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The Live Earth Debate – join us!

Tao vs Sami

Sami says: A few days ago, Tao asked me for my opinion on Live Earth. She was writing a post on the event, and wanted to include some different perspectives. The post came and went, but as I hadn’t seen Live Earth, and was at best a little skeptical, it was difficult to comment. My initial thought was to write something on why I hadn’t bothered watching the show, but Tao was none too impressed by this approach. The resulting email exchange threw up some interesting issues, and we thought we would share an edited version with the world. It went something like this:

TAO: I ended up wholly inspired and impressed with the Live Earth broadcast last night! This COULD have a huge impact, after all! If you get a chance, Sami, could you watch and send me some thoughts for the blog?

SG: I’ll try and sit down and watch some, but I may not get a chance. Here’s my thoughts at this point:

I think it should be judged solely on how successful, or unsuccessful, was it in terms of moving us towards solutions to this massive crisis. Unfortunately, I find that hard to judge as I did not watch any of it. I guess that’s what worries me the most – despite, or perhaps because of, all the hype, I was left totally uninterested in seeing it.

The idea of so many celebrity musicians, only a few of whom I’d choose to watch at any other time, playing yet another ‘concert with a cause’ just seemed a little old fashioned and boring. What next, the climate change ribbon?

TAO: I had my skepticism, too, but realized it was not realistic to make any judgment until I actually saw it. [Ouch! Sami receives a severe blow from TAO’s ever sharp observations] And, what I saw greatly pleased and surprised me. It was not boring and it was not just another concert. They did spots between all performances, interviewing artists about their green habits and what changes they
were making. There were also brilliantly designed graphics detailing conservation tips. Really smart stuff!

SG: I guess I thought it was kind of relevant that the very idea turned me, and a lot of people, off before even seeing it. However well a concert is actually staged, if the audience isn’t inspired to watch, they’ll never know. If a tree falls in the woods…

[At this point Sami grumbles in resignation, if it’s possible to grumble by email, and agrees to watch some of the highlights]

TAO: From a marketing perspective, it is useful to notice why the “hype”
gave that first impression to you, me and some others, but I recognize
that humans – myself included – find it easier to simply go with first
impressions, and being cynical is sometimes sorta fun…..or, we like to
be on a “side” of an issue from the start, rather than do the analytical work.

[One day later…]

SG: Have just sat down and watched some of the show. I must say it looked pretty much like I expected. I’m still not against it, I just can’t really relate to it on any level other than it being a big celebrity ego trip/ hug fest. Madonna singing ‘Hey You’, with some of the most banal lyrics I have heard, somehow it all just seemed so shallow to me. And Boris Becker (??!!!) lecturing me on recycling – the less said about that the better!

I’m glad to hear that it affected you differently, and I really genuinely hope it will prove to wake a bunch of people up. I must admit that the info clips were helpful and interesting, and did transcend empty platitudes. I just also have a fear that the whole thing may help slot climate change in a convenient bubble of ‘just another issue’, rather than it being THE biggest threat to our existence. Didn’t we ‘do climate change’ last year? Spinal Tap was cool though.

TAO: I can’t disagree with your take on the what could be called “hype” at this kind of thing. Was it shallow? In some ways, yes! Was it ego-fueled? You bet. Was it a celebrity/groupie hug fest? Sure…

BUT, I wasn’t looking to be impressed and inspired myself as much as I was looking at it from an ipod/celebrity/Hollywood-obsessed, consumer-driven mainstream perspective and I do believe it was a successful campaign towards that end. Madonna is many things, but I wouldn’t call her or her lyrics shallow. In fact, she’s consistently explored controversial issues outside herself from racism to sexual identity to mysticism through both her music and her own life. And, well, anyone – even Boris Becker, who is willing to go on national television and talk about any green habit gets points in my book.

I don’t agree that this televised event will reduce the importance of this issue. I think it was done in a way that did transcend the green washing vibe that is out there in some mainstream places. And the fact that this was the first event of this sort that was truly and radically global will mark it in history and keep the climate change issue “on the front lines”.

At this point, Tao and Sami decided to agree to (kind of) disagree, post some of the exchange on the blog and invite others to join in the discussion. How do you feel about the Live Earth concert and its ongoing campaign to stop global warming? Let us know!

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10 Responses to “The Live Earth Debate – join us!”

