Rock Stars Tackle Cynics as Well as Climate Change
LONDON -- More famous for Learjets and limousines than green living, pop stars performing at Saturday's Live Earth environmental concerts face widespread cynicism from fans, commentators and campaigners alike. Built on the model of the Live Aid famine relief gigs of 1985 and Live 8 anti-poverty concerts in 2005, Live Earth aims to raise awareness about climate change and encourage people to live greener lives.
There is little doubt that the shows, starting in Sydney and ending in Rio de Janeiro, will be the focus of the world's media, and millions of people, on the day.
That, say some, is enough. To get so many people thinking about climate change at one time is a good thing.
Not so, others argue. Unless celebrities practise what they preach, the message will quickly fade to silence.
"Some people feel that as long as they are preaching the right message, it doesn't matter if they espouse it as well," said Michael Musto, entertainment columnist at the Village Voice in New York. "I have a problem with that."
He agreed that the Live Earth concerts were an effective way of spreading a message, but questioned whether mega-gigs in venues across the world really help in the long run.
"We've seen all-star concerts amounting to nothing before," Musto told Reuters.
John Buckley, managing director of Carbon Footprint which provides practical advice on how to preserve the environment, said rock stars like Madonna and Jon Bon Jovi needed to change their lifestyles as well as perform at Live Earth.
"What would be great is if these pop stars, now they realise the damage we are all doing to the climate, look very carefully at their own actions and make some changes themselves.
"They are in the public limelight. If she (Madonna) made a change then it would be picked up."
Buckley calculated Madonna and her entourage emitted 444 tonnes of carbon dioxide on flights during her 2006 Confessions tour, more than 40 times the average Briton's annual output.
"One thing we have found is that the difference between a private jet and taking a commercial flight could lead to a 50 percent reduction (in emissions), which is pretty worthwhile."
Climate change campaigners fear that Live Earth will make it easier for people who attend the concerts, or even just watch them on television and the Internet, to avoid doing anything more concrete to address the problem.
"Live Earth ... plays strongly to another powerful denial strategy: the adoption of minimal and tokenistic behaviours as proof of our virtue," George Marshall, founder of the Climate Outreach Information Network, wrote in the Guardian newspaper.
"One concern is that people will believe that their participation in the concerts is in itself an action against climate change," he added.
Bob Geldof, the man behind Live Aid and Live 8, joined the Live Earth detractors, saying the world was already aware of the dangers of global warming and the event lacked a "final goal".
Yet Al Gore, former U.S. vice president spearheading Live Earth, has devised a "seven point pledge" calling for personal action including reducing personal emissions, planting trees and fighting for improvements at work and governmental levels.
Internet chat rooms reflect the debate prompted by Live Earth, with postings ranging from support for the more than 100 stars scheduled to perform worldwide to cynicism and criticism.
"Entertainers and politicians are the indispensable front office in the effort to address global warming issues," wrote one respondent to a Reuters blog on the issue.
Another contributor to an online newspaper debate said: "I thought Madonna was busy saving Africa, or is she bored of that already? 'Audience of billions' is the only part most of these artists care about, or maybe I'm just too cynical."