We spoke with debate moderator Weza Bombo João, who is now setting up a sustainable goldsmithing business with a blockchain tracking system in Switzerland, having studied Climate Solutions Management, International Law and International Management at the University of St. Gallen, to get his expectations for the event.
You will be at the Estoril Conferences to talk about sustainability and will moderate the debate entitled "The Earth is speaking: now or never". Is this the tipping point for change?
I have always been fascinated with the Human species. Looking back to History, Homo Sapiens has always been capable of overcoming and adapting to tough situations in life. As an optimist, I think that we might also overcome the tragic environmental catastrophe we are heading to.
I also think that the real question is if where we are heading is really understood by everyone. We are living in a climate emergency and biodiversity collapse. We keep pretending that business as usual and incremental changes will be enough. So yes, I would say that right now is the tipping point for change and the way we are living. Mother Earth is definitely speaking to us!
In your opinion, what will happen if we continue to walk this path and maintain business as usual? Do we still have time to change?
With my study background and practical work, working at Ernst and Young and helping businesses to decarbonize their core activities: I see the transition and we still have time to change. We might not get back to how it once was, because we are definitely going to feel, see and experience the change. The danger relies in the cascading catastrophes (sea level rise, extreme wheater events, vector borne diseases, displacement of people, economic inequality, international local conflicts, mortality, state fragility) and we definitely can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.
Do you believe that today’s youth are more aware and motivated to solve Humanity’s Grand Challenges?
I wouldn’t say that older generations are not taking the global biggest threat as seriously as the younger generation. Once you study and deepen your understanding of climate change, you can see, feel, and understand that brilliant scientists and economists highlighted what’s happening and coming decades ago. Our generation knows just better how to spread a message and cascade it down to the rest of society for a certain event, with the help of social media.
You have been working for some time in the areas of sustainability and decarbonization. Do you think they have the tools needed to act now? If not, what is missing?
We have tools available for decarbonization and the transition to more renewable energy. Wind turbines, for example, nowadays are very cheap investment wise. We are moving towards more sustainable products, which also leads to more awareness, and at the economical level, we have created different carbon markets, which definitely added positive value, but still has his weaknesses. I read one time that there is no empirical evidence that absolute decoupling resource use can be achieved against the background of continued economic growth, which underlies that our current economic system need to change. Also, as an international law student, I would say that policymaking is the only powerful tool to accelerate the transition. Regarding behavior, many things can be adjusted with efficient policymaking.
Is the climate movement accessible to all? If not, how can we make it so?
I think that this is one of the most fascinating questions that I also ask myself every time. I would say that we have to ensure that big corporations are going to stop emitting greenhouse gases, countries must consider their historical emissions and how raising awareness so that everybody understands climate change and views the action as a common purpose. In our panel of discussion, we can inspire other people. I believe that if we even inspire one person in that room, it is a home run for the future. If that person or that group of people is considering if they should be consuming something, buying something, or best-case scenario building something before doing it, that will be amazing and this is already an action and access to the climate movement. Either you accept the inconvenient truth, trying to challenge the system and participate in building a fairer world (and not always better world – why is a just good world not enough?) or you just continue benefiting from the status quo.
You will have the opportunity to discuss this topic with speakers from indigenous communities. What are your expectations for this talk?
What I am expecting is an emotional debate because I think that's how we are going to touch the audience. Also, looking back at my family, in Angola, they are exactly experiencing what we are going to talk about - no land rights and experiencing the consequences of climate change such as draughts, and hweat waves. They are being impacted by climate change and I see how their lives are changing because of that. So, I do expect an emotional debate and that we can inspire people.
Do you believe we can put some of this wisdom into action to try to solve the current challenges we face?
Definitely. I'm not saying that I hope and expect that everybody is going to build the next sustainable venture, but, as I mentioned before, if we can touch people and make them critically think about it, it is a win.
I'm really looking forward to participating in this joint talk. Of course, we may be flying all to get there and impact climate change, but events like this are a space of inspiration. And I think that it compensates for the impact we can create in our daily lives.
Furthermore, I have been studying sustainable-related topics for nearly four years, and I would say that education helped me to understand climate change. If I wouldn’t go to St. Gallen University, and wouldn’t have some of the courses, I’m honest, maybe I wouldn’t focus that on climate change. I think that education and awareness are really important and needed. I do understand people not taking climate change seriously – we all have different problems and priorities in our daily lives.