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Poor missing from economic ideas of progress - Geldof

Sir Bob Geldof said on Friday that economic progress is currently defined as growth, which is 'a polite euphemism for more'. Photo: Eirik Helland Urke, Flickr/Zero Emission Resource Organization.Bob Geldof has warned the world faces ‘a perfect storm’ of food insecurity, climate change and overpopulation unless ideas of progress are changed.

Speaking at the EuroScience Open Forum in Dublin, Geldof praised the wonder of science but questioned how it is applied in developing countries.

“We have yet to map the poor, how they mange to survive. We have yet to bring them into a world that would be better for all of us,” he said.

In a wide-ranging speech, he said scientific discoveries come from the human need to know but stressed government donations to centres like CERN could mean reduced funding for fighting poverty.

Geldof said while scientists and others ponder the great questions, more than 50 per cent of the world’s population ask if they will survive the day.

Drawing on an analogy familiar to many Irish people in the international audience, he said: “It is not all rooted in the stars, it is in the gutter with the rest of us.”

Showing awareness of the latest scientific discoveries, he said he wouldn’t question large donations to scientific organisations but asked people to remember child malnutrition has life-long repercussions.

“We have been hijacked by the idea of progress. In an economic sense progress is defined as growth, which is a polite euphemism for more,” he said.

Geldof challenged the audience, many of whom were scientists, to take action and disregard prejudice. To laughter from the crowd he acknowledged this could be seen as  ‘hippy’ but he said this was a much older idea and a necessary one.  

“Some people say there is nothing left to discover, but going forward should not be confused with progress. We have to involve the world in solving this asymmetry (in the world) where people can barely live, should we not bring them into the economic model?”

The event was chaired by Tom Arnold, CEO of Concern Worldwide.

ESOF2012 continues on Saturday and Sunday at the Convention Centre Dublin.

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