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Answering the Call: Live Earth and Emotional Consensus

by Captain Future Fri Jul 13th, 2007 at 07:29:28 PM EST

The Live Earth concerts on Saturday were watched by more people--in person, online and on TV--than any previous entertainment event in history.  But what good did they do?

Proponents point to the online participation and the many thousands people who took the pledge to act personally and politically to address the Climate Crisis.  This event (the concerts, the television inserts, online participation and outreach) helped reach global citizens who aren't necessarily reached by political and environmental organization efforts.

As I suggest in this diary, Live Earth opens new ways forward.  But perhaps the most important effect ultimately is what this event contributed to the "emotional consensus" necessary for the kind of change necessary to head off the worst of the Climate Crisis before it's too late.    

One of the more balanced evaluations of Live Earth I've run across is Oliver Burkeman's in the Guardian. While he begins with the criticism by the usual suspects that these events used a lot of energy (disregarding as usual the real efforts that went into minimizing the impact, which were at the very least, not hypocritical) he does so with irony, and his second graph concludes:

"And yet - as the shock that the planet had not been saved in a day began to fade - the scandalous possibility presented itself that Al Gore's seven-continent, 24-hour concert series had been really rather impressive, and might yet prove to have been hugely important."

He mentions the specific practical outcomes:

"if you tell a world audience of up to 2bn people, over and over again, that they should use energy-efficient lightbulbs, do their washing at 30 degrees, and never leave their TVs on standby, you can hardly fail to have some kind of effect."

 He then relates the roster of musicians (specifically at Wembly Stadium in London) to the larger significance of these events:

"To observe that the London line-up was deeply middle-of-the-road was to miss the point entirely. The best interpretation of Saturday's concerts was precisely that climate change moved to the middle of the road, fostering a vague but - at last - mainstream sense that "something must be done".

Middle of the road, middle class and more. It was direct in the sense that the message was unmediated by political parties or ideologues. A diary by glennhurowitz posted at Daily Kos noted that the standard environmental groups were not part of the Live Earth event, and many comments suggested why: because environmental groups have largely failed to effectively address this issue, especially to come together with a common and effective voice on the Climate Crisis and associated issues, such as deforestation, energy and ecosystem destruction.

Five years ago, when I wrote my ideas about how to create an "emotional consensus" on the Climate Crisis as a moral issue, I advocated using well-known media figures from entertainment to get broad attention, which is what Live Earth did. (I also advocated using the term "Climate Crisis" instead of "climate change". ) Efforts by high profile personages have only just begun. Another idea--to get recognized moral leaders, like the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandella-- behind it in a big way is probably not far off. But my #1 idea--that environmental organizations must come together to speak in One Big Voice on the issue--hasn't happened, and apparently won't, especially when there is so much contention on forest issues, and so many turf battles over specific priorities.

So while environmental organizations aren't irrelevant by any means, they have been bypassed for this phase, which may turn out to be a good thing. For Live Earth didn't just dispense advice on small changes we can make (though they do add up, and the audio inserts on CNBC and NBC with the uncredited voices of Whoopi Goldberg and William Shatner were terrific, as were at least some of the short films they and Bravo showed--though it's important to note that some of these films and even some of the inserts focused on the complexity of many large issues, such as the relationship of forests, global heating and child labor in the Amazon.) Everyone was also asked to take a 7 point pledge which involved larger changes and activism on political and societal levels. The day's mantra was Answer the Call.

Part of achieving emotional consensus is for people to see they are part of that consensus. Being part of 2 billion people is potentially a powerful step.  But what's next?  

I was pondering all of this when I came across Dan Carol's piece on the Huffington Post. The piece itself is noisy, but he makes this point: American voters would respond to Barack Obama calling for a national effort to address the Climate Crisis and related energy, economic and social problems:

"I don't really care what you call it. Call it Project Hope. A Green New Deal as Tom Friedman does. A green corps to rival FDR's civilian conservation corps in a new century. A new Apollo project.

This means a huge government commitment to R&D and industries for clean energy and new climate crisis-fighting technologies, with lots of participation from big and small business, and labor unions. But it also means individual people signing up for the variation on national service, or a domestic environmental peace corps. It can't ever be compulsory service, but it is an idea that could inspire millions, especially the young--and even the middle class young and retirees--who were largely the target audience for Live Earth.

In his last round of talk show appearances, Al Gore not only continued to express his reluctance to get into the presidential race--he made clear that he won't endorse any candidate until he finds one who is strong enough on the Climate Crisis issue. If Obama were to make these proposals the centerpiece of his campaign, he would very likely win Gore's endorsement and active support and participation. This could make Obama the Democratic candidate, or at the very least force Hillary Clinton to move this issue and these solutions closer to the top of her priorities (Bill Clinton is already on record saying that revitalizing the American economy with clean energy independence industries would be the issue he'd be running on.) It could make either one of them (or John Edwards, should he do this) President.

