Rohan Agrawal at the Committee on World Food Security Conference in October 2019. (Dan Reed/PlanetForward.org)
CFS46 reflections: Rohan Agrawal
“What do you want to do in life?” Frank Sesno asked casually.
“I want to solve climate change!” I said in a jet-lagged voice, hoping to entice laughter from him.
I could not help but wonder, why would someone be interested in hearing more about solving global issues through science and technology?
I had impatiently waited to attend the Committee on World Food Security in Rome for the past four months. Little did I know that I was about to step inside a place that would dramatically change my perspective on global issues that I am so passionate about solving, and give me a new hope to address them through the lens of technology.
As I stepped foot in the plenary hall on the first day of the conference, I felt myself being surrounded by the world. While hearing the diplomats speak on their country’s plans for action to combating global hunger, I could witness the power dynamics in the room. I realized what the former President of the General Assembly, Maria Fernanda Espinosa, meant when she explained in one of her speeches that I attended on why things don’t always work the way they are supposed to at the United Nations.
It was heartwarming to see a plethora of side events on addressing malnutrition and climate change by leveraging technological innovations. After one of these sessions, I had the amazing honor and opportunity to interact with the keynote speaker, the First Lady of Colombia, María Juliana Ruiz Sandoval, and interview her about Colombia’s plans for enhancing their technical resiliency to engage more youth. It was a pleasure to see Dr. Jeffrey Sachs present live on the Sustainable Development Goals and hear his perspective on solving these issues.
I could not have been more astonished by the humility and the willingness to engage in discussions of all the leaders, diplomats, and presenters I had the chance to interact with. I connected with people that are currently using Data Science and AI to solve climate change and fight global hunger. To save a life.
Most importantly, I had the great pleasure of spending the week with an incredible team of individuals from across the United States. Answering Frank’s curiosity every evening at dinner made me think about topics that I had never given enough thought to. Sharing my love for pop music and Taylor Swift with Marisa was a heartfelt moment. Walking the streets of Rome with Lindsay and Matilda made the experience only more memorable. Going into a bar and ordering “chocolate-flavored” milk with “my man” Dan was a moment I’m sure both of us will share with our grandchildren. Running into my biggest celebrity crush, Alexandra Daddario, on the streets of Rome and talking about her for the rest of the night to Kim, Ahdi, and Edona.
At the end of it all, I finally realized that “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and “All roads [do] lead to Rome.” All I know is, if given a chance, I would come back to this place in a heartbeat.