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Saving the world with seeds for the future

WHEN I stepped out of Shenyang Airport, I was assailed by a tide of dust and sand particles that temporarily blinded me. It was then that I finally realized what "desertification" means to the inhabitants of Inner Mongolia and neighboring regions; I was also reminded of the formidable opponent we would face during our tree-planting endeavors in Kulun Qi, Inner Mongolia.

Prior to the trip, the Roots and Shoots clubs from both campuses of Shanghai American School had raised enough money to plant approximately 3,300 trees. Then, on April 15, 29 students and five teachers from our schools, along with representatives from several other schools and organizations, embarked for Kulun Qi, the poorest region in Inner Mongolia. Our purpose was to contribute to the Shanghai Roots and Shoots' Million Tree Project, which aims to plant 1 million trees by 2014.

Although many of us were strangers to each other, we united under a common goal and collaboratively planted roughly 1,760 hybrid poplars on our allocated land over one and a half days. At first, it seemed that our sweat and sore backs had been for nothing - the rows of straggly, crooked poplar seedlings did not seem like they could withstand the howling winds and grim conditions for growth. However, when we visited the 2010 planting site, I was amazed by the seedlings' growth over the course of only one year and by the evidence of ecological succession.

Another meaningful part of the trip was educating local elementary students about environmental protection and alternative forms of energy. Certainly, facing a sea of eager faces and watching students jump out of their seats to answer questions would be any teacher's dream. The breadth of their knowledge was quite admirable, especially since we spoke to them in Mandarin Chinese and not in their language of instruction, the Mongolian dialect. It heartens me to think that the seeds of knowledge we planted in these children may, over time, blossom into a community-wide awareness and activeness in regard to sustainability and environmental conservation.

It just goes to show: you don't need to be a superhero to save the world.

Article by Felicia Hanitio, a student from SAS Puxi campus


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