Al Gore vs capitalism

The former US vice president calls upon today's business leaders to 'solve the ecological crisis'.

by Rebecca Burn-Callander, Lisbon
Last Updated: 10 Nov 2017

'I want to recruit you,' former US vice-president Al Gore told the assembled entrepreneurs at the Web Summit, a technology conference held in Lisbon. 'I want to talk about what we can do together to get the world headed back in the right direction.'

Capitalism, in its current form, is failing both people and planet, Gore claimed.

'I come to you today at a time when many people are worried about the state of our world,' he said. 'Our economic system is not fit for purpose. We need some serious reforms to capitalism that bring sustainability and the environment into the equation.'

The star of climate change film An Inconvenient Truth said that while many politicians seemed hell-bent on destroying the world, business leaders, technologists and inventors were dreaming up sustainable solutions to many of the world’s problems.

'Technologists and web experts are playing a key role,' he said. 'Look at the world of technology – look at energy. We have seen the same kinds of cost-down curves that astonished the world in previous decades with computer chips and TVs. Those efficiencies are now happening with solar, wind energy, and electric vehicles. There are too many efficiency improvements to mention.'

But he said that more work must be done to save future generations from 'degradation and despair'.

'The next generation will look back asking: what did you do, didn’t you see what Mother Nature was screaming?' he said. 'Don’t let anybody tell you that we’re going to get on rocket ships and live on Mars – this is our home.'

Gore made special mention of the UK, and the nation's vote to leave the European Union, in his keynote address. 'Brexit,' he said. 'What a dumb mistake for the UK to make.' He claimed that the winning flourish from the Leave campaign was an image featuring -mostly - climate change refugees. 'I could go on describing the scale of political disruption if we do not get a handle on this climate crisis.' 

Gore promised there is funding available for start-ups that provide sustainable alternatives to energy-guzzlers. 'I want you to know there is a growing market for the kind of initiatives that many of you have laboured long and hard to bring to fruition,' he said. 'There is growing interest from investors who care about more than making a quick buck, and want to create a bright, prosperous and sustainable future.'

In 2004, Gore launched London-based Generation Investment Management to funnel capital into fast-growth firms with a sustainability bent. He, and co-founder David Blood, formerly of Goldman Sachs, have backed an electric bus company, an electric scooter start-up, and a business bringing solar energy to east Africa.

'There are an increasing number of investors who come to gatherings like this to meet with young entrepreneurs and business teams that are using their knowledge and skills in technology to advance [the shift towards electric vehicle] forward,' Gore said.

Web Summit, now in its seventh year, attracted an estimated 60,000 people from around the world.

'Our world is now in the early stages of a sustainability revolution that has the magnitude of the industrial revolution but the speed of the digital revolution, powered by AI and machine learning,' Gore said. 'A lot of the technology being developed by men and women in this auditorium, that will make a huge difference.'

Image credit: Kasey Baker/Wikipedia

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