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."