Can money buy you hope and happiness during the storms of climate and ecological crises?

News | Posted on Thursday 15 June 2023

PhD student Hien Luong reflects on how he became a researcher at the University of York and how he aims to bring together the disparate worlds of nature conservation and money from the Financial Markets.

Life can be hard some of the time. For some, life is one hard experience followed by another. One challenging experience I would like to share with you was back in 2008; I was sitting at my desk on a large former trading floor for an investment bank called Lehman Brothers.

A former trading floor at Lehman Brothers had just filed for bankruptcy a few days before and I was pondering what to do next and asked myself what now? I enjoyed maths and biology and I felt that I should do something to help fight climate change and help save the animals and plants on our planet, no matter how small the contribution.

Whilst scrolling through a list of potentially rewarding jobs offering experiences that would offer challenges and rewards, I came across a position for a Treasurer's role at a charity called Buglife.

Buglife turned out to be a great charity with some incredible individuals but at that point in my life, I knew next to nothing about Buglife including what they stood for, who they were and how I could help them.

I spent the next 13 years volunteering as a trustee which included meeting staff on the ground performing fieldwork at a local community level to advocacy meetings at the Houses of Parliament, 10 Downing Street and Holyrood and visits to Clarence House.

Little did I know then that after 13 years of volunteering as a trustee I had created a platform to move onto another charity called Plantlife; which led onto a scholarship to start a PhD with the aim of bringing together the disparate worlds of nature conservation with money from the Financial Markets. 

Can money buy you hope and happiness when the world around us is showing the stresses and strains of our collective actions? In this case, happiness isn’t the absence of bad experiences but to endeavour to overcome these obstacles. Overcoming in the sense of learning a tiny bit of wisdom and growing a little bit through experiences from the challenges of daily life. 

Daily life in the sense that I hope my research at the University of York will sit on top of previous academic and field work on how best to finance the prevention of biodiversity loss through researching possible solutions (usually in an incremental manner) on a local community level. Along with the ability to leverage to help solve climate change and biodiversity loss throughout the UK, and to learn and provide hope from a trial to replicate throughout the European Union and our planet. 

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