A group of La Trobe University undergraduate students travelled to China as part of a 10 day study tour funded by the DFAT New Colombo Plan. The aim was to learn about China's efforts to respond the environmental challenges and broader social sustainability.
"Like the rest of the world, China is facing monumental environmental problems at a time when significant social and economic forces are reshaping Chinese society," says Dr Benjamin Habib, lecturer in International Relations at La Trobe University who led the study tour. "It's because of the size of their problem that China is a world leader in addressing environmental degradation through innovative political, economic and technological strategies."
Participating students went to Shanghai and Beijing, observing the Chinese response to water and food security, energy generation and urban planning and immersing themselves in the culture..
"Visiting a Chinese community permaculture farm in Hangzhou stood out amongst many great activities," says Alexander Hurcombe, an honours graduate from International Relations. "Seeing the practical and grass-roots application of sustainable living patterns was a particularly memorable contrast to the pollution, scale and crowds of nearby Shanghai."
Students also got the opportunity to take part in discussions with representatives of government, business and academia who were working it different levels in the environment and sustainability sphere.
"The Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs in Beijing were such an intriguing example of an effective NGO," says Adrian Calderado, studying a Bachelor of International Relations. "They're working with government data to educate Chinese citizens of the impact of corporations impact on the environment. Organisations in Australia could learn a few lessons from them."
"The tour was an invaluable experience for the students, and the lessons that they learnt will help them immensely in their chosen fields," says Dr Habib. "You can learn a lot in the classroom, but taking a group of students to see sustainability practises on the other side of the world gives a real global perspective."
Students recorded videos of their experiences as part of their assessment, which were presented at a student movie night on their return to Melbourne.
The tour is an ongoing collaborative venture between the La Trobe University Department of Politics and Philosophy, La Trobe Asia and partner organisation CERES Global.