Salvador Gomez-Colon ’21, along with climate activist Greta Thunberg, was selected to attend this year’s World Economic Forum (WEF) as one of the 10 Youth Changemakers representing youth voices from across the world. This is the first year that teenagers have been invited to speak at the WEF, according to the BBC. Gomez-Colon and Thunberg spoke together on a panel entitled “Forging a Path to a Sustainable Future,” alongside women’s rights activist Natasha Wang Mwansa and Canadian Indigenous Rights activist Autumn Peltier.
Gomez-Colon emphasized the importance of youth perspectives and voices in discussions surrounding global politics and change.
“I’ve staked the claim that leaders around the world must be more active in seeking out youth perspectives. The fact that the WEF invited us, 10 teenage changemakers, to the Annual Meeting this year shows that the tide is shifting. Youth perspectives are being heard to higher degrees, and our vision for the future is resonating. As such, I find it very important that youth around the world who want to take action are encouraged to do so, as well as get the opportunities and tools to develop their ideas,” said Gomez-Colon.
According to Gomez-Colon, he was invited due to his humanitarian efforts and climate advocacy. In 2017, Gomez-Colon launched the “Light and Hope for Puerto Rico” campaign[a] and worked to distribute more than 5,000 solar lamps and 3,000 hand-operated washing machines to over 3,500 households in the most-affected communities in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.
Recently, Gomez-Colon and his team have been working to distribute lamps to over 500 households in Grand Bahama after the wake of Hurricane Dorian in 2019, as well as providing humanitarian efforts to the victims of the recent earthquakes in Puerto Rico.
“It’s my social and humanitarian work [that caught their attention], but it is also the activism I have been doing. I have been invited to speak pretty often in conferences about youth resilience, climate advocacy, sustainability. My messaging is a lot about how we can adapt to natural disasters with the increasing frequency and reality of climate change is how we can adapt our society to make it more adaptable and resilient to climate change,” said Gomez-Colon.
Lasting from January 21-24, the WEF Annual Meeting in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, invites the world’s top leaders to participate in discussions on how to improve the state of the world. World leaders such as President Donald Trump, Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres, are also attending the WEF, which has the theme “Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World.” Gomez-Colon was able to have dinner with world leaders including former Vice President Al Gore, renowned scientist Jane Goodall, and Prince Daniel of Sweden.
“My favorite part has most definitely been the closer, more personal interactions with world and business leaders. I had dinner the other night with Al Gore, Jane Goodall, Prince Daniel of Sweden, where I was super inspired and encouraged by their message. Dr. Goodall’s ideas and points were particularly remarkable, as she emanates a wonderful positive energy of pure goodness.” said Gomez-Colon.
He continued, “It’s the 50th anniversary, so it’s not a coincidence that they bring the ten of us, the Ten Youth Changemakers to the Forum. It’s the year they are talking about sustainability. It’s really important that we start looking at the future in a more concrete way. I am really excited to be a part of these meetings and discussions to find tangible ways that we can make the world a better place.”
Leila Hardy ’22 believes that Gomez-Colon’s work in Puerto Rico and the Bahamas deserves to be commended. According to Hardy, the WEF’s decision to include younger people in the discussions demonstrates a change in the organization.
“Like Greta Thunberg, it’s really neat to see younger people being able to make a significant change in the world. Also, it’s really cool that [Gomez-Colon] got to speak at the World Economic Forum because traditionally, they have been leaning to more traditional people and values. In recent years, they have had a shift to more progressive voices and goals, so the fact that they had this panel of young people and Sal got to be on it is a good representation of that,” said Hardy.
The forum was divided into two basic levels of participation: public meetings, such as panels and speeches, and private meetings where a group of no more than 20 people discuss concrete solutions to sustainability issues. According to Gomez-Colon, he participated in private meetings with Former Vice President Al Gore, Goodall, Margot Wallstrom, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden; and other business and government leaders.
“I’m doing two panels and a lot of the community meetings, which are really fun, because you don’t only get an understanding of the public aspect, but also the tangible work. In a lot of cases, there is a lot of talking that happens, but not enough that gets done. That’s the idea behind the forum: having these meetings, especially after we have these public conversations like the panels. We work together in close[d] room sessions to improve the state of our world,” said Gomez-Colon.
On the panel titled “Forging a Sustainable Path towards a Common Future” on Tuesday, Gomez spoke to how he had noticed consistent inaction after meetings like the World Economic Forum, according to “The New York Times”.
This inaction has led youth climate activists like Gomez-Colon to take charge and call for change in their communities.
Gomez-Colon said in an interview with “The Hill,” “We’re [youth climate activists] not waiting five, ten, twenty years to take the action we want to see…we’re not the future of the world, we’re the present. We’re acting now, we’re not waiting any longer.”