Essay Contest

This was an essay I submitted for a scholarship. The maximum length allowed was 250 words.

“Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.” These were the words written by Jean-Jacques Rousseau over 200 years ago to describe what he believed as the ubiquity of unjust governments that enslaved all human kind. Unfortunately, these words can be used today to describe a different type of tyranny, one that reigns supreme in determining all of our important actions. This tyranny is none other than the tyranny of financial burden. Most of us might not live under the fist of kings anymore, but our enslavement to monetary necessity is only increasing.

The most cruel facet of this tyranny is the rising cost of education. Just last year the amount of student loan debt outpaced credit card debt and is likely to top a trillion dollars this year. The average student in 2010 who took out a loan left college with $24,000 in debt. Owing that much money before entering the job market is a such an oppressive force on our freedoms. Forget being an artist! Forget being a philosopher! Forget being whatever you always wanted to be if it will not bring you wealth! If you think that you are free, you are greatly mistaken.

I refuse to accept this fate. I will do whatever I can to free myself from the shackles of monetary necessity so that I may spend my life chasing after my dreams and developing my passions. It is for this reason that I would greatly appreciate your assistance.

Second Email to Aubrey de Grey

Dear Aubrey de Grey,

My name is Jason Chen and I emailed you a couple of years ago expressing my support for your work. I recently saw an interview with Ray Kurzweil and it reminded me of your efforts to overcome aging. When I went back and read the email I sent you, I noticed I failed to mention another reason why the overpopulation problem in regards to the usage of natural resources may not be as tragic as many claim.

You may or may not have heard of it, but there's an environmental movement called cradle to cradle. Cradle to cradle is a direct contrast to our current linear design model of cradle to grave which is characterized by taking resources on one end and disposing them on the other. C2C seeks to change this model by creating two closed loops consisting of technical nutrients and biological nutrients. A technical nutrient is a material that can be recycled indefinitely and a biological nutrient is a material that can safely go back into the soil. By eliminating the concept of waste, the problem of overpopulation does not seem as apocalyptic.

Furthermore, great progress has been made in the area of C2C. I should mention that the leaders of this movement are an American architect (William McDonough) and a German chemist (Michael Braungart). Since they've started implementing this movement, they have created a eco label for products simply called Cradle to Cradle certification. Today, there are almost 400 products that have gone through the process and there aren't any signs of this movement stopping. Although none of the products are perfect yet, I still think it's a good sign of the practicality of C2C.

Another sign of progress in this field is the fact that C2C certification is now being given out by a new non-profit called the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute based in San Francisco. Previously, C2C was given out by a private firm which limited the scope of their actions. Now that C2C is in the public sphere, we can now take the certification to scale. One of the main functions of the new non-profit is to train more people to give out the certification.

I'm sorry if I've written too much about this movement, I'm just very passionate about it. I'm happy to say that since I wrote you last time, I've actually started to work for this new non-profit. Our work is extremely interesting and a bit comparable to what you do. You work on the building blocks of people and we work on the building blocks of materials. You work on improving the quality of life through preventing aging, we work on improving the quality of life through preventing resource depletion. It's because of these similarities (and probably my fear of death) that I feel a strange connection with you and your work.

Let's hope that both our endeavors are successful.

Jason Chen