Bono Embraces 'Inner Nerd' in Fight Against Poverty

U2 singer presents facts and figures at Ted talk in California

February 27, 2013 11:25 AM ET

Bono put aside his rock stardom to focus on global poverty at a Ted talk in California yesterday, where he joked that he was giving up his "usual tricks" to focus instead on "evidence-based activism," the Los Angeles Times reports. 

"Forget the rock opera, forget the bombast, my usual tricks," said the U2 singer. "The only thing singing today will be the facts. I have truly embraced my inner nerd. Exit the rock star. Enter the evidence activist. The 'factivist.'"

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He didn't disappoint, bringing slides stuffed with statistics that he said showed progress that various anti-poverty initiatives have achieved more than a decade. Since 2000, eight million AIDS patients have received retroviral drugs, malaria deaths have dropped by 75 percent and the mortality rate of children under five has been cut by 2.65 million deaths a year. "It's great news, and it drives me nuts most people don't know this," said Bono.

Bono kept the slides coming, pointing out extreme poverty declined from 43 percent in 1990 to 33 percent in 2000 to 21 percent by 2010. Despite the improvements, Bono still finds the rate too high. "If you live on less than $1.25 a day, this is not just data. This is everything," he said. "If you're a parent who wants the best for your kids, and I am, this rapid transition is a route out of despair and into hope."

The singer said that if poverty continues falling at the same rate, it would reach zero by 2030. "That's the zero zone," Bono said. "For numbers crunchers like us, that's the erogenous zone. It's fair to say I'm sexually aroused by the collating of data."

While he's optimistic for the future, he said there's not as much time as there seems. "We can't get this done until we accept that we can get this done. Inertia is how we screw this up. Momentum is how we bend the arc of history down towards zero," he said, joking that 2030 is "only three Rolling Stones farewell concerts away."

Bono also encouraged the audience to get involved with him and others working to combat extreme poverty, paraphrasing former Google engineer Wael Ghonim, who used social media to great effect during the Eyptian uprising in 2011.

"We're going to win because we don't understand politics," Bono said. "We're going to win because we don't play their dirty games. We're going to win because we don’t have an agenda. We're going to win because the tears that comes from our eyes actually come from our hearts. We're going to win because we have dreams. We're going to win because we are willing to stand up for our dreams."

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