COVID-19 thoughts: An opportunity for renewal

Standard

It goes without saying that we’ve already entered a ‘new normal’. Nowadays, the best we can do to help is by staying at home and helping wherever we can. In my case, I hope sharing my personal thoughts online would help give the assurance that no one is alone, and that we’re all going through this together one way or another.

In the Philippines, we’re past day 50 now ever since the ‘enhanced community quarantine‘ was imposed. For many Filipinos, however, it still feels like not many has changed. The number of confirmed cases has already reached beyond 10,000, and a plethora of political issues remain despite the threat of the pandemic. Recently, one of the biggest media organizations in the country was shut down by the government.

I know what you’re probably thinking — so what’s the point of still talking about all the horrible things happening? Shouldn’t we focus instead on what can be done? Well, for one, not talking about the things that are happening would show that we have a neutral and disinterested stand. So, in a way, we’re still making a stand by not making a stand. The reality, however, is that by doing so, we’re only further enabling the oppressors and horrible things happening. So if you ask me, yes, we should be taking the right and informed stand in times like this.

Anyway, that’s not the point of this entry. I want to focus our attention on the future, something that not many of us have the luxury to do because at this time, we’re caught into compromising and doing a lot of risk management for our organizations and personal endeavors. What does our future hold when things finally start to stabilize?

One thing is for sure — we cannot go back to how we originally spent our lives. The photo below, I think, encapsulates this thought. As I was writing this entry, this photo is being randomly shared across social media. There are actually many others like this photo, but I think this one hits the spot.

“To stitch a new garment. One that fits all of humanity and nature.” One of the basic human values, according to Shalom Schwartz, is universalism. It involves the understanding, appreciation, tolerance, and protection for the welfare of all people and for nature. Schwartz and many scholars, however, state that people do not recognize these needs until they encounter others beyond their primary group and until they become aware of the scarcity of natural resources. In other words, people only begin to understand their coexistence with other people and with nature when they themselves become inconvenienced by certain circumstances.

And we see this happening today when the pandemic struck across the world. We’re realizing that oh, we actually need to coexist. But up to how far can this realization go? Will it merely be just another social media trend in the ‘Wishful Thinking’ segment?

By no means am I an expert, but one of the things that surely needs to change is the way we view money. Let me explain.

For a long time, we have perceived money as something that allows us to engage in life’s pleasures and hedonistic activities. This is correct, and nothing can take that away from us. But what if humanity were to reach the ‘final’ tipping point — the point of no return? When will be the time that we acknowledge that consumerism has reached its peak, at least in an international sense (note that mostly only developed countries have reached this so-called peak), and that a new order has to come into play?

Money has always been about things like buying power and increasing the gross domestic product. And this is something that we shouldn’t demonize nor impose malice upon. Our concern should be — what if this constant need to become rich affects other aspects of life? Like the environment, our mental health, and personal relationships. What, then, becomes of humanity?

Many think tanks and smarter people have expressed this thought so much better than how I’m doing it here. But the pending dilemma remains: Only when we learn to align our ambitions and constant need for wealth toward the genuine advancement of humanity will we truly become ‘good’ people. Imagine if it’s a common thought for money to be grown so that we can plant trees across the world, or if money is used to grow businesses that have a social cause and not merely maximizing profit for stakeholders. Of course, this is clearly wishful thinking, but what if?

Money is not bad. Nor is it good. It’s basically a ‘vehicle’ for day-to-day transactions. It almost feels like a form of language. Like what you probably heard already before, it’s not money that becomes bad, but the way people use it. In essence, people are also neither good nor bad (this statement can be quite debatable), but the actions they partake in dictate whether they are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ people. So when we earn money, it’s important that we think about where and how it will be spent. This is, I think, one of the ‘new normal’ that we should be taking into account: Our perception of money. It is, after all, our chance for renewal as we go towards more uncertain times.


Hi! I’m Ian. In this blog, I share my personal stories and hopes for the world. Let’s take the conversation forward! Email me at ianbrmia@gmail.com for collaborations.

