it’s a big task in a big country but it’s achievable.