Back to

Second Pre-Course Assignment: China and the Environment

Hello again from your instructor team!

The three of us have gathered now in California where we’re making final preparations for your arrival! We have really enjoyed speaking with you over the phone the past week and are getting excited to meet you in person soon! Thanks to everyone who has put up their introductory Yaks over the past week!

Now, with just over a week left to go, we’d like to introduce our second pre-course assignment! One of the themes we’d like to focus on during our course this summer is consumerism and environmental impact. With that in mind, we’d like to start getting everyone thinking on this wavelength.

Your assignment is to read this article about journalist Chai Jing 柴静’s documentary, “Under the Dome.” The film was released in in 2015 and went viral, garnering more than 300 million views in less than a week before it was made unavailable in China. The article introduces the film and conflicting perspectives about its impact. When it comes to environmental issues in China, there is definitely no single story. If the article sparks your interest, we invite you to watch the full documentary at this link (but this is not a mandatory part of the assignment).

Next, take a look at this online Footprint Calculator activity! Click “take the first step” to complete the activity (about 20 minutes) to calculate the ecological footprint of the life you currently live in the United States. Based on the information you input about your lifestyle and resource consumption, the calculator will determine the number of earths it would take to support humanity if everyone on the planet lived the way you do. This is not an exercise intended to make anyone feel guilty or to pass judgement. Almost all Americans, and indeed people in almost all countries in the global north, will have a result that well exceeds “one earth.” This is an activity we are excited to repeat and compare based on the way you find yourself living in our urban and rural homestays once we arrive in China. Please bring these initial results with you on the course, either printed out or written down. Note that the activity allows you to input information with a very high degree of specificity. Just complete it using the highest amount of detail possible for you.

We’re looking forward to meeting you soon!

With anticipation,

Maddie, Patricia, and Ian.