I dream of a world where we can leave our homes and breathe fresh air, where we can play in the canals and drink the water from the rivers. But most importantly, I dream of an equilibrium where all living beings on this planet can live together compassionately and sustainably.
MAKING SUSTAINABILITY SEXY
Hi, everyone. I'm Maria Lynn, former Miss Universe, Thailand. I'm an actress, singer and model. I'm a co-founder of social enterprise S.O.S. Earth, Ambassador for Food Systems of World Animal Protection and I am currently exploring insect based protein.
I am the last born of three, but I grew up quite alone because my brothers left for university when I was quite young. This might have been the big reason why my mom sent me off to do a lot of activities.
Also, my dad was very adventurous. He took me on a lot of adventures. When I was only 11 years old, he made me do a scuba diving course with him to get licensed for open water diving.
But as a youngster, I was someone who was totally afraid of the wild. When I went into the forest, I was scared of everything. When I went diving, I was also scared of everything.
I didn't realize how lucky I was until now, and I'm super grateful that I had the opportunity to experience all of these things. My dad took me on all these adventures and I got to experience so much of nature. Today, those experiences are always at the back of my mind.
SPARKING A PASSION FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
The thing that inspired my passion for the environment was university.
When I went for my first year abroad, I studied in the Netherlands and we would walk to school every day. We would bike, we would spend time in parks and this is when I really started caring about what being outside was like.
When I came back to visit Thailand, I realized we couldn't spend that much time outside in Bangkok. There were so many cars, so much pollution. Time was spent in department stores and I felt like this wasn't right. This didn't feel natural to me.
Three years after that, when I was 24, a lot of things started happening to my health and I realized that this was caused from the pollution that was outside, from the food that was filled with chemicals and not clean, and from my own lifestyle that was quite unhealthy as well.
And when my mom's health, someone that I loved, was starting to get affected as well from the pollution, from things that were outside, this is when I realized that something needs to change in order to protect our environment, not just for myself, but for the people that I love.
THAILAND'S CONNECTION WITH NATURE
I think in Thailand, we actually have a lot of people who are still very connected with nature. We have a lot of wisdom about the forest, about ancient herbs or medicines, and even Buddhism that actually has a big foundation within and from nature.
For example, how a forest fire in one area comes from the fact that we eat meat in another. Or the fact that holding a cloth bag isn't what's going to save the environment. Or how all of us actually have a role to play. Even businesses in how trash ends up in landfill.
We still have a lot to learn about the connectedness of everything, and this is something that should be very easy because in Thailand we actually have beautiful nature, we have great national parks.
Generally, Thai people really care, but we might have been swayed along the lines to live in a more consumerist society, a more materialistic society, which has made us end up here today.
SOS EARTH ENVIRONMENTAL PROJECTS
So some of the projects that SOS Earth has been involved in, ranges from air pollution to forest fires to waste segregation, trash in our canals and biodiversity. It’s so diverse because the environment is really everything around us.
We started off with a more problem-based mindset; here is the problem, how do we fix it? There's this environmental issue here, what do we do? But we soon realized that this is a really tough approach as no one wants to consume negative news. There's already so many bad things happening in the news today. So we switched our mindset to something more solution-based.
These days we're really focused on finding the solutions that are out there. We present that to the Thai people and see who wants to come help us, who wants to help fund a certain cause or who wants to help a certain cause in a different area. And there's really something for everyone.
The most recent thing that we've taken part in is really pushing for cleaner air. Air pollution is a silent killer, and it's something that's really affecting a lot of people that we love and our society as a whole.
We've managed to fund over 150 schools in the northern region with air filters. The reason we have to provide these nurseries with air filters is because the kids spend their time at the schools, 8 to 9 hours a day, five days a week. Inhaling the fumes from air pollution (PM 2.5), has a really negative impact on their health, and also a negative impact on their IQ.
While we're still pushing and helping organizations such as Thailand Clean Air Network, to push through the Clean Air Act, we also have to do something now. So that's where the air filters came in, to provide these kids with air filters and cleaner air in their schools for five days a week.
