China’s Environmental Challenges: Summer Undergraduate Program in Beijing 2017

August 19, 2017
summer program student discussion beijing

Funded by generous scholarships from the Harvard Global Institute, a diverse group of thirty Harvard College undergraduate students traveled to China in August 2017 on a trip organized by the Harvard-China Project, the Environmental Science and Public Policy concentration, and Tsinghua University to learn about and experience China’s environmental challenges first-hand. While in China, the Harvard students participated in a two-week intensive summer program, joined by eighty students from China and other countries around the world.

As part of the summer program the students attended lectures delivered by Profs. Mike McELROY, Dale JORGENSON, and Steve WOFSY of the China Project; faculty from Tsinghua University, Imperial College (U.K.), and other universities; and scientists and policy analysts from Chinese governmental and non-governmental organizations. The lectures surveyed a range of environmental topics specific to China, including air pollution and GHG measurement and control; carbon pricing; wastewater management; electricity interconnection across Asia and the world; remediation of soil pollution; and urban sustainability. In addition, the students participated in field trips to the largest municipal wastewater treatment facility in Beijing, large-scale wind and solar farms outside the city, and China’s National Climate Center, as well as cultural excursions to Qufu, Confucius’ hometown in Shandong Province, and the Great Wall.

The students’ experience included assignment into 12 multinational groups to develop projects proposing innovative solutions to diverse environmental issues in China. Topics included a multi-stage overhaul of China’s vehicular policies, the adoption of a new technology to monitor wastewater quality in Beijing, and methods to optimize carbon emission trading in China, among others.

This summer program offered a unique and valuable opportunity for Harvard students to learn about environmental challenges as they are experienced and understood in China, and to reconcile their views with those of contemporaries from China, the rest of Asia, Africa, and Europe.


Quotes from Harvard Student Participants:

“This program gave me new insights into the state of environmental degradation in China and current Harvard efforts and technologies in place to mitigate it. Through the series of lectures of various topics I was able to learn new material (such as atmospheric chemistry) … all while experiencing Chinese culture and making friends from around the world.”

“… Being able to witness China’s environmental challenges first-hand was certainly an invaluable experience. I firmly believe that the new perspective gained from traveling and immersing oneself in another culture can teach things that are impossible to learn in any other manner.”

“The strengths of this program lie in connecting Harvard students among environmentally related fields …The program also has a strong potential to allow Harvard students to form connections with top students in environmental fields at other universities, potentially paving the way to future collaboration.”


wind farm visit beijing

wastewater treatment plant visit beijing

summer program group photo beijing



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