The 54th annual gathering of the World Economic Forum (WEF) kicked off in the small Swiss ski town of Davos on Monday amid perhaps the most fraught geopolitical backdrop to date—one involving two major wars in the Middle East and Europe, an unrelenting climate crisis, and untold challenges posed by generative AI and its potential to fuel dis- and misinformation amid an unprecedented election year.

Amid such challenges, the prospect of “rebuilding trust,” as is the theme of this year’s summit, might seem trite. “The world is a mess,” Jane Goodall, the prolific environmentalist and foremost expert on chimpanzees, told TIME CEO Jessica Sibley at the TIME100 dinner on the first night of the summit. It’s a feeling of despair that she says is not new to the climate crisis, noting that even youth in the ’90s were losing hope. “They were telling me that they had lost hope because we had compromised their future and there was nothing they could do,” she says. “We haven’t just compromised their future—we’ve been stealing it, and we’re still stealing it today.”

“We need not just talking,” she says. “We need action.”

The issue of climate change has long been a focus of the annual meeting, and this year’s is no exception. WEF’s 2024 global risk report lists extreme weather events, critical change to Earth systems, and biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse as its top three greatest long-term concerns facing the world over the next decade. In the week leading up to the summit, 2023 was revealed to be the hottest year on record, according to the world’s major scientific weather monitoring bodies, overtaking 2016’s record by a large margin.

Still, Goodall believes there is still time to turn things around. “But only if we take action now,” she says. For her part, that means telling stories that reach those with the power to make substantive change not just at their heads, but at their hearts. It’s a distinction that separates Goodall with younger generations of climate activists, many of whom have taken a more confrontational approach to compelling urgent climate action. Indeed, during last year’s summit, Greta Thunberg and other young climate campaigners called out Davos delegates for being at the “very core of the climate crisis.”

But as Goodall sees it, maintaining hope is essential to compelling action. “Because if you don’t have hope,” she says, “you give up, you become apathetic, and you do nothing. And if we all do nothing, especially the young people, we’re doomed. So why do you think I’m still traveling the world 300 days a year aged 90?”

Read More: The Enduring Hope of Jane Goodall

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore echoed that urgency, warning that the world has become “voluntarily enslaved” to the fossil fuel economy, to the peril of the world’s biodiversity that those such as Goodall have dedicated their lives to protecting. “We hear the word ‘polycrisis’ thrown around now,” Gore told attendees, referencing the buzzword that came to define last year’s WEF summit. “Solving the climate crisis is a polysolution that will help us solve a wide range of crises, and we need inspiration.”

Here are some of the other biggest moments from the TIME100 Davos Dinner.

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy on “the few who are lighting the way for many”

Amid these challenging times, the Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy spoke of finding hope in the stories of women in her native Pakistan—among them a teacher who stood between militants and her students and a pioneer who formed the first all-female jirga, a traditional forum for resolving conflicts that has traditionally been reserved for men, in a bid to amplify women’s voices. “What gives me hope are the few who are lighting the way for many,” she told attendees; it’s those, she says, “who are working in light so that the rest of us who are seeing darkness can walk in their path.”

Cindy McCain urges greater action on hunger

Among the myriad of crises facing the world today, diplomat and executive director of the World Food Programme Cindy McCain spoke about the urgency of addressing the world’s unprecedented hunger crisis. Fueled by conflicts and climate shocks, WFP estimates that as many as 783 million people are facing chronic hunger. “We talk a great game … but more importantly, what do we do?” McCain asked before paying tribute to her late husband, the former U.S. Sen. John McCain. “He believed that people had a right to food. He believed that people had a right to dignity and honor. Those are the things that we work for. That’s why we’re here.”

Emtithal (Emi) Mahmoud on “walking the line between hope and despair”

The Sudanese poet and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, Emi Mahmoud, who last year lost seven family members to the ongoing conflict in Sudan, recited a poem dedicated to the matriarchs of her family, titled Mama.



TIME100 Davos Dinner was sponsored by Deloitte and SOMPO.

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