5 STEPS TO GET STARTED WITH SUSTAINABILITY:
BE THE CHANGE
So here are my five key takeaways for you to find your path to sustainability and how to drive it in society. There really are so many solutions out there that you can play a role in. So here's how you can play a role.
WHAT ARE YOUR PASSIONS?
The first key takeaway involves drawing a Venn diagram of three circles.
The first circle, I would like you to draw and ask yourself, what are your passions? For example, for me in this circle, my passions would include singing, dancing, exploring eco-friendly fashion, going to art exhibitions, meeting friends, watching movies, and reading random things about physics. The list goes on.
Write down your passions in this first circle.
WHAT ARE YOU GOOD AT?
So the second key takeaway is to ask yourself what you’re good at and to list these in the second circle.
For me, I'm good at connecting, I'm good at bringing people together. So really ask yourself, what are your qualities that you really shine at? What are your strengths? Think about the subjects at school that you were good at or the things that you are frequently complimented on.
Write these down in the circle.
IDENTIFY THE PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS
Our third key takeaway is to identify both the problems and possible solutions which is our third and final circle.
First, write down all the problems that you know that are out there and the solutions. There are so many things that are happening in our environment today; flooding, forest fires, air pollution and on wards.
Next, figure out what the possible solutions could be to alleviate or even solve these problems. What organizations that you know of that helps the certain causes that you care about?
For example, if you care about animals, there's the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). If you care about water, what organizations work with water pollution? Look around for existing solutions. There are so many technologies today. Just go onto Google and find out what solutions exist and write them down in this circle.
Maria Lynn’s Sustainability Venn Diagram
So to give you a clear picture. Let's talk about the center point of my Venn diagram. One of my strengths is connecting people and one thing that I am passionate about is eco-friendly fashion. One of the possible solutions then, is creating art from marine plastics.
The fourth key takeaway is to look at the center of the Venn diagram where everything intersects and to define what goes in there.
Your strengths may be graphic design or organizing events for example and you may have outlined solutions to tackle air pollution. Your passions might have been about fashion. So how can you take action and be the change by contributing to the solutions? How can you incorporate the things that you love, your passions, and the things that you're good at to help the organizations and causes that really need help?
I think all organizations and environmentals causes need help in one way or another and there is something to inspire everyone. If you have time, you can contribute your time by volunteering for example. If you are good with computers, you can do work for a certain organization or if you simply just want to donate, that also can help too.
I really think that the path to sustainability and environmental protection has something to inspire everyone; you just have to find your way. Ask yourself over and over again what your passions are, what inspires you to help and what you want to see change in this world. Put them into the Venn diagram and find out what is in the core.
Once you have discovered what you love and how you can spark change, you will find that you will develop energy and passion to be the change that makes a difference.
FIND YOURSELF IN FAILURE
My fifth and last key takeaway involves being able to accept failure and starting with yourself.
Being able to live more sustainably isn't just about your own life. It's about having a positive impact on the lives of those around you and inspiring change to make the world better. So the changes are big and this can seem overwhelming.
So when you do start with yourself, whether it be the clothes you wear or the food that you eat, or how you go to work, don't be too hard on yourself. Accept that you will fail.
For example, when I started on my path to become a vegetarian, I failed a lot and I blamed myself. I felt that the path I was taking wasn't aligned with my values and I was really hard on myself.
But I tried and knowing that I was trying and making a big effort, gave me the courage to keep on going and not give up. As you keep trying, as you keep doing, you'll find more people who are also on the same path as you.
I think sustainability has become a really big trend today and everyone wants to do good. Everyone wants to live in peace with the environment. The more people that you can share your experiences with and the more you fail, the more stories you will have to tell.
So just try, fail and then try again and that's the best you can really do.
SUSTAINABILITY IS SEXY
The conclusion I'd have to end with is that sustainability is sexy. We have to live our lives to the fullest whilst also thinking about tomorrow. We can’t just think about today and our personal future. We all need clean water to drink, clean food to eat, even enough food to eat, and clean air to breathe.
Change really needs to happen now in order for us to live sustainably. We all have a part to play, as a whole, and the speed that these changes can happen depends on each of us playing our part.