In the long run, the Climate Crisis may require nothing less. Burkeman ends his Guardian piece quoting one of Al Gore's more persistent aphorisms:

"In Africa there's a proverb that says 'if you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together,'" Mr Gore said, live from Washington. "We have to go far, quickly."

I find this kind of event so hypocrite that is sickening,  all these "rockstars" (without talking of Gore's private jet addiction ) with their highly CO2 prone way of life asking to "save" the planet.

what a joke.

by the way, the event has released more CO2 than Afghanistan for the whole year 2006 !!!

by fredouil (fredouil@gmailgmailgmail.com) on Sat Jul 14th, 2007 at 03:55:36 AM EST
Oh, that's an easy comment: yeah 'let's shoot the messenger'.
Indeed the event had his flaws, but hey, Gore succeeded to raise a signal-flag visible for everybody.

The struggle of man against tyranny is the struggle of memory against forgetting.(Kundera)
by Elco B (elcob at scarlet dot be) on Sat Jul 14th, 2007 at 07:07:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
when the messenger is a part of the problem it is healthy to shoot him.

and mister hypocrite Gore (one of the worst individual CO2 producer in US) is just creating another social class :

  • if you are rich you can pollute as you wish and buy CO2 to "reduce your footprint" (as Gore do)
  • if you are poor you are told to reduce your way of life, give up the idea of having cars and modern appliances.
by fredouil (fredouil@gmailgmailgmail.com) on Sat Jul 14th, 2007 at 05:12:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is about as close to a troll comment as I've seen here.  There is no evidence produced to support these contentions, because there is no evidence to support these contentions.

This is not to say that there is not some class blindness and prejudice, but it goes both ways, as perhaps this line of shadow-talk illustrates.    

"The end of all intelligent analysis is to clear the way for synthesis." H.G. Wells "It's not dark yet, but it's getting there." Bob Dylan

by Captain Future (captainfuture is at sbcglobal dot net) on Sat Jul 14th, 2007 at 11:04:47 PM EST
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at least you made me laugh

are you telling me that Gore did change his fleet of SUV for some Prius ? Are you telling me that Gore is reducing is fantastic CO2 footprint as he s telling us to do ?

the last information i have, he did nothing but bought CO2.

it is quite interesting to see the move, i am waiting for a speech on the subject by Paris Hilton.

Dont expect the chineses/indians to listen these rich kids.

i would find quite disgusting for you/us to pollute and be ok with it since we are going to pay some CO2 taxes and at the same time asking poor/developing to keep a low footprint.

whatever, this showbiz event is already forgotten, noone but us talk about it anymore.

by fredouil (fredouil@gmailgmailgmail.com) on Mon Jul 16th, 2007 at 01:43:41 AM EST
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The attack on Gore's carbon footprint has largely been engineered by the usual right wing suspects, including a small Swift Boat type organization in TN with an agenda, their "report" funneled through Drudge.  It's filled with "truthiness."  So--yes, I'm saying that he has done and is doing quite a lot to reduce his fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, including hybrid vehicles and solar power.  

I mention this because it's always worth opposing the Swift Boat virus.  Though your Paris Hilton non sequiter makes me wonder why I bother.  Try seeing the movie and reading the book before you dismiss its contents, regardless of your attitude towards the messenger.  And check the Pledge from Live Earth--it distinguishes between First World polluters, who must reduce CO2 by 90%, and the Third World, where clean energy technology is needed on a massive scale, and it is the responsibility of the rich nations to help make that happen.

On Live Earth, I quote at length this evaluation from that radical rag, TIME magazine:

But would the Earth have been better off if we all stayed home and did nothing, literally? "That's a fair thought," Linkin Park guitarist Brad Delson told TIME before his band's Tokyo show. "It's also a cynical one." He's right. It's time to get past the obsession over carbon footprint size and offsets, over who's an eco-hypocrite and who is truly green. We need to use energy far more wisely, both individually and internationally, but with hundreds of millions in the developing world getting richer and producing more carbon every day, the threat of climate change is far, far bigger than our personal conservation habits. It will require technological change and painful political choices such as carbon taxes, gas taxes and mandatory greenhouse gas emissions caps. That means, especially for the young, the un-rock star act of voting.

Live Earth's success will be measured not by the number of trees the initiative plants or the number of energy-efficient light-bulbs sold as a result, but by whether it motivates concertgoers to make climate-change their generation's political priority, and press their leaders to act on it. Al Gore and company deserve credit for putting forth a 7-point pledge for concertgoers that includes a demand that countries join an international treaty mandating a 90% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. That will only happen if voters reward politicians who fight to cut carbon gas emissions, and punish those who don't. "It's not what we do today that matters," says Live Earth Tokyo's Nakajima. "It's what we all do tomorrow, and all the next days after. That's how we'll know how successful Live Earth really is."


