Sustainability Prelude: Why I’m doing what I’m doing

Ambivalence and uncertainty seems to be a recurring theme in my life.  For many people, these emotions may cause anxiety. I am no exception to this feeling, but I try converting it into a sense of excitement and wonder.  To gain clarity about my next step, I took out a sheet of paper and wrote down 20 things I must do before dying.  As if this wasn’t a difficult enough task, I chose only 1 out of the 20 that would have the greatest impact on my life if I started doing it immediately.

I did this exercise in late 2012, as I was nearing my graduation with a BA in International Relations and Chinese. I had received a great formal education and lived in China for 2 years, polishing my language skills and working for the Chinese Travel Channel.  I had the opportunity to go back to China and pursue a career in the entertainment industry and although it seemed like a dazzling path, I felt like something was missing.

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I love to entertain but I also want to do something that is personally meaningful, I want to help bring about a better world for people on Earth and I didn’t feel like the entertainment sector would be the arena to embark on this journey. Hence, out of the 20 life goals I wrote down that day, I chose: the creation of a Green City and, eventually, a Green World in which the human ecosystem is intimately integrated into the larger ecosystem of our planet – a sort of human-nature reintegration. I aspire to help transition human society to a way of living that regenerates the ever-decaying ecological health and human physical, mental and spiritual health.

My motivation comes from observation of the obvious: a continual decline of the state of the natural world and a continual decline of quality of life – people spend less time with each other and are more disconnected from the world around them. Despite all of our modern technological advancements, life is losing its meaning for many people. It’s a perpetual cycle of repetitive work in the name of economic growth that is devoid of creative self-expression and other meaningful ways of living in the name of truth, love, justice, peace, and fun.

Unsustainable city
Urban Sprawl – one of the most detrimental aspects of civilization.
Urban Sprawl
Good luck ever meeting your neighbors in a place designed to keep everyone in boxes.

Who said that advancement in modern technology can’t be fun? Who said that working can’t be fun? Who said that school can’t be fun? Not only are these things fun, they are fascinating. And when approached with a genuine sense of love and discipline they can be extremely beneficial to life on Earth. But, unfortunately, most people are not having fun in life and they dread waking up every morning to live another day dedicated solely to meeting their survival needs. It’s good to remind ourselves that there is a difference between surviving and living, and most of us, quite frankly, are not living.

Today, most people do not go to work simply because they adore what they do and they want to make a meaningful contribution to the planet. Would you be at your current job if you were not getting paid any money? What makes you get out of bed in the morning? Some people really do love their job and for them, that is wonderful! But there are many people for which this is not the case.

On that day in late 2012, I thought to myself: How would I be spending my days if all of my basic survival needs were taken care of? Sure, some people would be unproductive and choose to be lazy all day. But I predict that doing this everyday would get very old, very fast. So, what would I do on a daily basis? Why am I here right now? What do I want to achieve? What am I doing with this opportunity to live as a human on planet Earth?

As these thoughts ran through my head, I jotted down some attributes to live by: happiness, daily healthy eating, sincerity, no verbal complaining, etc. Although I continue to cultivate these objectives on a regular basis, I chose to create a timeline and dedicate much of my energy towards creating a Green City – even though I had no idea where to start.

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Master Plan Design for Auroville, India – an experimental township and aspiring sustainable community.

One day, I was sitting in my office at the USF Confucius Institute and told my boss about my Green City ideas. Astonishingly, the next step in my journey was literally only a few steps away. I had never even heard of the Patel College of Global Sustainability until that day and it was across the hall, on the same floor of the building I worked at!

I began the Master’s program in Global Sustainability the following fall and after a year and a half of coursework on sustainability principles, architecture, economics and engineering I had set the foundation and the connections from which to start building a sustainable city. Now, in my final semester of the MA program, I am in Asia once again, but this time, instead of acting on TV, I’m working towards building the Green City.

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13 Replies to “Sustainability Prelude: Why I’m doing what I’m doing”

  1. I’m with you on the Green City goal, although on a smaller scale. The movement will happen one individual at a time.

    I’m new to the blogging world, but I can already tell that I will be a regular visitor of your blog. Thanks for being you.

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    1. Thanks for the support! I also had a chance to check out your page and I’m glad we can share ideas and experiences.
      I also agree about the smaller scale. Cities are inherently unsustainable and I’ll write in later posts about how my Green City vision turned into a Green Village vision – hence the name Urban Villager.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Victor, your experience inspires me, no matter for studying in China or the Green things you are doing currently. I was so so so surprised when the first time you spoke Chinese to me. And I am so so so impressive how deeply you know the Chinese culture even better than me. You are a happy-go-lucky person. You can adapt various environment and have a super strong spirit to support you and keep you going.
    A sustainable system adds sustainable publics, you can make the Green dream come true.

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  3. Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting. You are spot on when you say people are disconnected with their own world. When we were in China it was amazing how we could communicate even with the language gap. We did a lot of walking to the parks, grocery stores and open-air markets that were off the normal tour pathes. It was an eye-opener for us.

    Great read – I am interested to see how your Green City concept works out. Following now and looking forward to the updates.

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    1. True about China – sometimes (organized) population density is actually good for social life. Just have to do it in a way that doesn’t destroy everything around it. Thanks for following! I plan on making these concepts reality 🙂

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  4. I really enjoyed reading this post. I studied global public health in South India (Manipal University in the state of Karnataka) for four and half months (a semester), and living in India got me really interested in environmental health (or, more so than I already was!). Reading your post was very refreshing because from a lot of the research I have done throughout my semester abroad and for me senior year thesis, many people think that sustainability is hopeless in a place like India, where there are so many other issues that confront its people. What people do not realize is that, as one of the top world polluters and one of the most overpopulated countries in the world, environmental hazards are more pressing than ever, and are one of its greatest threats! It is great to see that you have taken on such an ambitious and (it looks like so far) successful endeavor! I cannot wait to see how this turns out. I think it would be a great place to visit one day (:

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your thoughts and insight 🙂
      I think that in order for sustainable initiatives to be successful they need to appeal to the local people and culture. If everyone in the world understands the need for ecological stewardship but the local people don’t, it won’t happen there. At the root of the issue of sustainability is human behavior and that’s why one of the most important things is to be able to COMMUNICATE sustainability in an effective manner. Thanks for the support!

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      1. It’s so inspiring to read about everything you have accomplish while studying for your undergrad and grad degrees. I was wondering what you are currently working towards?

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      2. Hi Kellie,

        Great question! Thanks for your interest. I’m currently involved in a few projects – one of them dealing with a sustainable transportation solution based in Chicago. As you can see I have been MIA for the past 2 months not having written anything. I am writing up a post right now that’ll give you a better idea of what I’m currently up to.

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