On watching the documentary “China: Between Clouds and Dreams’ I was introduced to the spoon-billed sandpiper. These charismatic migratory birds have been reduced to as few as 100 breeding pairs making them one of the most endangered birds on the planet. As well as facing threats from subsistence hunting, in China large-scale reclamation projects are draining the intertidal areas that provide important mudflat habitat along the Yellow Sea. These mudflats are also polluted and so the marine invertebrates the birds use to refuel for their journey ahead are sparse.
The five-part documentary, that recently aired on Channel 4, looks into China’s private relationship with nature and the environment amid increasing industrialisation. Amongst the stories told was that of 4 young children embarking on an investigative journalism exercise for their school newspaper. After learning from their school teacher about the plight of the spoon-billed sandpiper they were instantly inspired to “Save Spoonie”. With vigour and urgency they interviewed trawlers working on the mudflats, factory owners and local communities revealing the tensions and conflicts underpinning many of China’s environmental problems.
Despite a bleak picture being painted for the viewer one thing that remained constant was the resolve of the children that if they shared the story of Spoonie far enough they could save the bird that had captured their imagination from extinction. Watching their youthful optimism made me think about the power of people and public perceptions. In a country such as China, ever growing and ever polluting, can people make a change? Continue reading Saving Spoonie: The spirit of China’s youth