  1. tao Says:

    Jerry can’t resist and enters the fray tagging out Tao and jumping in the ring on her side:

    OK, Sami, hoooold on a moment, treehugger dude – oops forgot you’re English, eeer, uh, mate. Let’s remember some basic marketing rules — like MEET THE MARKET WHERE THEY LIVE. And look around at MTV, VH1, Blender Magazine, or heck, just google Fall Out Boy then google Amory Lovins and see who wins out. Anyone who wants to reach masses and doesn’t harness the power of pop culture then ought to arrested for malpractice.

    Yes, it’s become a thing to have concerts for causes — so it’s fitting that the biggest one by far — the most stars, the most countries, the most watched, the most money raised — is for global warming.

    The other thing I dig about Live Earth is that it ties celebrities to the cause. Rappers have been a huge catylist in support of excess lifestyle accoutrements like Escalades and Hummers. Now, Ludacris and Kayne West would be instantly accused as being hypocrites if they were caught cruisin’ around like that.

    And everyone who gave money and took the pledge ends up branding themselves as concerned about the cause of global warming. And this kind of self-image transformation is how things change. One you participate in a race rally — it becomes less likely you’ll every act racist.

    Alright that’s all for now. I’m tagging out.

  2. Ben Says:

    Sami,

    In your interview with Multilingual Living Magazine you mentioned avoidance as a front running option in reducing greenhouse gases produced by aircraft. This is an interesting point when you considered how many thousands of miles every artist traveled to perform. Considering that one international flight produces about the same CO2 as the average automobile does in an entire year, Live Earth could be considered an eco-crime.

  3. tao Says:

    Tao here – thanks for joining us, Ben. I’ve also thought long and hard about the air travel involved with Live Earth Was it a worthy trade-off for the awareness this event seems to have raised? Tough call, but I’m thinking yes so far on that one, keeping in mind that all of the travel and other energy use for this event was offset. Hey – these artists are traveling anyway – we might as well bring them to a venue that highlights that fact and give them the opportunity to consider other options like Dave Matthews and others have done.

    From what I’ve seen and heard, it seems like the business travelers that hop around on flights daily for conferences and sales (that could be most likely accomplished in other ways) and offer nothing to this cause, could be the bigger eco-villains.

  4. Sami Grover Says:

    Interesting point Ben,

    there’s no doubt that Live Earth had a HUGE environmental impact, even if it was offset. Having said that, I did see an interview with one of the main guys behind the event that they chose artists who were touring in the region at the time, thereby greatly reducing the amount of travel needed. In terms of staging an event like that, it does look like they went quite far to reduce emissions. Ultimately, if it raises more awareness than it does emissions, then it will have been worth while. I guess it just wasn’t my cup of tea.

    Couldn’t agree with you more Jerry, in terms of holding celebs accountable. I strongly doubt they’ll all be ditching their prvate jets though – Chris Martin and Laurie David haven;t yet, as far as I know. Steps in the right direction though I guess, but the hypocrisy will continue.

  5. Pat Says:

    I have a question for you… Do we really want to hear about how we should reduce/reuse/recycle from these people? Al Gore as the spokeperson after seeing his home and the amount of energy he consumes a month? These “stars” who live extravagant lifestyles, wasting more energy in a month then most people could in a life time? Are these the “model” eco friendly people we should look up to? If that is the case I need to buy a plane to jet set around the world on a whim and get a limo ride to work everyday… It kinda like the star who gets busted for drugs and then tells me not to do drugs in a PR campain… Give me a break… Enough already.

  6. tao Says:

    I completely agree that most of these “stars” are living extravagant, wasteful and ridiculously indulgent lives that do not serve anything or anyone but themselves – and recycling their beer bottles or driving a Prius does not make up for that, nor impress me. Yet, (without taking pages to go into the odd psychology of it all) the sad truth is that the mainstream populations (and the media) are obsessed with them. So, while the whole thing reeks of paradox, I do believe it is part of an equation towards the tipping point of change.

    My question is – who do you think should be the message bearers for this huge “soft middle”? You and I look up to people like GreenPeace activists and Amory Lovins of The Rocky Mountain Institute, but so far, they haven’t been enough to influence the way most of America and other parts of the world lives.

    To answer your question more specifically – do I want to listen to these people? Not really. Do I want consumer-driven televisions addicts to tune in while channel surfing between American Idol and Reality TV? You bet!

  7. Sami Grover Says:

    “You and I look up to people like GreenPeace activists and Amory Lovins of The Rocky Mountain Institute, but so far, they haven’t been enough to influence the way most of America and other parts of the world lives.”

    Good point Tao. I think my objection, or perhaps scepticism is a more accurate word, can be summed up like this.

