CULTURE Rural Chinese glacier hiker inspires climate awareness at UN


Rural Chinese glacier hiker inspires climate awareness at UN

Global Times

07:29, January 17, 2020


Wang Xiangjun explores a glacier in Bomi county, Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region in November 2017. (Photo: Global Times)

Wang Xiangjun, a 30-year-old rural Chinese man, displayed videos of glaciers he has been filming for years at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 25) in Madrid of Spain in December 2019, calling for attention of the international community on global warming and environmental protection. 

His speech was streamed outside the Madrid venue and attracted a large audience, including more than 200,000 viewers on Kuaishou, a popular streaming platform in China.

Wang has been exploring and photographing glaciers since 2012. He started to share short videos to show people the beauty of glaciers in 2017 and has attracted 1.44 million followers on Kuaishou. 

He was invited to attend the COP 25 to share his observations about glacial ablation. "I wish more people could notice the beauty of glaciers through my short videos. Glacial ablation and climate change will not be solved unless people know better of glaciers," Wang told the Global Times.

Climate chronicler

Wang was born in a rural family in Southwest China's Sichuan Province in 1990 and was addicted to nature since childhood. He has been working outside his village since the age of 20. 

Back then, Wang could only find work as a waiter or a cleaner due to his limited education. However, such conditions never impeded his dream of experiencing the natural world. While working blue-collar jobs in Yunnan, Guangxi and other places, Wang managed to enjoy the different natural sceneries of those places.

Wang first saw glaciers in a travel advertisement printed on a bus for Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in Lijiang of Yunnan Province. The magnificent glacier deeply fascinated him. He has visited glaciers every year since he set foot on the glacier in 2012. Wang is estimated to have trekked more than 70 glaciers over the course of seven years.

"I explored different landscapes every time I climbed the glaciers. Forest on glaciers, blue glacier holes and ice caves were all vistas of splendor that comforted and inspired me to deeply embrace nature," Wang said.

Wang once found an especially spectacular glacier on a satellite map and decided to go to film the beautiful ice. However, when he went to the scene, he found the vast majority of the glacier had disappeared and melted into a long river. "Since that time, I learned that a lot of glaciers are quickly disappearing. I feel very sad," Wang said.

"That satellite map is normally updated every three years. The glacier melted during that period. Now, the speed of glacial ablation is much faster," he explained.

Streaming hot

In 2017, Wang saw some hikers shooting videos for Kuaishou while hiking. Videos would be more vivid than photographs to show the melting of glaciers, he said.

Wang opened an account named "the adventure king in Tibet" on Kuaishou to record the beauty and melting of glaciers found during his journeys.

"Most people know little about glaciers. If they don't know what a glacier is, how could they want to protect glaciers and prevent global warming?" Wang asked. "They'll just assume it has nothing to do with them." 

Whenever glaciers and snowy mountains are mentioned, many Chinese people think of the Alps in Europe, and indeed its photos are more commonly found on the internet. 

"Actually, there are many spectacular glaciers in China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and Tibet Autonomous Region. I would like to show people the unknown magnificent natural scenery of our motherland," Wang said.

A solo adventure is bound to be dangerous. A bear disturbed his sleep on the evening of January 1, 2018 around Laigu Glacier in Tibet and it tried to enter his room by damaging the house. "I suddenly sat up and tapped the metal utensil while shouting to frighten the bear. Luckily, the bear was scared away," Wang recalled.

"Maybe because of global warming, I felt some bears don't go into hibernation in winter," Wang said adding that "no danger and difficulty can stop me from exploring glaciers."

Many followers online appreciate that Wang shows them the magnificent scenery in uninhabited ice world as they have no chance to see glaciers in their daily lives. 

It would be a pity if such a beautiful glacier melted, many viewers said to Wang, which encourages him to record more glaciers and to call for actions on solving global warming.

By displaying the beautiful glaciers and his brave adventures, Wang has  attracted more than 1.4 million followers on Kuaishou over the past two years. His short videos are well accepted by the public and much more widely spread than reports and data released by professional environmental organizations and experts. 

Global awareness

His great influence on streaming platforms also gave Wang the opportunity to attend the COP 25 conference. 

When he was invited to attend the UN conference, Wang was surprised and questioned how could he, as someone without a college education, be able to give a presentation at the international event. His academic glacier knowledge is poor compared with environmental experts and professional activists. 

"However, I was not nervous as I just showed my photos and shared my observation of glaciers. Nature gives me the best education," Wang said.

Wang thought that his influence on streaming platforms is important and could be helpful for promoting global warming awareness. He is trying to add more knowledge on nature in his videos. 

"I hope my photos and short videos can popularize the knowledge of glaciers among people who have no chance to see them," Wang said.

At the conference, Wang showed the landscapes he had recorded over the past seven years and shared his worries and heartbreak of seeing the gradual melting of glaciers.

An Indonesian volunteer found Wang after the conference and said her country's capital, Jakarta, has come under threat from the dangers of global warming and glacial ablation. She was impressed by Wang's close-up photos of the glaciers. 

She thanked Wang for his efforts on recording the glacial ablation and making more people aware of the influence of global warming. 

Environmental protection should be something that is integrated into our daily lifestyle, not something that we deliberately do, Wang said.

Wang believes countries and governments will introduce the corresponding environmental protection policies and that everyone should live a good life, abiding by clean energy policies and other environmental protection initiatives.

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