The sustainability dialogue behind the coronavirus

Standard

Photo by huntlh at Pixabay


The Novel Coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV, has cost a lot of panic and hysteria across the world. From closures of national borders, panic-buying of face masks, down to the revelation that outbreaks can even cause racism — this event has shown a lot of humanity’s sides in just a span of a few weeks.

But out of this outbreak, there are many important, life-and-death-related things that we’re also learning.

The road to a universal flu vaccine

For one, the world is now even more focused on creating a universal flu vaccine. As the 2019-nCoV spread and infected people across the world, scientists have been analyzing the virus and are recently creating breakthroughs.

The road to a universal flu vaccine still seems far off, but we’re on the way there. One of the many organizations working to develop this vaccine is Distributed Bio. As stated in their website, they are creating “a new paradigm in antibody engineering and broad-spectrum vaccine design“.

Once a universal flu vaccine is created, we no longer have to worry much about being sick during flu seasons. Imagine a world with much less instances and deaths from flu viruses. Believe it or not, flu viruses are extremely common and seen everyday. It can be fatal for people with very weak immune systems.

Viruses are constantly evolving into new strains. And we haven’t even discovered all the different types of viruses in the world. This means that we should rather be giving more attention to developing a vaccine. The medical sector should move and develop vaccines as fast as how viruses mutate — but only with the help of world leaders.

Ancient viruses living in ice and permafrost

Humans have been living alongside bacteria and viruses throughout evolution. From the bubonic plague to smallpox, we have probably experienced it all — sadly, the reality is that we still haven’t. We probably haven’t even experienced the worst yet.

Don’t forget that there are many bacteria and viruses currently buried in ice and permafrost. With the current rate of the climate crisis, this could get worse and melt the ice and permafrost. If and when they melt, we will potentially have even more public health emergencies of international concern.

This is exactly why the climate crisis should be of paramount concern, because it practically affects every living fiber and being imaginable in the planet. It should not be taken lightly at all costs.

Mobilizations on national scales

Many countries are now implementing critical measures to contain and avoid the further spread of the coronavirus. They’re working extremely fast to protect their citizens.

Even the World Health Organization has now declared this outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. The declaration took a bit of time because it typically requires a huge amount of money and resources, and may also invoke governments to restrict travel and trade to affected countries. Moreover, the declaration imposes more disease reporting requirements on countries. Simply put, there are a lot of logistical, political, and financial concerns, among others, before you can sufficiently declare an outbreak a public health emergency of international concern.

One of the biggest concerns is that countries with weak public health systems are the most vulnerable to this outbreak. Ill-prepared countries are also a big challenge.

In the Philippines, for instance, we only currently have one facility where the coronavirus can be tested: the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) at Alabang. And the medical instrument to test the coronavirus in RITM was only just recently bought from Japan. Moreover, the government is also only recently beginning to realize that we have our own labs to help validate the presence of the coronavirus. Suffice to say — there are many holes in the Philippine public health system that we have to address in order to prepare for pandemics.

The Philippine government has also been strangely passive amid this outbreak. While Filipinos do understand that any form of public panic can potentially exacerbate the situation, they have also been constantly demanding the government to take a responsible sense of urgency and act accordingly in response to the spread of the disease. As to what would finally trigger a ‘flow state’ or proactive, consistent responses from the government, we don’t know yet.

Individual efforts matter

Because of the coronavirus, people are learning how to use face masks properly, and are even beginning to understand the science behind these. People are also learning to share the proper information and prevention tips to their peers. All these were possible thanks to social media.

But again, not all are acting as proactively. And this is something that we all need to work on.

Individual efforts matter more than ever. In times of outbreaks, public panic is understandable. It does no good to normalize this outbreak and translate it merely to just ‘another flu virus’. While it was slowly revealed that the virus is not as fatal as initially thought, we are still better off sharing helpful information, protecting ourselves, and practicing proper hygiene, among others.

What does this outbreak mean for sustainability?

Sustainability is commonly defined as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs“.

