I cannot sleep. Or rather I choose not to because I prefer to pursue the course of thoughts pulsing through my mind. Today is thanksgiving, a holiday, and one would suppose that I would “take the day off.” But I no longer know what that means. Being in a position where I am able to let my mind roam freely, yet know that that roaming will lead to a thesis, a job, a career path, means that I can dream audacious dreams made all the more powerful by the realization that I can truly make them come true. Every time I come up with a new idea more audacious than the last my first reaction is “hold it there. Let’s not get ahead ourselves.” But then something amazing happens: I read an article or a book, or a meet with a professor, and I come to understand that rather than holding myself back, I should be thinking even bigger.
That is, rather than expecting my masters thesis to be little more than a means to an end, I can and should view it as a goal unto itself, an opportunity to create something new, something beautiful, something great. This longing for greatness has manifested itself in my thinking for almost 10 years now, yet never before have I been in a position so perfectly suited to achieving my highest potential. Already, I feel like who I am is useful to those around me because I dare to think in ways that others ordinarily would not. I recognize that there are numerous people at Brown and around the world that are far, far smarter than I am in math, in science, in religion, and so on, but where I excel is precisely in my capacity to dream big, think audaciously and imagine the impossible. My sincerest hope is that who I am will inspire some of those truly brilliant people to apply their intelligence to solving the world’s most pressing problems of poverty, deforestation, health, inequality, illiteracy, and water.
My latest idea is that my thesis should be a book, written as though it were destined for publication and a spot on the shelves of Barnes and Noble. And why not? Rather than focus on a small, parochial issue and explore it to the point of exhaustion, why not write something that will help set the tone of the discussion about climate change and poverty and, in so doing, inspire people to bring their creativity to bear in new, exciting ways? I see climate change as a wonderfully exciting opportunity to forge new societies, bridge opportunity and information gaps, and solve a whole host of problems that were previously being addressed by a small group of individuals and NGO’s. Essentially, I see climate change adaptation and mitigation as a way of redefining the meaning of prosperity in developed countries, and a way of creating prosperity in developing countries. I see climate change adaptation as a way of dealing with existing problems in poor countries that will only be exacerbated by climate change. And I see climate change mitigation as a way of de-linking development, which brings people out of poverty, from carbon emissions, which drive climate change. At the same time, there is tremendous opportunity for moving forward with Corporate Social Responsibility, Social Entrepreneurship and Design for the Other 90%. We are not living in a time of crisis but rather one of expansion and creativity. We are not on the brink of disaster but rather a new, more beautiful, more just and more inspiring world order. We are not facing a choice between prosperity and catastrophe. We are facing an opportunity to redefine prosperity and overcome challenges.
These are some of the issues that I hope to address in my book. And while many people have looked at parts of these issues, as far as I know no one has yet been able to link of all them together under a single philosophical framework. The framework I am proposing is that of prosperity, what it means, and more importantly how it can be achieved. I am unimaginably excited about the prospect of doing research for and actually writing this book. For a long time now I have wanted to write a book, and known that I would one day do so, even though I was never sure how it would happen or what it would be about. When I rode my bike across the United States, I did so with the idea in mind that I would end up writing a book about it. Unfortunately, that did not come to pass, largely because I lacked a framework for the book apart from a description of what I experienced. Now I finally have a framework, an idea and a support structure to force me to move forward with the work. The goal is to be the kind of person that can change the way we think about, and therefore how we act on, global warming. Yes, that’s how big I’m thinking with this book: changing how we think about what many have deemed “the greatest challenge of our time.” Global warming probably is the greatest challenge of our time, but not for the reasons ordinarily given. It is a great challenge because it is such a great rallying call for genius and creativity. We need a new generation of writers, scientists, philosophers, teachers, factory workers, designers, architects and politicians that can understand what connectivity in the 22nd century can, will and must do for human beings and the natural world that supports them. And I intend, with this book, to help define, shape and mould the challenge in such a way that we can begin to meet it.
Am I thinking too audaciously? Have I bitten off more than I can chew? I doubt that anything great has every been achieved without answering yes to those questions, and then proving the naysayers wrong. What, then, is the goal of my masters thesis in Environmental Studies at Brown University? The same as the goal of my life: greatness
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