The International Student Conference on the Environment and Sustainability, organized by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the Tongji University was held in Shanghai and Chongming Island from June 4th to June 8th, 2012. I participated as a member of the second group, focusing on the theme “Future Cities and Green Multi-Model Mobility”. As all the conference participants were normally accommodated on the Tongji campus and resort in Chongming Island, I had the golden opportunity to meet, socialize and exchange ideologies with participants from around the world, especially based on our own poster exhibition and voting. I also met high-ranked officials of the UNEP who were present at the opening ceremony.
Depending on our groups, we attended different lecture series on the group themes. I learned a lot about the details concerning the technology of electric vehicles from the economic, engineering and social aspects from well-known professors. I also had a proper look at the transport systems in Shanghai through our site visits to the tunnel museum where I learnt about its complex construction process under water as well as its daily maintenance. I got immersed into the “Shanghainese” culture through the visits to The Bund and Yu Yuan garden where I had a taste of authentic local cuisine. As a participant of the Conference, I also witnessed other major events at the occasion of the World Environment Day like the “JUPES” Joint University Partnership on the Environment and Sustainability, as well as Environment Friendly Youth Ambassadors Action.
The Chongming Island is an eco-island designed to show-case the concept of sustainable living. We were introduced to its green features like green buildings and environmentally-friendly urban planning (“zoning”) while conserving the biodiversity in its entirety. Some eye-catching features include the fishing villages and street-lights solely powered by an innovative combination of small individual wind turbines and solar panels. We were expected to discuss our findings within our groups and present them to the rest of the participants. There, I had the chance to present our group’s findings and make the set up with some few other members. Other HKUST students present at the conference also presented their groups’ findings at the closing ceremony.
Overall, I was extremely satisfied with this conference. Being the first United Nations conference I have participated in, I had the pleasure to meet many passionate students like myself, so we could exchange ideas from our diverse backgrounds. It was also a way for me to gather knowledge about different remote cultures. Most importantly, I learnt about how environmental challenges are technically handled in a giant city like Shanghai and how we could prevent environmental heavens like Chongming from growing into metropolitan cities that cause deterioration in the global environmental scene. I would definitely recommend this conference to any young environmentalists who are eager to network and learn.