For many centuries, China chose to isolate itself from the rest of the world, showing little interest in the ocean and what lay beyond it. However, the crowded auditorium at a recent marine film screening at Beijing Normal University shows that the Chinese perception of the ocean has changed dramatically in recent years.
This event was part of the country-wide campus tour of BLUE On Tour, a traveling film festival organized by CI-China. All of the films in the tour are recipients of BLUE Ocean Film Festival awards, which honor the world’s best ocean films.
This university tour — the first of its kind in China — aims to promote ocean conservation to China’s youth and highlight the threats of overexploitation and pollution on marine resources and China’s blue economy development policy. In late 2012, the State Council of China approved zoning plans for eight major coastal regions — an important step toward building a marine-based “blue” economy in the country.
The Beijing event attracted an audience of about 400 college students, professors, staff and their families, including many little kids. At the entrance to the school’s auditorium, we exhibited stunning underwater photos from the International League of Conservation Photographers that transported the audience far from Beijing.
The films were selected based on the principles and 10 goals of the Ocean Health Index, the first comprehensive assessment of the condition of global ocean resources that is framed in terms of the many benefits humans derive from the oceans. We introduced the Index to the audience through film as well, showing a short film narrated by Harrison Ford. (See video below.)
In recent years, Chinese people have become familiar with indexes like Dow Jones and the PM 2.5 air quality index, which has raised much concern about local air quality. However, the concept of an index to evaluate ocean health is still fresh to the audience in China. Many of them showed great interest and curiosity about how the Ocean Health Index works to help evaluate and protect ocean health.
We interviewed several of the event participants on camera, asking what they think of the ocean and ocean protection. Passionate kids, students and professors all expressed their love for the sea and their awareness of the importance of ocean health, providing a number of interesting answers. “The ocean is full of life.” “The ocean is the home of Nemo and his friends.” “We should not eat shark fins.” “We will not throw rubbish into the sea.”
The documentary presented to the audience in Beijing was “Andrea — Queen of Mantas.” Andrea Marshall was the first person in the world to complete a Ph.D. on manta rays. She now leads the conservation efforts for this species along the remote coastline of Mozambique.
A fun quiz session followed the film. Correct answers to 10 questions could be found in the film if the viewer watched it carefully. To our surprise, even the young children in the audience were quite engaged by the film. Dozens of hands went up to compete to give the answers. Each participant who had the right answer received a prize: T-shirts depicting ocean species and eco-friendly bags with the CI logo.
We truly believe that this event will help spread ideas of ocean conservation to the audience members and their community. Next, we‘re excited to take this event to six more cities — Qingdao, Dalian, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Guangzhou and Chengdu — before the end of June.
Jia Qi is the communications manager at CI-China. Thanks to Ji Wang for her help with this blog post.