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Inventing a Sustainable Future for Latin America

Luis Aguirre-Torres is the founder and CEO of GreenMomentum and Cleantech Challenge México, two organizations created with the purpose of promoting, developing and implementing clean technology, as well as green Jobs, in Latin America. During the past three years, he has overseen the execution of several region-wide programs that seek to promote the development, licensing and transferal of clean technology.

The future has always been far away. Ever since I was a child, I remember thinking about the future as a very distant event. I remember thinking that the future would be different and, in one word, better than whatever the present was for me back then.

Today, I realize I live in the future, just not the future I wanted for my family, my children and the people I care about. I realize the future I live in is a future I contributed to create mostly by not doing much about it.

Granted, the world we live in has been marred by a series of unfortunate events, some caused by us, some not. In the last ten years alone we’ve had perhaps the worst financial crisis the world has seen in 80 years, as well as a series of crises relating to the lack of or uneven distribution of natural resources, including water, food and oil. And most recently, climate change. The problem is not necessarily the amount of damage caused by these crises, but rather the long term, and even irreversible, effects they could have.

The financial crisis of 2008 served as a wakeup call for the entire planet. The effects of the crisis were felt all over the world, especially in developing countries. It was a moment in which we had to decide whether to pursue the same goals that had brought us to this point, or to change the ways we think about the economy, the environment, technology and society. That is, we were at a cross roads where we needed to decide what kind of future we wanted for ourselves, our children and the entire world.

It was then when my partners and I saw an opportunity to promote change. We saw a way of promoting a new way of thinking. We saw an opportunity to re-invent the future.

There was so much to do. We wanted to provoke a cultural change, we wanted to promote the responsible use of technology, we wanted to promote the creation of new opportunities for those in search of a job or a better life conditions, we wanted to bring government and the civil society together, we wanted to make sure the available money would find its way to those who wanted to be part of this change.

We couldn’t do everything. However, we realized we could bring together the people who could make all this happen. We did. We created a forum in which we brought together governments, development agencies, financial institutions, civil society, universities, private capital firms and all those people with not only ideas but with serious intentions to change the world. We then issued a challenge to those involved to make it happen and to make it happen fast. We challenge them to innovate, to create, to find a way of bringing change in the shape of applicable and responsible technology, in the form of funding, in the form of green jobs, in the shape of new small and medium enterprises.

The results were amazing. We managed to create more than 1,000 jobs, to give shape to more than a hundred new enterprises, to promote the development of local technology, to distribute private capital and to bring government money closer to those who needed it to, simply put, create.

We became a viable forum for those who wanted to be part of this. We effectively and successfully managed to convince a small part of the population to make a move in a new direction, that is, in the direction of a new green and responsible way of looking at the world and technology. We convinced them that the future is not passive but rather a direct result of our actions or lack thereof. We began three years ago reinventing the future for ourselves, for our families and the rest of the planet. The thing is, this is the tip of the iceberg. We still have so much work to do.

Luis Aguirre-Torres is CEO of GreenMomentum and Cleantech Challenge México