While it’s true that the 2019-nCoV is not as fatal as initially thought, its outbreak reveals a lot in terms of the world’s capability to contain an actually fatal pandemic. If the next potential pandemic, for instance, were to start in China, and knowing that China is known to censor public information, there would be possible complications.

This is why the world will need to prepare as much as it can for the next, global pandemic. As a sustainability imperative, these preparations are necessary to secure and protect future generations. The development of a universal flu vaccine is but one of the preparations underway for such a concern of global proportions.

What we can do as individuals scanning the web is simple: share truthful information and be informed of what we can do to protect ourselves and our peers.


Let’s take the conversation forward. Find out how we can collaborate for a sustainable future: https://berdeboy.blog/collaborate/

We need more sustainability jobs

Standard

A quick search in Google (or Duck Duck Go or Ecosia, just in case you use these instead) about how to get a job in sustainability would return some helpful results. Since it’s only recently that the world realized how important the planet apparently is, sustainability jobs are also just beginning to come out.

Based on a quick research, I found that it is, basically, very difficult to find a sustainability job even in the developed world. Usually, these are reserved for higher-up positions in corporate social responsibility or executive sustainability teams of a company.

How do we then create sustainability jobs down to the entry and associate levels?

I am by no means an expert — I am just sharing an observation I’ve had while job-hunting for a sustainability job for quite some time now.

For one, I wish there was some form of career advice platform for career paths like this. When I first ventured out to ‘take a sustainability career path’, I never knew I had to experience so many road blocks. I was basically putting on so many hats without having a sort of system or coordinated effort. It was all mumbo jumbo. There was no ‘starting point’ to speak of.

But there’s a light in this dark tunnel.

My realization is that you shouldn’t start with a sustainability career right away. What many people do is they come from a totally different field and shift towards sustainability later on, probably because of realizations that the planet is, indeed, boiling to a crisp. What they learned in that prior field would then become a tool they can use to push the sustainability agenda forward. It’s a win-win.

And now that more and more people are beginning to understand that the health of the planet is at stake, we need to be able to create more sustainability jobs that fuel that passion and drive. Sustainability is no longer a question of ‘mindset’, it’s now a question of ‘how’.


Let’s take the conversation forward. Find out how we can collaborate for a sustainable future: https://berdeboy.blog/collaborate/

The systemic issues that plague us from within

Standard

Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay


As time passes, I realized I’m becoming more and more personal with my approach to Berde Boy. From initially talking about larger-than-life ideas to talking about things like ‘taking baby steps’ — along the way, as cliché as this may sound, I realized I have to start with myself first.

The ideas of self-love, self-esteem, minimalism, personal finance, and all these things that are actually helpful were never taught to us in school and in our personal upbringing. These are things that we just happen to come across, probably through some conversations with friends or colleagues at work.

So for the past months, what I realized is for us to learn these ourselves and find other people who will help us grow. It’s a mutual process.

The learning process differs for many people. For myself, I’m just getting started. I’m at a crossroads in terms of what I should actually be doing. In fact, out of all the confusion and hidden anxiety, I realized I want to travel long-term in the meantime and just enjoy myself. I want to see the world beyond my comfort zones here in Metro Manila.

Let me be the one to tell you also that our mental health is a valid sustainability concern as well. Much like the biggest challenges of the world on climate change, food security, plastic waste, overpopulation, and many, many others — mental health is equally important. What we have to understand is that sustainability is everything. It’s not just about the systemic issues that surround us externally — it’s also about the systemic issues that plague us from within.

Pretty much — that’s all I have for this blog post. Whoever’s reading this at the moment, I’d like to show my gratitude. If it’s your first time reading my blog posts, you can check out my other posts. I write about several things from startups to my humble adventures as a digital nomad.


Let’s take the conversation forward. Find out how we can collaborate for a sustainable future: https://berdeboy.blog/collaborate/

On sustainability and being ‘gracefully lost’

Standard

We have a negative connotation on the word ‘lost’. But I beg to differ.

