It’s one thing to hold a concert to raise money for victims of Hurricane Katrina. It’s a whole other thing to deliver a global event in hopes of raising awareness for climate change. With singers performing all over the world, Live Earth drew an estimated 19 million viewers, according to the Associated Press. That is a lot less than the two billion Al Gore and the producers were aiming for. Still, it had to be considered a success if, for no other reason, it was a dramatic act to unite people.
With people like Sting and Madonna performing before a global audience and preaching their message of “save the planet,” it was difficult not to get caught up in the fervor. Even if for just one night. Here in Los Angeles, there was a noticeable shift in grocery shoppers opting for cloth or reusable bags. It might not seem like a big deal, but it probably adds up in the long run.
The only problem with a concert like this is that it tends to preach to the converted. Most of the people willing to do something have probably already started doing something. Those who don’t want to do anything will never do anything. But really, what Live Earth did on TV and online was to preach to the young people, those who admire people like Leonardo DiCaprio. Watching their heroes fight for a cause will alter the way they think about their own American dream.
Prime time NBC, Telemundo, the Sundance Channel, Bravo, MSNBC and Universal HD aired the highlights of the daylong event, which is probably how most Americans watched. But savvy Internet users had figured out early on how to see their favorite acts on YouTube. Sometimes it feels like TV moves too slowly for our world today.
There is some debate as to whether the concert was effective or not. Reviews poured in the next day complaining about the “mediocre” talent and accusations of it being “overambitious.” But probably the worst complaint was that the event itself wasn’t all that green. ABC News reported that the millions of people ended up generating 1,000 tons of garbage. Many of the performers were accused of not being environmentalists themselves. Madonna was one who answered back by saying she hadn’t yet been fully educated on the matter and was excited about learning how to become emissions-free.
In the end, though, the reason Americans tuned out probably wasn’t because of the hypocrisy of the performers or the event itself but perhaps the idea that everyone already knows we’re headed towards global warming and is sick of hearing about it. It’s one thing to watch a program like Discovery’s Planet Earth and fall in love with our little blue planet and want to make sure it stays that way. It is another thing entirely to swallow a message from a billionaire like Madonna who is urging us to change. Easy for her to say, but what does she really know about our lives?
Like all well-meaning events, though, in the end it’s difficult to criticize or complain when there are people out there trying to do something, whether or not it achieves a groundswell of support. Perhaps this is just the beginning of what will be an ongoing event to unite people all over the world to bring awareness to the cause. Or maybe people in Third World countries look at us like we’re crazy while they’re just trying to keep food on the table and fend off disease.
It is refreshing to see the post-9/11 cynicism coming to an end and to see idealism on the rise. Maybe global warming won’t be reversed overnight. But if the concert did nothing else, it forced me to buy reusable bags from Trader Joe’s over the weekend. It was just one person on one day in a very big city. But even that is better than nothing.