Bono joked about being married to Al Gore, then admitted he’s concerned about the marriage of environmentalism and poverty last week.
Bono and Gore spoke together at breakfast panel at the World Economic Forum about the Unified Earth Theory, touting combining combating global warming and eliminating poverty into one strategy to save the future of mankind. Bono and Gore have different takes on what needs to be done.
The awkwardness and contradiction in pairing up Bono and Gore as speakers brought to life the tension of pairing up their causes in a less-than-unified world theory.
The most interesting question asked by host Thomas Friedman went to the rivalry between the two causes.
Bono answered: “If you said that as a result of the earth heating up 10 million children were going to die next year, then you’d read about little else in the newspapers. Well they are going to die next year of extreme poverty, preventable disease, water-born illness, stuff like that. So there’s a little bit of unsettledness.”
Then he rambled on a bit incoherently, and seemed to lose himself in a joke, which then led him into admitting perhaps more than was wise about the economic impact of environmentalism. If you read what he said, you can watch it crash and burn:
“Al Gore is an extraordinary man and he doesn’t confuse zealotry for commitment, and I’ve noticed that, I relaxed a little for that. He’s been around my house, I’m a little bit, you know it’s ‘Here’s the recycler Al’ and ‘It’s a posh car, but it runs on ethanol Al.’ (Al says something about Bono’s kids) Well my wife–it’s like living with Al Gore, sleeping with Al Gore. (Al laughs “There’s your headlines”)It’s not even a professorial things that’s been cited, he’s more sort of rabbinical, or like an Irish Priest, you meet him in the supermarket and confess your sins. And it’s like ‘father Al, I’m not just a noise polluter, I am a noise polluting, diesel-sucking, methane-emitting, Goldstream-flying rockstar. And what are you going to do about it son, are you going to kick the habit? I’m trying father Al, but to be honest with you, you know oil has been very good for me. Those convoys of articulated lorries, petrochemical products, hair gel. There’s that little bit of, then I suppose as you dig a little bit deeper you start to understand that going cold turkey on carbon emissions is a little dangerous. We’ve just seen, with the stock market, you know the prosperity that we’re enjoying is more precarious than we might think, and I like the idea, that’s a horrible thing to say, what I meant to say is climate crisis kinda is where I’m at and I kinda believe in innovation to move away slowly, if this is a bomb, than we dispose of it with careful management and the bomb disposal, and because I remember unemployment in Ireland in the 70s, I just think we’ve just got to be really careful about this. Al describes climate change as an emergency, and if he’s right, than I might have to rethink the way we live, and I don’t want to yet.”
Gore made some sense of Bono’s ramble by saying that it was more up to legislators than citizens to make changes, saying it is less important to change the light bulbs than the laws and treaty obligations. He elaborated on his goal of a binding global contract that combines poverty relief and carbon-pricing by December 2009, for the survival of the human race and the planet. However, while he was convincing of the the need for such a treaty, he made no argument that it would be remotely possible for that to actually ever happen. That struck me as a little bit more self-serving than constructive. (When paired with his comment that none of the candidates for the democratic nomination have a good enough stand on climate change, he seemed like he was telling American’s he told them so back in 2000.)
The pairing of speakers was more effective in the end than it first seemed to be. Despite the conflicts inherent in their idas they managed to riff off each other and efficiently shared the load of speaking for an hour. Maybe that is a good omen for a unified earth.