My trip to Japan this summer was a fulfilling experience in multiple ways. I deepened my knowledge from my undergraduate years in Mexico about Japan’s rich and, at times, controversial history. It was also powerful to be in a country that is constantly holding the tension between living according to tradition while making room for innovation outside the Western canon of progress. Lastly, as I walked through the streets of Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka, I was flabbergasted by the unique infrastructures that hold individuals together, from the rituals and social norms that establish accepted behaviors in public spaces, to the collision of technology and spirituality in temples, monuments, and streets. Discussing the impacts of these infrastructures on areas such as social cohesion and individual wellbeing would require a publication on its own, so I’ll leave it aside for now.
It’s been over four years since I took a career break abroad. It was helpful to take a moment to pause, regenerate, and be inspired. I must admit it’s also been a long time since my brain and my senses experienced so much stimulation.
As I was getting ready to return home, I kept thinking about the extreme weather this summer. Our planet was literally on fire. I was shocked and terrified to witness the massive dark clouds covering most of Canada as I was looking through the window of our plane. I almost fainted twice in Japan due to the extreme temperatures, which reached nearly 40 degrees. I feel guilty that my own existence hasn’t contributed enough toward stopping this rise of temperature and, for the fifth time in my life, I’m deeply worried about our collective future. I worry that my nephews and my niece will not be able to witness Japan’s beauty: its cities, its nature, its landscapes, its historic monuments. I also worry about the future availability of ingredients that are essential for traditional Japanese cuisine, which is recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Our collective future has never been as fragile as it is right now. In these desperate times for transformation, we need a renewed sense of leadership and a collective commitment so that future generations will be able to thrive and experience the beauty of the world as we know it.
As I think of the amount of collective effort required to tackle the climate crisis, I am reflecting on the effectiveness of the systems and institutions in place, and the skills that we must cultivate to nurture leadership rooted in compassion, commitment, and collaboration.
We operate under a paradigm of extraction. Our economies are rooted in the exploitation of nature and humanity as endless assets. We assume that progress equals monetary revenue and wealth equals how much money we have in a given time. We celebrate winners and losers, performance based on how much wealth we have accumulated or how much of something we have produced, and our sense of success is understood as how much money we make. Likewise, at an individual level, success is understood as how independent we are individually and how we have succeeded at prioritizing our own “happiness”, even if it means putting aside our duty to steward this planet for future generations.The environmental degradation of our planet and the increase of isolation and depression around the world are proof that this paradigm of extraction is killing us.
In these uncertain and daunting times, we can choose to lead with boldness toward building more equitable futures. I have worked for over eight years at the intersection of philanthropy and social change, and I have observed four aspirations that I am confident are pivotal in bringing the best of one another and elevating our capacity to lead from a place of compassion, commitment, and collaboration.
Building more compassionate and ecocentric systems, infrastructures, and institutions
Shaping a collective vision of our future that leaves no one behind
Leading with coherence and authenticity
Enabling values-based systems that transcend the commodification of human rights
I am optimistic that these aspirations can be the seeds toward cultivating a more equitable future in which we transcend our sense of purpose and we strengthen our capacity to live in communion with all living beings. Moving forward, I am hoping to unpack each of these aspirations in future publications. For now, I’d like to invite you to stay in touch. You can contact me at this email and you can also find me on Medium @jorge.garza