A Chinese farmer has spent his savings to take out ads promoting the fight against climate change and make donations to NGOs. If talks in Cancun fail, he will go on with his struggle.
WWF activists stand around a map made of candles during the Cancun climate summit
Just a few weeks ago, Chen Faqing turned up at the Mexican embassy in Beijing. He told the officials there he wanted to donate 250,000 yuan to the climate summit in Cancun – with no conditions. The embassy officials were a little skeptical at first but then the money was transferred – exactly 37,022 dollars and 21 cents.
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Chen said it was money well spent: "We only have this world. Some countries are only thinking of economic development and their national interest. But that will harm all humanity. Protecting the earth has to be a priority."
Chen has already used up a good deal of his savings for his crusade. He has donated 40,000 US dollars to the Secretariat of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in Geneva and he has taken out ads in the international press, such as the Wall Street Journal and the Economist, too.
"I hope that thanks to my advertisements all the governments will understand what a catastrophe climate change is. The Chinese People's newspaper refused to print my ad, saying it could lead to diplomatic pressure," he said.
Activism triggered by local water pollution
In his adverts, Chen presents himself as a disabled farmer although this is only partly true. However, he is very hard of hearing. He started off poor but worked his way up – rearing poultry and cattle and making various investments.
Activists demonstrate during the UN climate summit in Cancun
He first became interested in the environment at the end of the 1990s as more and more people in his village started contracting lung disease. He was concerned that the rivers were being polluted by the local factories.
For years, Chen tried in vain to pressure the local authorities into acting against the pollution. He then tried to sue them; then he tried to sue the environment ministry in Beijing, and even Prime Minister Wen Jiabao but all in vain.
Everybody has to work together
"The government has to bear more responsibility regarding greenhouse gases. The world will only be saved if everybody does something," he insisted.
He said he refused to give up his fight, even if no deal was reached in Cancun: "Next year, I will continue taking out adverts in the international media and I will donate money to support further climate talks."
The Mexican government had arranged for Chen to be present in Cancun, like all big donors but he refused. He says he can't speak English.
Moreover, he was urgently needed at home in his village – his wife had hoped he would spend his life savings on building a new house, not on saving the planet.
Author: Ruth Kirchner (act)
Editor: Shamil Shams