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Ecology: Students get the lowdown on a hot topic

STUDENT delegates from nine countries in the Asia Pacific region have just finished discussing the ecological future in New Zealand. Learning about energy problems from different countries, the students exchanged ideas on potential solutions.

Twenty-five international tertiary students from nine countries in the Asia Pacific region gathered at the Eco-Minds Youth Forum 2009 from May 25-29 in New Zealand. Two Chinese students from Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Zhejiang University participated.

The Eco-Minds Youth Forum started in 2003 and is a prestigious event that forms part of a global partnership between the United Nations Environment Program and Bayer, one of the global leaders in pharmaceutical and chemical industries.

The forum provides a platform for youth in the Asia Pacific region every other year. The program aims to foster awareness and knowledge of environmental issues among youth in the region. Delegates from different countries in the region learn about related subjects through lectures and tours, and work on possible solutions for the selected environmental problems.

The topic for this year was "Sustainable Energy System: Challenges and Opportunities."

"Sustainable energy use represents perhaps the greatest challenge to the world right now for two reasons. These are climate change and the fact that 2 billion people still do not have access to electricity," said Dr Young-Woo Park, UNEP regional director. "I am delighted that we can bring some of the region's top students together to work on solutions to such an important issue."

Different cultural backgrounds can enable the students to see the problem from a more comprehensive angle, according to Hans-Dieter Hausner, Bayer Australia/New Zealand senior country representative. And in addition, they can help spread the idea of sustainable energy worldwide when they return to their own countries.

The students were divided into different country groups during the session. Their final job was to come up with their own solutions to sustainable energy after study and discussion, not just for their own countries but for the Asia Pacific region as a whole.

"Everybody is passionate about environmental protection, and everybody provided suggestions based on his or her major and cultural background," says Xia Xiaozhong, a 21-year-old student of Entrepreneurship Management of the School of Management in Zhejiang University. "That made the discussion exciting and enlightening."

New Zealand, which has done good work in hydro and geothermal power, was the major study case for the forum this year.

As well as lectures from professors at Auckland University, the students also visited three power stations - Huntly Power Station, the Lake Karapiro Hydrodam and the Wairakei geothermal field - to get a solid idea of power generation.

Education on energy-efficiency and transnational cooperation in power generation were the most frequently raised points in the delegates' presentations.

Launching more research programs on sustainable energy and encouraging technology sharing among businesses and countries might help us cope with the energy problem more efficiently and effectively, according to Tian Ya, a 22-year-old student of the School of Environmental Science and Engineering at Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

"We should not waste time groping for solutions in different countries - sharing can help us move much more faster," says Tian. "Just as we students did at the forum."


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