From negative tipping points to positive tipping points

I attended the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2023 in Davos, Switzerland, as part of the youth delegation of Arctic Basecamp. Arctic Basecamp is a fantastic group of experts and scientists dedicated to bringing science to power. We sleep in a tent in Davos; it’s -15°C outside, but we have the best equipment to keep warm, and we wake up every morning with the nicest view of the mountain.

Arctic Basecamp at the WEF 2023 © Ed Henderson.

There is no doubt that the WEF accelerates business as usual, but it also reflects new trends that are more interesting for the future. The voice of scientists at the WEF supports business efforts that benefit to people, society, and the planet. Professor Gail Whiteman, co-founder of Arctic Basecamp, gave an important talk “Unpacking the Polar Crisis” showing the growing number of negative tipping points around the planet (6:00-8:00 min) with H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco, Johan Rockström, and Aslak Holmberg.

Professor Gail Whiteman, “Unpacking the Polar Crisis”, Congress, WEF 2023

The coffee machine is often recognised to be the most important place in a business. In Davos, the SDG tent was a very nice coffee machine. Surprisingly, I got an unanticipated enthusiasm by going there day after day. You go to these elegant dinners while dressed in your alpine gear. You’re the younger one. People are intrigued and begin to approach you. You meet people you weren’t supposed to have met or people you would never have met otherwise. Excellent timing! We are in the process of scaling up the research of the ExCiteS group thanks to support from the European Space Agency (ESA) received just before the start of the WEF.

“Climate Solutions in a Critical Decade” with Hui Bing Lim, Amalia Garcez, Fabien Moustard, Arthi Ramachandran and Gail Whiteman, SDG tent, WEF 2023 © Ed Henderson.

To expand science-based innovation, the realms of scientific research and sustainable business must intersect. Speaking as a young scientist to businesspeople seated at the same table in the SDG tent at the WEF is a good starting point. We discuss the necessity of capturing value rather than creating value, and hence the importance of focusing on character rather than competencies, choices rather than decisions, and outcomes rather than incomes. Such improvements are crucial to establish positive tipping points in order to counterbalance the global spread of disastrous negative tipping points. Extreme Citizen Science-based innovation has the potential to generate hundreds of positive tipping points by supporting 700 million people living in extreme poverty to address the SDGs.

To be more specific about our innovation, here’s a comparison: we do not address SDG1 (no poverty) by sending cash to poor people, but we pay poor people to address all the SDGs. We do not monitor the Earth from space with hundreds of sensors (satellites), but we support the monitoring of the Earth from the ground, where billions of sensors (people) live. Over the past 10 years and in 12 countries, with €4M public research grants, we have demonstrated that this is possible.

Fabien Moustard interviewed at the WEF 2023, by Hub Culture Studio.

Intense life. Jumping from Davos to Zurich to go ice climbing with a long-time friend mountain guide, who is also a glaciologist at the ETH Zurich (see the 2022 first ascent of the Pumari Chhish), before returning to London to attend AI for the environment seminars at UCL Biosciences, traveling to Paris to present Extreme Citizen Science at the Learning Planet Festival (LPI) with Professor Muki Haklay UCL Geography, prior to give a lecture on conservation and the relationships between indigenous people and park rangers of the Congo Basin at UCL Anthropology, submit grant applications, meet philanthropists, etc. Things are picking up speed. It’s fantastic!

Fabien Moustard (left © Ed Henderson; right © Christophe Ogier)

Thank you to Arctic Basecamp team for your important work!


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