This weekend saw the biggest global media event of all time…and by far the largest climate awareness event in history. Al Gore’s concerts for a climate in crisis were watched by an estimated 2 billion viewers (at the events, on TV and an unprecedented number online) and took place over 24-hours on seven continents (thanks in part to the somewhat lesser known band Nunatak taking a break from field work!)
With bands blaring from Sydney, Tokyo, Shanghai, Hamburg, London, Johannesburg, New York, Rio de Janeiro and the Antarctic, the aim of Live Earth was to urge people to make a personal commitment to combating climate change by taking a ‘seven point pledge’.
There were also frequent calls asking people to lobby government for change in legislation, but the specifics of this goal were somewhat vaguer. The level of awareness raising at the heart of Satuirday’s concerts is urgently needed, as evidenced in the results of recent polls, one of which apparently shows that a majority of Britons and are more concerned by dog poop than global warming and believe that scientists are still questioning climate change (although see John Sauven’s alternative analysis in the Guardian). Another recent survey suggests that half of teenagers are just not that interested and even fewer feel personally empowered to change.
The event and its participants have received no end of criticism for their carbon-intensive ways. One comment on BBC’s Newsnight blog provided the anology “You wouldn’t hold a hog-roast to promote vegetarianism”.
Fair point, but if you want to get people to listen to a call for change, punctuating it with Kasabian, Keane and the Red Hot Chili Peppers is definitely not a bad approach. Yes, the participants lead especially carbon intensive lifestyles (though the Chili’s have at least been offsetting for years)…but surely that’s part and parcel of the point the event is making….rock concerts happen, people drive SUVs, we have unsustainable lives…and that needs to change.
Whether Live Earth as an event can instigate that change is another question. Without a doubt, the concerts have caught the attention of the public and the media across the globe. As one of 60,000 at the Wembley gig, though, I couldn’t help notice how the enthusiastic roars from the crowd contrasted starkly with the sluggish retorts to calls for action.
While most of the acts chose songs vaguely fitting for the event, such as Duran Duran’s ‘Planet Earth’ and Snow Patrol’s ‘Open your eyes’, it seemed as though the rendition of that revolutionary rock anthem ‘Que sera sera, whatever will be, will be…” by David Gray and Damien Rice (though fantastic) summed up the indifferent feeling from the audience most aptly. As they say ‘recognition is the first step to recovery’. It’s going to take a lot more than a rock concert to change human behaviour, but the mainstream recognition of the problem signified by Live Earth suggests we are at least heading in the right direction.
Nature Reports Climate Change