Saturday, July 07, 2007

Open Sewer Earth: five arguments against

There seems to have been little discussion of Live Earth on the Green blogosphere for some reason. Which is a shame because I'd been rather hoping to get a feel for what people feel about the eco-extravaganza.

On a gut level this kind of thing appalls me - like the way they confuse the world's "best" bands with the world's "biggest". As concerts go I'd rather vomit up my own rib cage than sit through the thing - but as propaganda and part of a wider movement to mobilise public consciousness I'm far more sympathetic.

I've taken a look at what seem to be the top five "arguments against" Live Earth and don't find any of them particularly convincing.

Live Earth's Carbon footprint

Top pop stars taking private jets to the events, the lights, the mess, even the fact that people will drink water at the events are all arguments I've heard put forward in the media as evidence of the hypocrisy of LE.

But the thing is actually they've taken the top stars who are on tour in the country they'll perform in anyway, so they don't have to travel far (some are even coming to Wembly by tube), and the lighting and effects of the concert are cutting edge eco-technology using maximum recycled materials and low energy lighting.

Person for person this event has an extra-ordinarily low carbon footprint. But let's face it - we live in the real world. It's not the case that rather than attend the event most of the audiences would have been knitting their own shoes out of mung beans - the event is part of an argument for people to reduce their carbon footprint - not eradicate it altogether otherwise every leaflet, every piece of material we produce to help convice others of our arguments would be impossible - because this concert is reaching a lot of people it's just on a bigger scale.

Just another rock concert

Yes and no. It is a rock concert with real music - but it has a political significance well beyond ACDC's last tour.

The fact that these events are taking place in China and the US at all for instance is a real step forwards, signaling that the governments of these countries are at least aware that people are concerned.

Whilst Live Eight tried to be such a big tent that it dumbed down its message so that even those complicit in global social injustice could take part without changing their behaviour, in order to get on board with Live Earth people are expected to take their own behaviour (whether personal or political) more seriously and will be held to account.

I'm not trying to over egg the pudding - I'm not arguing this concert is the solution. Only that it isn't part of the problem, in the way that perhaps Live Eight was.

Egos on parade - pompous, preachy parasites.

We're all slightly fed up with being told to take action by people who's main qualification for being on stage is that they appeared in Emmerdale, or sang a song about dancing dirty. But to be honest unless we're arguing that famous people can't have opinions (which they are blatantly going to have) who are we to complain if they are for doing something about climate change.

It's better that stars becoming climate change deniers, like David Bellamy is it? (Although he is spectacularly poor at putting across his argument and I'm for inviting him to all climate change events on that basis.)

Whilst we do need actions over good intentions - it's difficult to see how we get actions *without* those intentions being in place first. If Madonna wants to help - let her.

Not radical enough

This is the opposite argument I suppose. That the events aren't preachy enough. We should be demonstrating not enjoying ourselves.

Now I'm not opposed to demonstrating against climate change but social forces are not just made up of the left wing equivalent of the Ramblers' Association. Popular movements need to energise all those who've been ranting at their friends for years who wear T-shirts with stupid slogans, who've been religiously recycling but feel troubled about how much difference their own little contribution can make.

Polemics, shouted slogans and waving placards are all fine and noble things to do of a Saturday - but that doesn't mean events that get one hundred times the turn out on a less confrontational basis are problematic - rather they can pull in and win an audience that otherwise could not be reached.

They show that normal people can be politically engaged as well as those strange folk who trudge through the streets of far away towns come rain or deluge.

We all know about climate change already.

Well, we don't actually. Whilst everyone has heard the phrase climate change, or global warming, far less people have a decent acquaintance with the facts and the urgency of the matter.

I actually doubt that this event will do much in terms of educational depth - but what it will do is show that there are millions of people all around you that also care about the future of the planet and are at least committed to doing something in their lives to improve the situation.

It will help combat pessimism and possibly mobilise some of that enthusiasm for a more sustainable society. It adds pressure to governments and business world wide to at least appear to be cleaning up their act - and if it helps shape a public consciousness where it becomes socially unacceptable (in a wider way) to drive a four by four or refuse to recycle or whatever, then I think that can only be a good thing.

Pete Townsend said that "Festivals are energy consuming, but at least they involve gatherings of large numbers of real people coming together in a common cause, with joy, humour and optimism."

That's the real key to why I support this event despite some of the more Simon Pure parts of my brain. We live in ambiguity and contradiction but where you have millions of people looking towards shaping a sustainable future it shows we aren't beaten yet as a species, that there is still hope.


Simon said...

I get what you're saying. but I think part of the 'not radical enough' thing which you mentioned which should be given more weight is the direction which is being pushed.

Live earth is actively promoting a corporatist vision which can only ever be a distraction from what actually needs to happen (ie. radical and rapid change to both econommic direction and organisational methods, not just minimal consumer changes). Gore both here and in Inconvenient truth is acknowledging a problem but within such a constrictive sphere that it effectively does more harm than good.

Jim Jay said...

Hi Simon,

nice to hear from you. The thing is doing more harm than good is a long way along the scale I think.

For me there are three areas where we need to shift society.

i) personal consumption
ii) industry and business

Now Live Earth I think is fine for i but will only ever be pressure on ii and iii to be nicer. It's not revolutionary - but is it actively harmful?

If it draws people into making demands of business and the government and those demands are not met then that's part of the process of radicalisation - if we are able to force business to make the necessary changes, or the government then that is a good thing in itself.

It isn't everything - but I don't think that's the same thing as being harmful and I think we can use the movement that Gore is helping to mobilise both agreeing where he's with us and putting out our message to those who are becoming more receptive because of this "mainstreamisation" of the fight against climate change. In my view.

Anonymous said...

Hey did you see this?

Dorothea said...

I agree with Simon.

The great strength of Corporatist Consumerism is that it co-opts everything.

Even "revolution" is marketable, as record company executives told Crass 30-odd years ago.

The machinery of Corporate Consumerism will have little difficulty in turning the Green Movement to its advantage.

Barkingside21 said...

Dorothea says:
"The machinery of Corporate Consumerism will have little difficulty in turning the Green Movement to its advantage."


Anonymous said...

The name is Matt Belamy.

The reason he aptly described the event as being 'private jets for climate change' is not because he is denying climate change. Muse were infact requested to play at Live Earth even though they were not touring.
You shouldn'nt be complacent in saying Belamy is in denial. Fundamentally, the reason he is not playing at the supposed 'carbon neutral' event is not because he is misinformed it is because he is not a hypocrital self-promoter.

Next time you're being oh so assertive, get your facts right.