Conservation Social Work: A Focus on Rural China

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Woman carrying harvested bamboo
Photo by Irina Rasner

Interviews were conducted by the Chinese student volunteers to gain better understanding of how the local people in Laojunshan (and later in Mabian) are reliant on clearing bamboo for economic necessity. The information gained in these interviews intended to assess the awareness of the environmental degradation taking place in these locations by asking open-ended questions. Below are a few of the findings reported by the students after interviewing residents of Laojunshan.

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Sorting Crops Photo by Irina Rasner

During the final day  of the summer-camp program in Laojunshan , the six Chinese volunteers ventured off to pose certain questions of individuals living in the more rural parts of this town. Questions ranged from “what is your main source of income?” to “what has/has not changed environmentally in the last few years?” The individuals interviewed gave consent to having their answers recorded and used for no other purpose other than this investigation. And the volunteers were both surprised and not about their findings. The majority of individuals who the volunteers talked with said that their main source of income is harvesting bamboo in the forest. Harvesting bamboo is problematic because cutting down bamboo within the boundaries of the nature reserve is actually illegal in China and it is a major

Harvested Tomatoes Photo by Irina Rasner

Harvested Tomatoes
Photo by Irina Rasner

reason as to why giant pandas and red pandas are becoming extinct. If there is no bamboo for these animals to rely on, then 99% of their diet evaporates. Yet bamboo, however, still serves as an important paper-making tool for the whole country of China. Unless more education and understanding takes place concerning the role bamboo plays in both the lives of pandas and the other findings that the volunteers reported was that most villagers wanted more land to grow personal crops. The Chinese government placed a ban on how much land each farmer uses, especially because the government wants the people to grow corn and bamboo specifically.

Heap of trash in Laojunshan Photo by Irina Rasner

Heap of trash in Laojunshan
Photo by Irina Rasner

Regarding the change of environment, the rural people feel that there has been improvement–this is juxtaposed against what was obvious in the town of Laojunshan where trash was dispersed in every nook and cranny both on the main road and the side roads.

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