Q: The Hua Foundation sometimes takes you to an intersection where environmental issues and cultural traditions clash. Can you give an example of this and explain how you found a solution?
A: I think the one I encounter the most is this perceived misconception that environmental values work against “cultural traditions” or that cultural traditions work against environmental values. Because the truth for me is that my upbringing in a family that valued frugality, not wasting, taking care of the next generation to me, are the fundamental values for environmental stewardship. I feel part of the issue is how we have been talking about the environment or sustainability as if it doesn’t need to integrate people and communities. In fact, when we support people and their communities, they support each other and build resilience which is what we need more than anything today to fight for the planet and our human survival. This one-directional blame and guilt that is laid on the individual from not being “environmental” enough is paralyzing and short-sighted. We shouldn’t be asking “how can you help us stop or save X?,” it should be, “how can I help you so that we can work together for the future?” Individuals as consumers have almost zero agency in making a systemic change in the system. It’s individual and collectives as citizens, entrepreneurs, leaders that have the power to change things on a systems level through business, policy, community-building, etc.