OPINION: Al Gore at Dreamforce: renew or perish

Al Gore pleads his case for the Big Blue Marble

“The nightly news looks like the Book of Revelations,” said Al Gore in his keynote at Dreamforce last month in San Francisco, as mobile phone footage of floodwaters ripping through houses played on giant video screens. “For 150 years, we assumed our resources were unlimited. But now we face unanticipated problems.”

Gore, whose non-government CV includes a Nobel prize along with Emmy and Grammy Awards, now serves as senior statesman for climate change awareness and action. He inspired and featured in the now-famous documentary An Inconvenient Truth, which won the 2006 Academy Awards for Best Documentary Feature. But Gore's focus on the environment has deeper roots—his 1992 book “Earth in the Balance” was a New York Times best-seller.

His message at Dreamforce: the planet has a problem, but technology related to renewable energy will help. Gore has evangelized since before the Kyoto Protocol (remember that?) and has seen the changes since. When I saw him speak at the All Things D conference in Hong Kong in 2011, he briefly described what climate change means in terms of tropical storms—precisely what occurred this year in the Atlantic with Hurricane Florence and in the Pacific with Typhoon Mangkhut.

The 2018 version has more data, charts, trends, and of course fiendish footage of oceanic storms tearing havoc through landed dwellings. “I get footage like this every day,” he said at Dreamforce. “This was in Tunisia yesterday...you know things are bad when floodwaters come OUT of someone's home,” he said, as scenes of rushing brown water sending cars tumbling like toys played on the screens.

Salesforce presented the perfect platform for Gore to appear this year. The CRM giant announced a tie-up with Apple at Dreamforce 2018 and Gore is a member of Apple's Board of Directors. In 2000, Salesforce founder Marc Benioff “established the 1-1-1 model,' whereby the company contributes one percent of the product, one percent of equity, and one percent of employee hours back to the communities it serves globally,” according to Wikipedia. “More than 700 companies have adopted the 1-1-1 model through the Pledge 1% movement.”

How many of those 700 companies are in Hong Kong? Zero, as far as I can tell. We do have the “Caring Company” scheme which allows for private firms to cooperate with local NGOs, but you can't beat the quantifiable metrics of Benioff's 1-1-1 model. Salesforce takes that commitment seriously and has more than one chief philanthropy officer on staff. This CSR pledge hasn't damaged the company's bottom line—this year, the firm opened Salesforce Tower, the tallest building on San Francisco's seismically sensitive skyline.

Renewable tech
Gore's keynote presented the damning case of climate change today, then switched to hopeful trends—specifically, technologies that produce renewable energy such as wind and solar. A pair of charts showed that the world's most populous nations—China and India—are ramping up infrastructure investment in solar panels and wind generators. Gore said that renewable energy is more affordable than ever before: “Renewable wind and solar [infrastructure] is seeing the same drop we saw in silicon chips: prices dropping, and output rising,” he said.

The situation is still unstable, but advances in technology give the human race a better chance of leaving a more habitable planet for future generations. “Jobs in solar energy are growing nine times faster than the US economy,” said Gore.

“Our way of thinking is narrow-focus—we must rethink growth itself,” he said. “Our resources at risk: dirt and water, our biodiversity.” The man who's been part of this movement since he was a Tennessee senator wrapped up his keynote with a call to arms for all present.

“I want to recruit all of you,” he said.


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