"The end of all intelligent analysis is to clear the way for synthesis." H.G. Wells "It's not dark yet, but it's getting there." Bob Dylan

by Captain Future (captainfuture is at sbcglobal dot net) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 01:34:45 AM EST
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you are true, i have just googled and it appear that Gore has installed a solar panel on his manson just 2 months ago, after that the inconvenient truth about his $30,000 energy bill came to light (he need more that 1500m2 to offset that)

i havent found any evidence that he had changed his fleet of large SUV.

but at least, even in a PR move, he start to do what he preach.

by fredouil (fredouil@gmailgmailgmail.com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 02:27:32 AM EST
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Very good discussion, thank you.  Aprreciate your 2002 piece, you were (are) right on so much.

Much that resonates with me here.

The change that we are (hopefully) seeing is a growing consensus that 'something' must be done.

The most fruitful 'bipartisan' discussion, for me, in the US was the Kerry / Gingrich "debate" earlier this year.  The 'debate' was absolutely not about whether Global Warming is real, whether it matters, or even whether urgent action is required. The debate was over how best to tackle the challenged. (Gingrich in an idealized 'leave it all to business ... give incentives and they will come', along with idealized vision of new technology coming to the rescue. Kerry was more holistic.)

And, perhaps, the value of the pledge was as a starting point -- along with building of an ever larger e-mail list.

Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart. NOW!!!

by a siegel (siegeadATgmailIGNORETHISdotPLEASEcom) on Sat Jul 14th, 2007 at 07:23:47 AM EST
Thanks for this validation, especially from someone so involved in this issue.

The Kerry-Gingrich debate may have been helpful in clarifying methods, but the solution is of course not an either/or matter.  Government, corporations and the marketplace (if we can define it as the place where innovative producers and conscientious consumers find each other) along with citizen involvement in various ways, are all parts of addressing the climate crisis.

"The end of all intelligent analysis is to clear the way for synthesis." H.G. Wells "It's not dark yet, but it's getting there." Bob Dylan

by Captain Future (captainfuture is at sbcglobal dot net) on Sat Jul 14th, 2007 at 11:10:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for this diary. I missed the event since I was working the weekend and I've managed to miss all discussion/headlines about it too, which made it feel as though it hadn't had much impact.  Talk about looking in the wrong direction.

I'm interested in the point about governments needing to invest in R&D for green technology.  If Government developed technology is then patented and successful, surely that is a potential (public) moneyspinner, rather than all leeching off into industry? There's always those rumours that industry already has the technology and they won't release it until the world becomes desperate enough to pay anything for it.  I don't know how true that is.

But then again, knowing the UKs record with R&D funding I doubt that the capacity is currently there to fund cutting edge stuff in this way.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Sat Jul 14th, 2007 at 01:06:51 PM EST
That's because the enterprise model is crap. Vulture venture capitalists investing in so-called "Equity" (nothing equitable about Companies) and bank credit.

Put the IP into trust on behalf of the community with a "Custodian".

Then bring in "Capital Partner" investors, of which the public sector are first, funding the academic research.

Once a concept has been "proven" and private investors are interested, they can invest development finance alongside the public sector.

Once it's ready, bring in "Operating Partners" to market and roll it out.

Everyone shares in the revenues (or production) in agreed proportions. If there aren't any revenues no-one gets anything, but at least the private investors can write off the loss against other taxable income.

Everyone's on the same side. No debt, so no possibility of defaults. Investors get a piece of the GROSS income before management gets their hands on it.

It's not Rocket Science is it?

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sat Jul 14th, 2007 at 01:32:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd expect that in the US government involvement in technology development and use would start with tax abatements and credits, but it might expand to public-corporate ventures requiring R&D public funding.  And it wouldn't surprise me if the initiative for getting the government involved didn't come from corporations.  For example, to make carbon sequestration practical for forms of coal-derived energy.  

But I'm getting out of my depth here--your experience is much more practical, and so these are ideas and impressions that might pertain.  But simply looking at the dimensions of the problem, and the speed at which solutions might be found and enacted--how to cut greenhouse gases by 90%--would seem to require public funding in the mix.

I'm glad you find the diary helpful.  It seems a little dodgy sometimes to write about something as long ago as six days!

"The end of all intelligent analysis is to clear the way for synthesis." H.G. Wells "It's not dark yet, but it's getting there." Bob Dylan

by Captain Future (captainfuture is at sbcglobal dot net) on Sat Jul 14th, 2007 at 11:18:32 PM EST
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