Smart Talks: How Basketball Led Me to Climate Activism -- By Wen Jingsen

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Editor’s note: In August 2023, Caixin Global and Yale Center Beijing jointly launched a Smart Talks on Climate Change program, including an essay competition, to help endow leaders of the next generation under age 30 with the wherewithal to tackle the problem. We’re publishing the top three essays from the competition as this year’s program concluded in December.

As we all know, Earth — the most beautiful planet in the solar system and the only home for humanity — is facing a serious crisis: climate change. Climate change has a significant impact on the Earth’s environment. It leads to rising global temperatures, which cause more frequent and severe heatwaves. Melting ice caps and glaciers contribute to rising sea levels, increasing the risk of coastal flooding. Changes in precipitation patterns can lead to droughts and floods, disrupting ecosystems and agriculture. Ocean acidification harms marine life, and shifts in weather patterns can result in more intense storms and wildfires. These effects collectively threaten biodiversity, disrupt ecosystems and have profound consequences for society, from food security to public health. Perhaps these hazards seem distant from us, but the thing I am extremely eager to tell you is that climate change is closely related to everyone.

As a student, my life has revolved around classes, exams and my passion for basketball. The court was my sanctuary, a place where I found solace and camaraderie. But amid the dribbling and dunks, there was a growing whisper, a persistent concern that would soon merge with my love of the game — climate anxiety.

My climate change story begins with the intersection of two seemingly unrelated worlds: basketball and environmental activism. It was a peculiar connection, but it marked the point where my life took a profound turn.

It all started during a weekend pick-up game in Beijing. The sun was scorching, and I couldn’t help but notice how the temperature had steadily risen over the years. The park, where we had spent countless hours honing our skills, was now transforming into a sweltering arena. I couldn’t ignore the tangible effects of climate change on my cherished basketball court.

The once-green landscape around the court was now brown and parched due to prolonged droughts. It hit me then that the consequences of climate change were not distant. They were right in front of me, impacting the places I held dear. This realization was a game-changer, both literally and figuratively.

The growing climate anxiety I felt was not only about the deteriorating condition of my favorite court but also about the broader implications. It extended to concerns about the ability of future generations to enjoy outdoor sports. Would my future children have a chance to shoot hoops on green courts under clear skies, or would they be confined to indoor facilities due to extreme weather?

My passion for basketball drove me to explore the connections between sports and climate change. I learned about the carbon footprint of sporting events, the energy consumption of indoor arenas, and the environmental impact of sports equipment production. I was startled to discover that the sports industry contributed significantly to carbon emissions, making it a part of the climate change problem.

Yet, my journey into climate change was not marked by despair alone. I realized that sports, including basketball, could be a powerful platform for positive change. Athletes, teams and organizations around the world were beginning to address climate change by reducing their carbon footprint, promoting sustainability, and using their influence to raise awareness.

With newfound purpose, I decided to combine my love for basketball with my commitment to the environment. I started initiatives within my school and local community to promote sustainable practices in sports. We organized clean-up events at our local court, planted trees nearby and held emission reduction-themed competitions for the community.

I also discovered that my passion for basketball could inspire conversations about climate change. During team practices and games, I shared facts about the environment and encouraged my fellow players to consider the ways our actions could make a difference. It was heartening to see the team embrace the cause, and we began to participate in community events and campaigns focused on sustainability.

My climate change story is one of a student athlete who discovered the power of combining his passions. It’s about turning climate anxiety into a driving force for positive change.

While the court I love still feels the heat of climate change, I no longer feel powerless. I understand that as a student and basketball player, I can be an advocate for change.

My experiences taught me that climate anxiety is not just a source of concern but a wellspring of motivation. It’s a call to action and an opportunity to make a difference in a world that desperately needs it. As I keep putting in effort on and off the court, I carry with me the hope that my love of the game can be a catalyst for a more sustainable future.

Wen Jingsen is a 10th grader at Capital Normal University High School.

You can click here to read the original article published on Caixin Global.