By Ed King
An abdication of political leadership and reliance on broken business models is preventing effective action on climate change, Bob Geldof has told an audience in London.
In an impassioned and often angry address to students from the Hult International Business School, the veteran singer and activist argued a ‘new politics’ is needed to cope in a world where national boundaries are being rendered irrelevant by technology.
And he warned that if politicians fail to tackle extreme poverty and hunger in Africa and China, the world could be trapped in a cycle of price volatility and conflict.
“Be under no doubt that we live in a period of historic cusp,” he said. “This will be talked about in 3-400 years. We’re undergoing and living through not just a crisis within the system but a crisis of the system.
“In that confusion you get a tremendous lack of leadership – it’s because that whole notion of leadership has been usurped. Certainly the web suggests whole other different types of politics and leaderships.
“The political paradigm for the 21st century must be cooperation, consensus, that dreadful word which politicians hate – compromise. If the political logic of the 20th century, that murderous most suicidal century of all time was competition – where else do we go?”.
Speaking to RTCC ahead of his speech Geldof admitted he had been encouraged from meetings with UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who he feels is committed to taking action on world hunger and global warming.
Cameron says the singer’s 1985 Live Aid concert convinced him of the need to support foreign aid spending, and is currently co-chairing a UN panel focused on developing a successor to the Millennium Development Goals, which expire in 2015.
The Prime Minister has also indicated in a film for the enough food IF campaign he will make ending global hunger one of the themes of the UK’s G8 Presidency this year.
Yet in terms of real action, Geldof, whose high-profile status as a hunger campaigner allows him to lobby leaders across the world, says the Prime Minister and his peers are hamstrung by political short-termism and a lack of interest from the public.
“Climate change is one where I don’t doubt his generation, they can see the benefit of change but the cost is so huge in the current climate and we don’t feel climate change. We see it on the news,” he said.
“Humans act not out of self-interest but to the need of the moment. Politicians are just you, and they will act on the political needs of the moment.
“It’s in our interest to spend money now and build a new economy built on alternative energies, but when you can frack the fuck out of the planet and end up crashing carbon rates so they’re back to the 1990s what compulsion is there for you to do more?”.
Geldof also spared some vitriol for the world’s business leaders, who he implied were complicit in global poverty.
He told the audience – the majority of whom were international students – to go against their instincts and ignore huge business gatherings such as the World Economic Forum in Davos, where the business elite gather once a year to talk shop.
“I’ve been to Davos a couple of times and it just struck me how redundant that gab fest is,” he said.
“You get over three days what are supposed to be the minds of our time gathering – to do what?
“To talk about their ideas which have already failed. Every generation fails, it just depends by how much. And I know that mine has failed almost absolutely.
He added: “This world is up for grabs, it’s a fascinating time, it’s entirely plastic and malleable. Make it into what you want it to be. I know that sounds like your inspirational bollocks but it’s possible.”