Harvard Book Prize Essay Award 2020: Vincci Chan

Vincci Chan, International Christian School
  • This is the winner of the 2020 Harvard Book Prize Essay Award
  • The essay prompt was ‘Reflect on what it means to lead an ethical life that respects the world’s magnificent biodiversity. How should we view our everyday actions from what we eat to how we power the planet as being central to leading an ethical life over the next 50 to 100 years?’
Vincci Chan, International Christian School |

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We must recognise the consequences of biodiversity loss.

This essay has not been edited by Young Post.

A lush green village sits on top of a rolling hill, but the tranquil sight is quickly ruined by the image of villagers rolling down the hill to their deaths. Upon hearing screaming, a passing traveler rushed to rescue the villagers. However, after several constant rescues, the traveler turned on his heels and raced up the hill. His companions were bewildered, but the man dismissed their confusion. He wasn’t abandoning the victims. He was merely searching for the cause of the problem. This is a retelling of a Buddhist story, an analogy for the concept of prevention.

Luckily for humankind, the cause of biodiversity loss has already been identified.

Previous “travelers” have dedicated their lives to fighting for the preservation of our beloved Earth. With the amount of ongoing campaigning, global climate change is not an unfamiliar subject. Yet, it is easy to overlook the power we each wield in the preservation of biodiversity, and to improve the lives of countless other generations, through choosing ethical lifestyles.

Before being able to change our lifestyle, basic moral values and our regard for the Earth must be strongly solidified. We have to truly understand the extent of the damage we are causing, as most do not comprehend the impact of the extinction of 1,000,000 species on humankind. Only by embracing an understanding of the severity of the issue, and developing a passion to make a difference, can we begin leading ethical lifestyles.

Our everyday actions are central to leading an environmentally ethical life. With the expectation of a large population boom in the next 100 years, if each of us changed our lifestyles, the impact would be immense. Instead of viewing our everyday actions as an insignificant raindrop, we need to transform our thinking so our collective effort can turn a puddle into an ocean. Whether it be sacrificing meat with a primarily plant-based diet, purchasing sustainable products, choosing to walk/bike more, using less hot water, remembering to reduce-reuse-recycle, all our actions are cumulative in restoring and renewing the earth. We could choose to bring our own containers for takeout, eliminating the use for

unsustainable disposables. With the habit of having the AC on during the night, we could implement a timer, so that the AC would automatically turn off after 3 hours, decreasing greenhouse emissions. With the current rise of technology, instead of focusing on developing the next greatest advancement with AI/5G, we can collectively choose to focus on searching for and implementing alternative energy sources, such as solar power, tidal wave power, hydrogen power, algae biofuel power, wind power, etc. We must choose to push forward with creativity and innovation.

Our beautiful home has become maimed by unthinking perpetrators of biodiversity loss: us. Let’s not be the bystanders, but the active “travelers.” It is up to us to recognize the grave consequences of the issue, and step up individually, seeing our actions can be significant to global transformation, halting the coming of a seemingly inevitable disaster.

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