I’d be lying if I say that I already found what I want to do for the rest of my life. The thing with being ‘lost’ is that it’s a process — it’s not something you can run away from just by a quotable quote in Facebook or an inspiring message by someone.

Being lost is an opportunity. It’s a chance for us to explore possibilities and stretch out ourselves as much as we can (but not to the expense of overfatigue). It is, you may say, a kind of phase in life, but I think it can be something lifelong. Getting lost in helping others, for instance, is something I can buy into.

We hear so much unsolicited advice everyday on ‘fixing our lives’ or being at the state of ‘not being lost.’ I think these are horrible advice.

For one, human beings are extremely complex. When talking about the state of being ‘lost’, it’s not something that you can just discuss through a black-and-white perspective.

Instead of wallowing in despair of being ‘lost,’ I say we look at it constructively. I say we become gracefully lost.

Lost with sustainability

As what you probably know as someone reading this blog post right now, I write mostly on sustainability. But this wasn’t something that just popped into my head.

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals have over 17 general goals for the planet. Each of these 17 goals has more specific sets of goals, and so on. I happen to find myself amid all these goals. I am, you could say, ‘gracefully lost’ in my advocacy for sustainability. I can honestly admit that I have no direct focus right now, but I make do with what I have by exploring and stretching out the possibilities. Some ways I do that is through this blog, my work, and volunteer engagements.

Another factor is that I’m treading on a path that’s barely scratched, at least locally. But that doesn’t stop me from trying to achieve what I want.

I believe in the intersection of business and environment. Businesses have the potential to overturn the damage it’s done to the world. This will require a new economic order that doesn’t rely on ‘eternal growth with finite natural resources.’

It’s a tall order. I honestly don’t know where to start. But I do certain things anyway. And this is what I mean about being gracefully lost.

Gracefully lost

‘Lost’ is a term that gets thrown around quite leniently. We forget that the term is not all that bad. It also has its good side, and that’s what I want to focus on here.

Being gracefully lost is like finding yourself for the first time in a railway system of a big city. You have no idea how it exactly works. But you do it anyway. You learn along the way. You build your knowledge. You practice it. Then you become used to it.

And this applies to any aspect of life. It’s alright that we don’t know yet what to do or where to go. We just have to do something. We just have to embrace being lost. And we have to do whatever it costs to maintain our sanity and health and still manage to bond with our loved ones.

Being gracefully lost reminds us to take it easy. It removes the pressure and fills us with an unrelenting force of lifelong learning.


Let’s take the conversation forward. Find out how we can collaborate for a sustainable future: https://berdeboy.blog/collaborate/

What the traditional academe can learn from innovative schools: Taking the case of Foundation University

Standard

The academic world has constantly been criticized for being archaic and slow. But things are roaring for change down at Foundation University (FU) in Dumaguete City, Philippines.

FU was awarded in 2015 by the Department of Energy and Natural Resources – Environmental Management Bureau as the most sustainable school in the Philippines. In the past years, they have been speeding up their sustainability and social innovation initiatives.

A canteen within Foundation University, which was designed by its president. The ceiling was designed with bamboo.
Foundation University maintains a hydroponics farm in one of the rooftops of their buildings. The hydroponics farm is also being used by the school’s agriculture students.

Part of these initiatives is a special event last September 20, 2019 entitled “Entrepreneurship and my Future“, where the university invited MakeSense Philippines to hold a social initiative creation workshop. MakeSense is an international organization that organizes and promotes initiatives on sustainability.

In the long run, FU aims to integrate sustainability into its curriculum. They plan to do this by making the different colleges and disciplines work together in academic outputs like theses and projects, among others.

This was also the first time that a social innovation event of this kind was held in FU. During the workshop, the students had brilliant ideas to solve some issues found in their local communities. Among some of these include plastic waste solutions, solid waste management, and solving unintended teen pregnancy.

The panel members speak during a discussion session of Foundation University’s event, “Entrepreneurship and my Future”.

