"If you eat up forests today, the deserts will eat you
up tomorrow." Top Chinese actress Li Bingbing
recalls this phrase when asked about the importance
of forests. "It's quite simple, but to the point," she
says. And she has backed up her words with action.
Last year the award winning actress - a UNEP
Goodwill Ambassador - created her own charity,
Love Green, "to promote green ecosystems, the
Green Economy, and green life". Its first project -
which she launched with former British Premier,
Tony Blair, and has been carried out in collaboration
with the Climate Group - was to plant trees to
combat desertification in northwestern China.
It is succeeding beyond expectations. "It took only
nine months, instead of the planned two years, to
plant the first million trees," she tells Our Planet.
She has been an environmentalist from an early age.
"As a young girl, I would make a point of switching
off the air conditioner when we left the house. As
a teenager, I opted to walk or use public transport
wherever possible and, ever since, I have separated
my trash for recycling. I believe that if we all take
our responsibilities towards the Earth seriously, and
make caring for the planet part of our daily routine,
we could make great strides towards preserving it
for future generations. We need to start from every
small change in our lives."
Born in Heilongjiang province, in the far
northwestern China, in February 1973, Li Bingbing
originally had no intention of becoming an actress,
and instead enrolled in a school for prospective
schoolteachers. But, after graduating, she became
dissatisfied with that career, and was eventually
persuaded by a friend to join the Shanghai Drama
Institute in 1993. She won the first of many "best
actress" awards at the 1999 Singapore Film Festival
for her film debut, later winning similar titles in the
2005 Golden Rooster Awards, the 2007 Huabiao
Awards, the 2008 Hundred Flowers Awards, and the
2009 Golden Horse Film Awards.
But forests remain an equally strong
passion. "Every time I travel along the
Yangtze River," she says, "I remember the
summer of 1998 when for three months
it was ravaged by severe flooding that
washed away thirteen million homes and
caused US$26 billion worth of damage.
The floods showed how destructive
nature can be in the absence of forests.
Yet for decades we have been trying
to harvest our economic gains at the
cost of unsustainably exploiting our
environment and the forests, its most
The Chinese Government took notice
of the 1998 floods, she says, and set
up a nationwide campaign to halt
deforestation later the same year, with
the result that over half of the country's
natural forests are now protected.
"We have learned a lesson the hard way,
that our forests support our modern way
of life. Without them, nature can wreak
havoc. With them, nature can protect us
and enrich our ecosystems," she says.
"Forests provide us with so many
services to sustain our lives. I have
seen with my own eyes the beauty
and strength of a healthy forest that
provides the water we drink and protects
us during the rainy seasons against
landslides and flooding. And a healthy
forest brings back wildlife."
She likes to quote Mahatma Gandhi,
who famously stated:
"Your beliefs become your thoughts;
your thoughts become your words;
your words become your actions;
your actions become your habits;
your habits become your values;
your values become your destiny."
"We can change our planet's destiny one
country at a time, one community at a
time, one individual at a time, one action
at a time. Everyone can influence those
around them. This will have a positive
and exponential effect and attract more
and more people to join us,".