    – I fully agree that Live Earth probably communicated the climate change/global weirding message to a bunch of folks who would otherwise not have heard it.
    – I fully agree that, for a mammoth rock concert it was probably relatively green. Relatively being the operative word.
    – I am, overall, probably glad it happened – we need this message to go mainstream, and they will get it more mainstream than Amory or Vandana Shiva or whoever. And even if one of these eco-celebs cuts back their private jet flights by 50%, it’ll have a greater impact than 10 of us mere mortals deciding not to fly to NYC.

    Aside: Hei, perhaps they could share rides like the rest of us – ‘Bono, this is Chris here. Could you drop me off in Honolulu on your way to Dublin, I’m calling in on David and Victoria, their having a fundraiser for global warming. They thought the beach would be appropriate, if it’s still there.’

    – But, and here is my thing – for me it was just utterly uninteresting. So maybe it’s more a matter of taste than ethical objections. I just couldn’t bring myself to watch it for longer than 15 minutes (and that was out of professional interest).

    I should disclose though that I have always been a terrible reverse snob – I was the kid that always claimed to like whatever the hot band was ‘before they were famous. Now they’re just sell outs.’

  8. Sami Grover Says:

    Just read an interesting post over at by Christine over at TH about Live8 Berlin (you remember, the concert that was going to end poverty), which goes over similar territory covered here:

    “If you don’t live within a stone’s throw of one of the cities hosting the Live8 today, you may be succoring yourself with the philosophy of David Stubbs (of Wired Magazine). To paraphrase, and probably invite a lawsuit: Musicians today are merely Corporate Stooges, being flouted by Whiskey or Water company executives who don’t know art but do know how to turn a profit on plastic disks. Music has lost its power of philosophical leadership, of rebellion, of commitment, of casting the spotlight in the corners where shame lurks.”
    […]
    “Some say Geldof is acting out of self-glorification, and we unfortunately must report that several young people (young like born after LiveAid) we interviewed in Berlin could not tell us who Bob Geldof is. I guess his name will be known to one more generation now. But if the call for awareness and solidarity with the problems Africans face makes a difference, then Geldof will have achieved something beyond the reach of many individuals. Only history can be the judge.”

    http://www.treehugger.com/files/2005/07/live8_berlin_wa.php

  9. Ben Says:

    The whole LiveEarth debate is an interesting paradox. I agree it is important to get the message out. My hope is that there are people that watched and by watching they are now compelled to do things differently. The reality is, we are creatures of habit. Our society is not one that readily accepts change, especially if it means making an extra effort.

    In considering that truth, it can be disconcerting if you think about it. Here’s LiveEarth with the efforts of celebrities and millions of dollars of financial backing for what? For the mere possibility that the message clicks with somebody somewhere? If this concert isn’t successful in reprogramming the way the people think, then we as a sustainable community have a long road ahead of us.

    As I see it, the first step is education. Education means making people aware how harmful their habits are, but it goes further than that. Education means we have to be responsible how we spend our money and how we spend our votes. If people aren’t responsible about how they spend their dollar then the fight will never end.

    Take light bulbs as an example. Low energy light (which btw, many of these “green” light bulbs are more efficient but also carry a burden at their end of life as they contain levels of toxic metals that end up back at our landfills) bulbs are offered as a solution to the traditional light bulb. So there’s two types of light bulbs on the shelf of a retail store. Which does the consumer choose? The way to implement large scale change isn’t through the options of “greener” products (although we’ve come along way). The way to make a difference is in the elimination of manufacturing products that are harmful to the environment.

    The only way that can happen is through an educated consumer. If we eliminate the “options” and demand as consumers that we’re not going to buy your crappy products that pollute our planet anymore then we have chance. We need to eliminate the choices and make “green” the standard in procedure.

    I’m not one to carry a political flag however education makes for wiser electors. We have the power to put the people in office that can make this difference. This is a quandary for me. My preference is as Benjamin Franklin’s was: laissez-faire baby!

    I feel like politics can divide the green community. I don’t care about the political parties. I care about making informed decisions about the people you vote for. If sustainable isn’t a platform your politician is running, then find another one. If you can’t find one that agrees with you, become one!

    It doesn’t matter if you’re a democrat or republican. Just make responsible decisions in your life regarding our planet. Your mother isn’t going to come in behind you and pick up the mess you’ve left behind. There is no one else to take up this task but us the people living here on this planet.

  10. tao Says:

    Great stuff, Ben. Thanks for being part of this discussion and learning process. I agree that we MUST have action on a political level, whether we like it or not. Still, consumers control the economy in the end, so education and motivation is an important tool as well. Let’s all keep talking and taking action personally, communally, and politically.

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