Before a flourishing commons, exists a tragedy…


The “tragedy of the commons” (William Forster Lloyd, 1833) reveals that individual actions of self-gain from shared resources would eventually destroy the well-being of a society’s commons.  

Undeniably, we are now living this Tragedy—this social paradigm fueled by oblivious and unhindered consumption.

Yet, are we willing to reverse our Tragedy of the Commons?

The real tragedy behind this parable is not about the commons, per se…

Common to the teachings of Greek tragedies, our Tragedy is also one formed by a self-fulfilling prophecy. The fundamental flaw in this consumptive paradigm is the belief that our commons can be commodified. Our physical home on Earth: the land we live on; the air we breath; the water that cleanses; the food that nurtures—and our psycho-spiritual homes: our sense of self-worth; our dignity irrespective of our external wealth—are commodified to give narrative to a false sense of scarcity.


For what purpose?

Maybe only to perpetuate a belief in our collective consciousness that says we are not inherently worthy, and our existence is not innately priceless.

I invite you to consider a paradigm shift.


What if we took an eco-spiritual and self-loving approach to education, place-making, and social-advocacy?

  • Do you feel disheartened by our world’s rising social and political problems?
  • Do you feel secretly oppressed by our world’s hierarchy and systemic challenges?
  • Do you repress your true feelings in the face of increased political correctness, polarized beliefs, and other people’s intolerance of differing opinions because of a deep-seated fear of social abandonment?

If there is any ounce of truth to the questions above, then know that you are not alone. We feel alone in our despair, apathy, repression, etc., because of our collective amnesia to the true meaning of our common home.

The essence of the “spiritual” is the recognition that every element in the universe is interconnected. So despite everything that happens, we are constantly making home (“eco” from Greek oikos) out of our lives on this planet. We all play notable roles in this world.

How “at home” are we in our social roles (as students, educators, designers, environmentalists, advocates etc.)? More importantly, how “at home” are we purely as living entities? It’s time to love ourselves inherently as human beings.


A flourishing commons starts with a paradigm shift of how to BE in the world by . . .

1. Turning knowledge into wisdom


Not all bodies of knowledge are equal in our society. Some knowledge are institutionalized and deemed valid. Some knowledge survive through resistance and stay on the sidelines. Some knowledge have been persecuted out of existence. Lurking beneath our modern world’s concept of objective-scientific knowledge is a fear of not-knowing. This creates a desire to consume more knowledge and a defensiveness to preserve an existing perception of certainty.

This paradigm of knowledge perpetuates insecurity and separateness. On the other hand, knowledge without insecurity is the openness to break through existing perceptions of the world.

We often need first-hand experience to successfully break through old perceptions (because the mind is quite stubborn and textbook learning won’t cut through it).  As we are changed in the process of learning and understanding, we develop greater wisdom.


In a world of narratives that feed insecurity and unworthiness, we make a difference by turning knowledge into wisdom.

2. Tending to our inner and outer landscapes


As the ancient hermetic saying goes, “As above, so below, as within, so without, as the universe, so the soul…” Although ancient wisdom reveals that our inner and outer worlds mirror each, conventional problem-solving approaches to social issues ignore our inherent enmeshment with the world. By treating world conflicts as “problems”, we unknowingly treat ourselves as problems too. We then constantly miss the mark, like a dog chasing its own tail.

Professions like landscape architecture aim to change our outer landscapes. But its entanglement in social paradigms of separateness, problem-making, and identity insecurity limits its potentials.  

As an institutionalized profession, landscape architecture sees the “landscape architect” as a title of status and legality. But as a steward of nature and culture, the “landscape architect” is a sacred archetype of our spiritual, pragmatic, and compassionate service to the world as humans.  


A flourishing commons needs more “landscape architects” (in archetypal form) to tend to our inner and outer landscapes, but will the profession act in defence of its authoritative (in)security or will it open its doors to collective flourishing?

3. Transmuting pain into beauty


Tending our inner landscapes means taking care of unkempt emotions and beliefs. But human civilization has had a long history of aversion towards emotions. We generally avoid painful emotions and displace them with a pursuit for idealized happiness. In spite of this, repressed emotions don’t disappear. Instead, they foster nihilism and aggression. A social world that endorses narratives of scarcity, not-belonging, and unworthiness is deeply wounded. The pain of this wound lives in our collective unconscious.

We heal by witnessing pain with empathy. In-between suffering and healing are poignant moments of awareness, reminding us that there is beauty in learning to be human. To heal our society’s greatest wounds, this beauty inevitably must be greater bigger than society itself. Found in nature—including our own nature—is a kind of faith that we must choose in to flourish.


Consequently, to heal the world and to change it, we need to first love ourselves.

The seed of change starts from each individual.

A Flourishing Commons is a social enterprise with a goal to bring awareness to our collective social-ecological traumas and heal them by nurturing communal reflection, self-love, and conscious decision-making.


I, Van Thi Diep, am the founder behind this venture. As an idealist, empath, and natural-born philosopher, I feel the world deeply and think about my place in the world relentlessly. The human experiences that I have described above, I know them so well: the insecurities, the pain, the wonder, and the innate desire to make the world a better place. I have a PhD in environmental studies and previously practiced as a landscape architect. I am also a Certified Coach Practitioner and a Human Design Specialist. If you find your soul resonating with mine, you can learn more about my story here or consider working with me on one of my services below.

Research and consulting


I take a big picture approach to understanding social and environmental issues. Whether these matters are tangible or intangible (i.e., anything from urban design to climate change, to colonialism and racism etc.), they all originate from a flawed worldview. Deconstructing and re-envisioning our worldview changes narratives of oppression and insecurity to narratives of compassion.

Because our social wounds are collective and intergenerational, we cannot do justice to all this suffering without a heart-based attitude. A heart-based attitude to any project work starts with self-reflection—for both the researcher/organizer and for participants. Using individual and collective storytelling supported by theories in phenomenology (the study of experience) and hermeneutics (the study of interpretation), research and investigative projects can become tools for healing, empowerment, and ethical choice-making.

You can read more about my landscape research here. Or contact me if you’d like to collaborate.

Eco-spiritual coaching


Transformation is a difficult process. Having someone by your side to support you during challenging times of your life journey is beneficial. I am here to support socially and ecologically determined individuals build a spiritual foundation to contribute to mindful and compassionate change.

With a background that spans across the social sciences, environmental ethics, ecopsychology and existential phenomenology, I understand well the challenges that young people face today. Whether you are a graduate student striving to do meaningful research within hegemonic academic traditions or a young professional (in landscape architecture or planning) wanting to push the boundaries of status-quo business practices, at the same time dealing with your share of social-ecological distress, eco-spiritual coaching can give you new perspectives about life and work.

My coaching approach takes into consideration seven important facets of being at home in the world: acceptance, belonging, embodiment, narrative, courage, compassion, and praxis.  

If you want to make change but feel overwhelmed or defeated by society’s problems or your own inner struggles, feel free to contact me for a free information session or click here to learn more.

Facilitation, workshops and teaching


Although flourishing starts as an individual commitment, to collectively flourish, we also need to come together. Stay tuned for group events that I will be organizing. Pending events for early 2022 include:

  • Sharing Circle: Unfolding beauty, overcoming social-ecological despair, and finding belongingness
  • Webinar: Ecopsychology for landscape architects, planners, and those who “make place”
  • Webinar: The hierarchy of knowledge and the destruction of our planet and our world soul
© A Flourishing Commons, 2021