They say that it’s never too late to go back to school, and an inspiring, elderly Chinese farmer is showing us how true this really is. Wang Enlin lives in Yushutun, a small village in the Heilongjiang Province of China. In 2001, he was sitting in his living room making dumplings with his neighbor when his house was flooded with toxic wastewater.

The foul water came from a nearby polyvinyl chloride factory owned by the Qihua Group, a massive state-owned corporation. The company dumps an estimated 15,000-20,000 tons of wastewater every year and the factory has created a 478-acer lake of polluted chemical waste in the region. Needless to say, this pollution made most of the farm land in the area unusable.

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Wang Enlin approached local officials about the issue but was met with little success. He told the People’s Daily Online, “‘I knew I was in the right, but I did not know what law the other party had broken or whether or not there was evidence.” And so he decided to take matters into his own hands. Though Enlin had dropped out of school in the third grade, he began studying law and gathering evidence against the Qihua Group. He did not have enough money to buy law books but he did not let that stop him. Enlin would bring a bag of corn to the local bookstore as payment and in exchange, the owner allowed him to stay in the shop and read up on the law.  He did this diligently for 16 years.

In 2015, Enlin finally had his day court and he and his neighbors were awarded 820,000 yuan ($120,000 USD) to compensate them for the damages the pollution caused. However, the Qihua Group has appealed the ruling and so Wang Enlin will have to continue his legal struggle against the polluters. But he remains undaunted and optimistic. He told the People’s Daily Online, “We will certainly win. Even if we lose, we will continue to battle.”

We are so inspired by Wang Enlin’s quest for a cleaner world and we hope that the court will rule in his favor. Now more than ever, it’s important that we stand up for what we believe is right and fight to keep our planet clean. We don’t have to study for the bar (though you could!), we can keep our environment clean by making small adjustments in our daily lives create a clean, healthier planet. Together, we can protect our environment and our planet’s precious natural beauty.

Image source: Toa55/ Shutterstock 

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