Live Earth – A Boon or a Debacle for Global Warming Awareness?

The Main Event this weekend is the much ballyhood Live Earth concerts. For those that do not know, Live Earth is a series of worldwide concerts to be held tomorrow, July 7th – all 24 hours of it. Concert locations include New York, London, Sydney, Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo, Shanghai, Johannesburg, and Hamburg. In the same vain as Live Aid from the 80”s and Live8 from the 90’s, Live Earth is the brainchild of producer Kevin Wall and author/activist/former-vice-president Al Gore.

It’s going to be quite the production, and as anything Al Gore is involved with, it has that familiar buzz of controversy about it (poor Al, it really isn’t his fault); some warranted (that of hypocrisy – even if unintended –  and naivete), and some not. Like the comment on a blog I read while researching this post from a guy who, typically and ever so brilliantly (not), descended immediately into a vague threat against liberals who “only wanted to save trees” and “didn’t care about people” (“watch out for my chain saw ya’ freaks”), going on to make his bizarre case in defense of the Iraq war. As if one’s opinions about environmental issues, especially global warming, necessarily has anything at all to do with Saddam Hussein and the Iraq War… HUH?!

Normally I would bite my tongue and let a blog comment such as this pass; after all, it was built on an enormously flawed argument, said nothing of real value, and showed an appalling lack of knowledge about the issue he was supposedly talking about (that is, global warming; though it was unclear whether he had any searing insight into the war in Iraq either).

But if you’ll indulge me, I have a point here.

The ostensible thrust of Live Earth is to raise awareness about the climate crisis past a “tipping point”, as Gore says, toward a global momentum to effectively address and tackle the challenges we face.

This is a laudable goal, but is it realistically possible through an avenue such as Live Earth?

Some critics state that Live Earth is simply “preaching to the choir”, and I believe there is merit to this criticism, as well as that of “tokenism”. Signing a pledge on a website, watching a concert, listening to rock stars talk of the need for change, etc. etc. may make many feel that they have done something when, in fact, nothing of significance, both in the habits of the individual and the society as a whole, has really changed.

Also, there can be no mistake that, even with “green principals” in place with the production of this mega-event, it can never be environmentally benign. (I spoke on this idea after Leonardo Di Caprio declared this year’s Academy Awards as green. Leo, how about greener?).

As a case in point, let’s take a look at something that virtually nobody thinks about in this sort of production: batteries. Yes, batteries. The use of alkaline batteries in modern productions such as this in devices such as pre-amps, wireless microphone transmitters, musician’s onstage effects boxes, and the like, is widespread. An event such as Live Earth will produce hundreds, perhaps thousands, of used batteries that presumably will be recycled but still produce toxic waste. And we can extrapolate from this small example up to the inevitable tons of garbage and waste that will be produced in the wake of these concerts. As The Who’s frontman Roger Daltry has said of Live Earth, the last thing this world needs is a rock concert.

Am I just being a Grumpy Gus? Perhaps. Defenders of the project admit that Live Earth can’t hope to be entirely benign environmentally. Yet they claim that the overall positive effect of energizing awareness and positive action will far outweigh the environmental costs.

Perhaps this is so.

But this brings us back to whom it is we really need to reach and if they will be moved at all by Live Earth. I hope so, but I think of the gentleman I mentioned at the outset, with chain saw ready and mind firmly shut. This man is an extreme example, and there may be no hope for those of his thinking (or lack thereof). But there are plenty of people that are dubious and unsure what to think about the issues of global warming and climate change. Unfortunately, many of our leaders (here in the United States at least) have succeeded in casting this as a partisan issue, suppressing our own government’s scientific studies, and characterizing global warming as a “hoax”. At the very least, this creates confusion and doubt. Many – most I hope – are reasonable people, unlike our chain saw toting friend.

While I remain unconvinced that Live Earth will really reach these people, I also am hopeful that there is, in fact, some movement toward a sea change (to use something of a veiled pun) in humanity’s awareness and sense of urgency in addressing climate change.

Come Monday morning, many of us will be climbing back into our cars, off to work and back to our daily lives. And that is where the change must truly begin; in our daily lives. If a concert event of worldwide proportions can help change enough people’s daily habits to a more sustainable mode of existence, if it can move them to demand better leadership from government and industry, if it can really make a difference, then more power to Live Earth.

I remain hopeful, yet skeptical.

Resources and Further Reading
The Live Earth Pledge
CBS News
Portland Press Herald
Live Earth Program – MSN
Live Aid – Wikipedia

The Seven Point Pledge: 
1.To demand that my country join an international treaty within the next 2 years that cuts global warming pollution by 90% in developed countries and by more than half worldwide in time for the next generation to inherit a healthy earth;

2.To take personal action to help solve the climate crisis by reducing my own CO2 pollution as much as I can and offsetting the rest to become “carbon neutral;”

3.To fight for a moratorium on the construction of any new generating facility that burns coal without the capacity to safely trap and store the CO2;

4.To work for a dramatic increase in the energy efficiency of my home, workplace, school, place of worship, and means of transportation;

5.To fight for laws and policies that expand the use of renewable energy sources and reduce dependence on oil and coal;

6.To plant new trees and to join with others in preserving and protecting forests; and,

7.To buy from businesses and support leaders who share my commitment to solving the climate crisis and building a sustainable, just, and prosperous world for the 21st century.






Tags: live+earth, live+earth+concert, global+warming, climate+change, al+gore, green+rock+concert
Thomas Schueneman
Thomas Schueneman
Tom is the founder and managing editor of and the PlanetWatch Group. His work appears in Triple Pundit, Slate, Cleantechnia, Planetsave, Earth911, and several other sustainability-focused publications. Tom is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists.

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