“I try not to let any of that stuff penetrate my sphere of consciousness,” said Mr. Bronfman on a crisp October evening, a few days after a French court ruled that his father would stand trial in Paris on insider-trading charges. He was sitting on the edge of a wicker couch in the dim light of the Bowery Hotel Bar’s back patio with a glass of Malbec and a Winston. Ms. Arulpragasam was across town doing a photo shoot for Vogue.
“If you grew up in New York counterculture, I think it’s relatively easy to filter out all the bullshit,” he continued. “And Maya does such a good job keeping her ship on an intellectual level, keeping it really culture- and art-driven. So I just try not to let it drift too far from shore.”
Their love affair began in December 2007, a few days before New Year’s.
“We met at our mate Simonez’s house on the Lower East Side,” said Mr. Bronfman. “He was a door guy at the Beatrice, I was going there all the time, and he knew Maya from her art school days at Central St. Martin’s in London.”
Mr. Bronfman proposed four months later in San Francisco. He said that ever since “the little one” was born, they’ve been hopping back and forth between their apartments in L.A. and Bed Stuy.
“It’s the best thing in the world,” he said of fatherhood. “I have a whole new crazy profound respect for my parents. I find my conversations are more direct. I think it makes you just—it turns you into a man, you know? It makes you real.”
Mr. Bronfman didn’t care to elaborate on his relationship with Ms. Arulpragasam, who is 34. But what about the wedding? “We’re working on it,” he said. “We haven’t picked an exact date, but it will probably be pretty soon. In New York.”
Ms. Arulpragasam could not be reached for an interview, but told Spin last year: “I’ve always had that fuck-the-system mentality, and his dad is so ‘the system.’ But then, they’re the most liberal family—they bootlegged alcohol, for God’s sake. They’re rich because they threw big, illegal parties, so I don’t mind.”
A FEW YEARS ago, Mr. Bronfman found himself getting depressed about the doom and gloom of climate change.
“We hadn’t talked in a long time, and I remember getting a voice mail from him just being like, ‘I’m starting to understand what’s going on with global warming and it’s really freaking me out!” said Billy Parish, founder of the Energy Action Coalition and Mr. Bronfman’s classmate at Collegiate.
The two friends met up one day for a walk around the Central Park Reservoir. “I felt like the greater environmental picture was always marketed more toward, like, the Dave Matthews crowd,” Mr. Bronfman said. “So I just said to him, ‘What if we could bridge the gap between quote-unquote hipster culture and the environment?’”
The result was Green Owl, an indie record company described on VanityFair.com last year as “Earth’s first green music label.” It focuses on digital releases, sheathes its physical products in 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper, and buys carbon credits to offset its energy use. It has signed four bands to date, including Brooklyn’s the So So Glos and African pop sensation the Very Best.
Mr. Bronfman and his partners are expanding the Green Owl brand into a news and entertainment Web site and sustainable clothing line, which will be overseen by Mr. Bronfman’s younger sister, Hannah. (He said a recent Page Six report that Hannah would be appearing in Tinsely Mortimer’s upcoming reality show was inaccurate.) His older sister, Vanessa, is developing an online talk show to be hosted by their mother, a cultural philanthropist and former actress. (Ben is proud of his interracial roots: Sherry, who is African-American, and Edgar Jr. met through Dionne Warwick in the late ’70s, but divorced in 1991.) His father is on Green Owl’s board.
“It’s a family affair at this point,” said Stephen Glicken, general manager and co-founder.
Back at the Bowery Hotel, Mr. Bronfman opened his silver Mac and pulled up a grainy photograph of himself and Bill Clinton. “The picture’s from my dad’s BlackBerry, so the quality’s kind of shitty,” he said.
They’d met with Mr. Clinton the previous week at the former president’s Harlem offices to explain Global Thermostat’s carbon-capture technology (picture a power plant with a giant, 50-foot window that uses the plant’s excess energy to suck carbon from the atmosphere) and to show him a prototype of the company’s Web site, which the younger Bronfman is building.
“Right now, if I just said, ‘I’m gonna stop everything, stop all imports and exports, shut down all the grids, make us live in complete darkness,’ we’d still be dealing with the same amount of carbon that was emitted today for the next hundred years,” Mr. Bronfman said. “So you’ve gotta be able to stop it, catch it and pull it all the way back. We think we’ve found a way to do that.”
“Ben can move swiftly between beautiful rock music and highly technical concepts,” said Ms. Chichilnisky, who Mr. Bronfman will be assisting at the Copenhagen talks. She added of her protégé’s fiancée: “Maya’s a real sweetheart. She has a message that’s more than music. I think what they represent is unstoppable.”