Future Ambitions

By Stuart Lancaster 2019-04-29 14:35:21

Concordia teenager Hoony Kim, expresses his concerns for the future and the importance of ambition for a better world


My chosen value, not as an environmentalist but as a student, is ambition. Our generation often faces criticism for an apparent lack of ambition. This might be true for some of us – yet it is our generation that needs to be the most ambitious. Without ambition, we cannot achieve anything outstanding or different. In a society where competition is fierce, it is essential to at least attempt to stand out and be extraordinary. On a grander scale, we need ambitious people to spearhead the solutions to complex problems like overpopulation, racism, or plastic pollution. Having ambition is the value that I have chosen because it is only with ambition that I know I can give my all to a worthwhile project – most importantly it is because it is only strong ambition that brings the courage to challenge the status quo.

There were a few moments that really inspired me about the plastic issue but these alone would not have been enough to get me involved in sustainability projects. I feel as if this was more of a journey and a process than a single moment of realisation. As an introvert and as someone who has English as their 2nd language, I needed confidence, experience and some encouragement. I really think the school helped me in all of these areas by offering opportunities that allowed me to practice public speaking and to organise and lead groups. It was only after I had this that I had the courage (and ambition) to take action. It was at the end of my freshman year when I met Mrs. Lavender, the teacher of Global Issues Network (GIN) at Concordia, who was leading a workshop for high school students. She showed us a TED Talk by Isabel and Melati Wjisen and that was how I first got to know about ‘Bye Bye Plastic Bags’.

The contents of the TED Talk shocked me. It detailed how single-use plastic was rapidly changing our world and how it was going to impact our daily lives in future. I admired how middle school students came together and took action for something they believed in. However, at that point, learning about the scandal of plastic did not yet make me into an environmentalist.

The following year I joined GIN as a member and got the opportunity to help host the GINASIA conference. Here I saw Isabel and Melati speak in person about their work and progress. Two things stood out from their talk. Once again the message was about the impact of single-use plastic – but the story also covered their ambition and how it led them to where they are now, a pair of young leaders who are front and centre in the movement to ban plastic bags. This was the day I was finally inspired to follow their example and take part in sustainability projects.

The Eco Warriors summit (Dulwich Puxi) was a conference organized by Mrs. Heather Kaye. Mrs. Kaye invited many international schools in Shanghai to showcase individuals and groups that were passionate about environmental issues, letting them share their ideas and collaborate on projects. For example, Melati Wjisen led a workshop about Green week (April 23rd– April 30) in which she discussed raising awareness for various environmental issues. By mixing the participants, we were able to get a wide range of ideas and solutions; since some schools or groups have been doing this for years, we have seen how some ambitious seeming goals were actually possible.

At the Eco-warriors summit, it felt like a safe place to share what we had learned and what we knew. Knowing that the people around you were also striving for the same goal made a difference. Our horizons were extended beyond our individual schools or neighbourhoods. Since the conference took place, the momentum remains and now we have many projects involving multiple schools. The connections we participants made with each other allowed us to expand our projects, spreading awareness and issuing calls for further action.

Environmental issues are diverse – it’s not just one single problem. My advice is to definitely retain the initial concern and turn it into passion and ambition. We need leaders in this field. When I watched the TED Talk showing the plastic problem, I did not know that I would make it this far – though we are still some way off from our goal of banning plastic bags in Shanghai. I feel that no one who is successful in their field knows how far they will go in the very beginning. It is all about carefully building up to match your passion and having a goal. You can establish benchmarks and challenge yourself to surpass them. If my advice seems somewhat vague, this is because everybody is different in their personality and gifts. Esch person can make a special contribution of their own.

To be brutally honest, if we don’t fix our environmental issues, we are going to die from them. All the problems that many previous generations ignored are right in our face now. If this continues, within 30 years our ocean will contain more plastic than fish. Most of the fish we consume will have pieces of plastic lodged in their body, which will enter our digestive systems. 70% of the air we breathe is from the oceans, which we are contaminating. Stephen Hawking himself predicted that if the Earth does not fix itself in the next 100 years, we will soon pass the point of no return and we will have just 200 more years until it is completely inhabitable. Once again, the cruel truth is that at least some part of this will happen in our lifetime. Before such massive problems, even our actions in advocating and spreading awareness seem small. However, we need challenges in life. That is why having the necessary ambition to confront them is so important.