It is not the best of times for the green industry. We are sometimes susceptible to that pervasive feeling of dread and doubt that hovers over us like a thick blanket of Los Angeles smog.
With the prolonged credit crisis, there has been a significant drop in funding for sustainability-related enterprises. The Wall Street Journal reported a 53 percent decrease in venture capital investments towards the renewable energy sector for this quarter. The companies with the best balance sheets are doing their best to weather out the financial storm while many others go under. The zeitgeist (German for ‘spirit of the times’) of our generation has yet to be defined.
We face much uncertainty. The number of failed and failing states across the globe is staggering (add Thailand to that list). California is facing a severe water crisis. There is an island of plastic garbage in the Pacific Ocean the size of Texas. In the next 24 hours, deforestation will release as much CO2 into the atmosphere as eight million people flying from New York to London. It is easy to fall prey to apathy when we are overwhelmed with a convergence of crises, both financial and ecological.
But regardless, I am always seeking to embody the spirit of the entrepreneur — an ambitious sense of rational optimism, a pulsing dissatisfaction with the status quo, and an understanding of the true power of innovation. In contrast to the Mustang Daily’s libertarian column, I feel that it is important to provide a viable counterbalance of inspiration. Our general outlooks are not diametrically opposed; we are both aware of the inherent value of the individual. But we focus our energy in different directions. I hold the strong conviction that we need to transition America towards a solutions-based economy. That is why I felt so at home when I got involved with the Empower Poly Coalition. From policy wonks to permaculture warriors, we are a diverse group of students who are seeking practical and appropriate solutions to the plethora of problems we are facing this century.
More than just a respectable career, a mission to help others is what motivates me most. But in recent years I have found that I have formed many strong opinions on business, environmentalism (an outdated term in my opinion, but I’ll use it in the general sense) and politics as well, to the point that I feel I have so many things to contribute, or at least a desire to test things out and see if my ideas and opinions could advance these causes, or bring people together to push the world forward.
In two weeks, Empower Poly will be hosting the California Student Sustainability Coalition’s sixth annual Spring Convergence (CSSC for short). The CSSC is the largest student sustainability group in the nation, and on April 24 to 26, these future leaders of America will be convening at Cal Poly to attend workshops, network with other students and learn how to affect positive change in their communities. It’s a great chance for you to get involved and make lasting connections across the state. Humanity needs a bright green future, a future that transforms our collapsing system through innovation and creativity, and finds a new path towards a sustainable prosperity that can be shared by all. That future is not a pipe dream. That future is the last best hope of humanity. Seeking that future is what I aspire to do every day.
As the now-clichéd symbol goes, ‘danger’ plus ‘opportunity’equals ‘crisis’ in Chinese. First of all, the Chinese symbol for ‘crisis’ is not one symbol but two. The symbols for crisis in Chinese are made up of these two words: wei ji. Wei means ‘danger; peril,’ and ji means ‘opportunity; crucial point.’ So literally wei plus ji equals ‘danger’ plus ‘opportunity.’In this sense, the Chinese symbol for ‘crisis’ can mean ‘opportunity’ in a time of ‘danger.’ A dangerous situation can be inverted if wei ji becomes zhuan ji. Zhuan ji means ‘turn for the better.’
We are at a crux in history. Our generation has the amazing opportunity to turn society’s wei ji into zhuan ji. And so this is my wish: that I will fiercely follow my passion (sustainable business development), a source of inspiration to last many years. And I wish this for you too, you brave and curious souls who happened upon this article.
So stoke the fire, find your burning passion, my friends. The Greeks didn’t write obituaries, they only asked one question after a man died: “Did he have passion?” Find passion and you will find the secret to life that the Greeks once knew, and so many people have since forgotten. It doesn’t hurt to have a healthy appreciation and participation in rebellion, because rebellion is an ultimate sign of passion and conviction. May all of your dreams be fulfilled.
Ben Eckold is a business senior, the president of the Empower Poly Coalition and a Mustang Daily columnist.