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Director's Desk Video Series

Welcome to Director’s Desk!

A video series from Center Director Dr. Michael Mortimer is available now on our YouTube channel

Flamenco is one of many "authentic" cultural experiences tourists seek in Catalonia and other parts of Spain, while the dance originated in Andalusia.

Whether we are talking about objects, experiences, or personality traits, authenticity tends to rank highly for most people. What is it about authenticity that makes it so important to us and what does it mean in the context of our increasingly simulacrum lives? Heartened by the recent COVID vaccination progress in the U.S., Dr. Mortimer explores our reasons for traveling and the topic of cultural authenticity, using the example of his favorite city in the world—Barcelona, Spain.

Michael Mortimer describes luxury and its purpose.
A 1957 Leica was good enough for the Queen.

Would you pay thousands of dollars for a camera that doesn’t fit in your pockets or make phone calls? Using the example of an iconic 1957 Leica, Dr. Michael Mortimer explores the concept of sustainable luxury: its role as a harbinger of what’s to come in technological advances and people’s behavioral changes, and the resources required to produce luxury goods, services, and experiences. It might come as a surprise that, in the long run, some luxury goods are significantly more sustainable than the mass-produced, less expensive alternatives.

Michael conducts a thorough taste test.
Michael conducts a thorough taste test.

Whether it’s car ownership, air travel, or the convenience of takeout, we all enjoy something that carries a negative environmental impact. In Episode 3 of Director’s Desk, Dr. Michael Mortimer talks about one of the least sustainable food choices people can make: the consumption of beef. Compared to other sources of protein necessary for a balanced diet, beef levies a heavy toll on the planet’s resources. In this segment, Michael explores beef alternatives with the help of his partner in the couple’s kitchen and invites viewers to examine their own sustainability hypocrisies.

Michael explores educational value of video games.
Michael explores educational value of video games.

“Video games are not just a means to while away the time during COVID. They can be a powerful means for conveying really complex ideas and they help people think through how to solve problems,” says Center Director Dr. Michael Mortimer. In Episode 2 of his new video series, Director’s Desk, Michael shares his own personal experiences with video gaming for facilitating dialogue on highly complex sustainability issues, like climate change.

Michael introduces Environmental Security, an emerging field of study and a focus of major new academic initiatives at Virginia Tech.
Michael introduces Environmental Security, an emerging field of study and a focus of major new academic initiatives at Virginia Tech.

The concept of environmental security is gaining momentum in many seemingly unrelated fields like climate science, national security, and public health. “The idea [of environmental security] is about five decades old, yet there is still much debate about what the term actually means,” says Center Director Dr. Michael Mortimer. In the inaugural episode of his new video series, Michael shares his perspective on what Environmental Security means and elaborates on how our College and Virginia Tech are approaching this topic. (New Master’s degree spoiler alert at 6:49.)