A unique selling point with FU is that they have already began the path on creating systemic networks not just within their departments and colleges, but also with external innovative organizations like MakeSense. Being that their sustainability initiatives are relatively young, they have many opportunities to tweak and experiment along the way.

There is one buzzword for FU’s innovativeness: systems. By creating social innovation networks, FU is able to leverage on a rich pool of individuals and organizations that are sustainability-oriented. They are also able to integrate sustainability on an internal level, specifically in their curriculum and students.

This is something that many other academic institutions can buy into. With systemic issues plaguing us locally and globally, now is the time to move fast. If it would take the traditional academe to radically shift its focus on sustainability and innovation networks both internally in its curriculum and externally with innovative organizations, then now would be the opportune time.

The social garden in Foundation University.

Let’s take the conversation forward. Find out how we can collaborate for a sustainable future: https://berdeboy.blog/collaborate/

Being a minimalist in the Philippines

Standard

Image by ptra from Pixabay


Recently, I’m slowly learning that the way I think consists of the typical traits of a minimalist.

I don’t like fancy clothes and prefer to keep my wardrobe as ‘minimal’ as possible. I’ve always been the guy in our family who keeps saying to donate our things, so that our house can ‘breathe’ a little easier with more space. I prefer spending on things that I really need (but of course, I have some occassional guilty pleasures also like food — no one is perfect!). I also find the concept of ‘essentialism’ very pleasing; I find solitude just by hearing the word.

Ultimately, what minimalism means is that you only get what you need given your current resources. What that ‘need’ is would depend on your individual preferences. It’s not the same case for everyone.

Coming from a developing country like the Philippines, minimalism sounds like a very foreign concept. People from developing countries tend to be hoarders of material possessions — take for example our families. This is why being a minimalist in the Philippines can be challenging.

But if you’re like me who identifies as a minimalist, there are many ways we can achieve a minimalist lifestyle despite our social circles. Here are some of the ways you can do this.

Understand what things you really need based on your personal context

In Filipino society, we’re constantly driven or encouraged by our peers to own, own, and own things, because they represent a status symbol or your purchasing power. But we also have to remember if these things actually add any value to our lives.

The question to ask is: What value do the things I buy add to my life? Do they merely satisfy my consumerist desires, or do they address something valuable in my life?

Make sure you are buying into sustainable products or services

The world is burning — literally. As a minimalist, it breaks my heart for it to have reached this point. People consume a lot, capitalists keep on developing without thinking of the environment — what you get is a world order working under the notion of ‘infinite growth’ but ‘finite resources’.

Which is why the minimalist movement can help in this battle. As minimalists, you learn to get only what you really need. And what better way to do that but by supporting sustainable products and services.

Now — I am aware that some sustainable products and services are expensive as hell. Avoid those. There are many other ways to become ‘sustainable’ apart from being a ‘green consumer’. Ultimately, it is a lifestyle, not just a “consumer lifestyle”.

Declutter, declutter, declutter

We tend to own too much things. We think that they would fill the emotional voids in us. At one point they actually do, but later we realize that we get too fixated and dependent on material possessions to satiate our emotional well-being.

Try decluttering your things and see if it would have any changes to your mindset. I understand how difficult this can be, but as a minimalist we need to understand what we really need and what works best for us.

The things that would remain may end up to be still a lot of things, but what matters with minimalism is that you only keep the things that really matter to you. And this can be a few things that can be counted by your fingers, or even several things. It is a case-to-case scenario.

Remember — ‘clutter’ is something that doesn’t add value to your life.

There’s nothing cognitively dissonant with being ambitious and a minimalist

Being a minimalist doesn’t mean you should forego of your dreams in life. Again, minimalism is about organizing your life and getting only what’s really important to your context.

The key concept is consuming with intent. Don’t just buy into things simply because it adds status, power, or prestige. In the minimalist world, having what you need and having inner peace are what matters.

… and that’s my list. I am constantly learning about this concept, and would want to know your experiences also! Hit me up through ianbrmia@gmail.com.


Let’s take the conversation forward. Find out how we can collaborate for a sustainable future: https://berdeboy.blog/collaborate/