Oskar Metsavaht, a man of many talents: fashion designer, creator, filmmaker, artist, entrepreneur… the list is long, the talents are diverse.
We have arranged to meet Oskar Metsavaht at one of the small beachfront cafés on Arpoador Beach, where we find him sitting on the terrace gazing out at the waves and the quiet ocean beyond. As soon as we introduce ourselves he leaps up with a big smile and warmly shakes our hands. “Welcome, have a seat, come and enjoy the view!” he says with a broad gesture.
“Congratulations on your new UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador title!” says Anouk, as we sit down.
Oskar recently received the honorary title of UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for his work on sustainable development and social inclusion. And he is in good company: former UNESCO ambassadors include personalities such as former South African President Nelson Mandela, Spanish soprano Montserrat Caballé and French musician Jean Michel Jarre.
“It’s an honour to have received such a title,” he says with a modest smile, “but you know, what is most important now is how I use it – if I can use it to show the world that sustainability is the future and that Brazil can lead the way towards the sustainable lifestyle, then I will be one step closer to reaching my goal.”
As he talks, the waiter brings us two lattes and an espresso for Oskar. “So tell us more about your vision for a sustainable future – what would that look like?” asks Anouk.
“It is all about what I call the ‘Brazilian Soul’,” he says. “This is what I think we Brazilians can really bring to the world: the energy of our people and our natural resources.” Oskar believes that the ‘Brazilian Soul’ has the potential to be one his country’s key assets on the international stage – Brazil’s premier export product. “Every region has its strength,” he says, waving his hand towards the ocean. “The US stands for entertainment, Europe for culture and luxury brands, India for spirituality and Asia for technology.”
He pauses and takes a sip of his espresso. “And Brazil? Brazil has nature: rainforests, water, rare plant and animal species, minerals… a huge wealth which too many of us don’t properly appreciate,” he points up the coast towards the Amazon Rainforest that lies 3,000 kilometres northwest of us. “Preserving this wealth is the mandate we have been given.”
“So how are you going to make that happen – do you think people are aware that this is your country’s mandate?” I ask. Oskar raises two fingers and says decisively: “We have two options: exporting raw materials as we’ve been doing for the past five centuries, or creating value by taking care of our natural resources and ensuring sustainability.”
He pauses and looks at us to make sure we understand the weight attached to each of these choices. “So you’re saying that Brazil is at a crossroads – it is a choice between further exploitation or preservation?” “Exactly, that’s it,” he says.
“I think I can guess what you think the right path is for Brazil: using the Brazilian soul to promote a sustainable way of life.” “Exactly,” Oskar answers with a twinkle in his eyes. “This is why I created instituto e, a non-profit organisation based here in Rio that promotes sustainable human development,” he continues.
“The aim is to make sustainability cool: too many people continue to associate sustainability with woolly jumpers and saving the birds and the bees.”
Read more: Oskar Metsavaht – “Make sustainability cool”
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