Yolanda Kakabadse, president of World Wildlife Fund, began her speech on “The Future of Our Planet” with a note of uncertainty.
“The future is no longer what it used to be,” Kakabadse said to a full room in the East Academic Building.
Kakabadse discussed problems facing the sustainability of the planet in her keynote address Tuesday, April 10 at 6 p.m. The speech was one of five events from Monday to Wednesday for Webster’s inaugural Global Leaders in Residence program. The Global Leaders in Residence program seeks to host world leaders in various fields and disciplines to provide real world learning to students.
“She is someone just like me and you that has decided to step out, step up and contribute to making our world a better place,” Greg Stine, president and CEO of Sustain Edge, said. Sustain Edge hosted the event Tuesday night.
Kakabadse noted waste, food, water and energy as the biggest issues to the planet.
“We have to do something to go back to a consumer pattern that keeps us in the path of sustainability,” Kakabadse said.
In developed countries like the United States and Kakabadse’s home of Ecuador, food is not distributed properly, Kakabadse said. Forty-three percent of packaged foods are wasted because of “unnecessary” or “inaccurate” expiration dates. Rather than throw away food that is not actually spoiled, Kakabadse suggested giving it to the needy.
“We, the ones who benefit from wealth, are not caring for those who don’t have an option,” Kakabadse said.
Kakabadse also addressed the issue of the world’s waning supply of clean water, which leads to diseases in underdeveloped nations, as well as the unsustainability of industrial agriculture.
Lastly, Kakabadse discussed the issue of energy and oil dependency. Rather than struggle with nature, Kakabadse said countries should strive to be partners with nature — seeking out alternative energy over oil.
“I pray every day, every week and every month that the prices of oil go so high that none of us will be able to afford it,” Kakabadse said. “That’s the day that we will invest in renewables.”
Lindsey Heffner, president of Webster Students for Environmental Sustainability (WSES), related Kakabadse’s views on energy to WSES’s goals at the Delegates’ Agenda.
“She’s huge. She knows what she’s talking about,” Heffner said. “And she’s reinforcing the idea that we need to be completely off of coal in order to sustain our wildlife, to sustain our human species, to sustain generations to come. I just think that having her here says that Webster is ready for that step. We really just need to, after she’s gone, implement the changes she’s talking about.”
Kakabadse flew to Webster from her home in Quito, Ecuador. The World Wildlife Fund International headquarters is in Geneva, Switzerland. Kakabadse said she was excited to speak at Webster because she doesn’t get the opportunity to speak at colleges as much as she would like.
“I can never talk calmly about these things,” Kakabadse said. “I get excited, I get emotional, I get passionate about all these things because I know it is in our hands.”