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Debate: what will you do for Live Earth?

They might be one of the most ambitious media events of all time, but what will the Live Earth concerts really mean for the planet? The answer is down to you, says Sam Geall, launching a brand new debate on Cooler Living.

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They are calling it one of the most ambitious global media events of all time: on July 7, the Live Earth concert organisers hope to attract 2 billion viewers on more than 120 television networks. If it works, nearly one-third of the world’s population will be watching a total of ten concerts on all seven continents. They will see acts that range from the iconic US rockstar Madonna, to Hong Kong’s favourite, Eason Chan and, from near the South Pole, Nunatak, an “indie rock-folk band” named after an arctic geological featureand made up of scientists from the British Antarctic Survey’s Rothera Research Station.

The mega-concert is planned as a rallying call for the planet to take global action on climate change. Yusef Robb, the concerts’ official spokesman, told chinadialogue: “You get a little bit of a taste, you take the first step – and the next thing you know you’re barrelling down the highway.”

Live Earth has been barrelling since the concerts were announced almost six months ago, with a growing line-up, more venues than initially planned and environmental groups from Alaska to Ankara planning parties to watch the concerts on TV.  

So who could object to a global event to save the planet? Quite a few people do, and they ask some serious questions: are global celebrities who are notorious for their lavish personal lifestyles in any position to tell us to switch off the lights? They fly around on private jets, drive around in limousines and live in well heated mansions, so why should we believe them when they say they care about the environment?

Live Earth has thought about this: they say the concerts will live up to the “green event standard” and that sustainability engineers will reduce the carbon footprint of the events. But the questions go deeper: can you really raise awareness with a lavish global event that is itself a massive act of consumption, and when all the people who are leading it have a personal carbon footprint many times that of the average citizen, let alone the poorest?

According to an estimate commissioned by the BBC, Madonna emits more carbon each year than 100 average Britons – or more than 300 average Chinese.  Add to that what the rock-stars’ fans emit travelling around to follow their idols (a US blogger picked up on one dedicated follower of antipodean soft-rockers Crowded House, who announced, without irony, that he is “travelling all the way around the world from Scotland to Sydney to see Crowded House.”)

Critics of Live Earth say there is another way: one group has organised Alive Earth, an online counter-concert. The musicians in Alive Earth say their online event will be a virtual, almost carbon-free alternative to the global spectacle. 

Do we need Live Earth to raise awareness? There is certainly still confusion about climate change. A UK poll released on Tuesday shows that most adults in Britain still think that scientists are still in doubt about whether human activity is causing climate change. In fact, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), written and reviewed by over 1,000 scientists from more than 100 countries, has said with 90% certainty that human activity is to blame. So people do need to catch up, and quickly. But will going to a concert – or watching it on TV – be all that one-third of humanity does? Or will it be the beginning of a real change in the way people live? 

Whether we get excited or infuriated by the concerts, they are only worth the time (and the carbon) if they make us more serious about personal commitments to combat climate change. Whether we make it to a concert on the day, watch it on TV or stay at home with the lights off, the important question is what we are prepared to change in our lives on Sunday morning:

Live Earth has a list: it’s a pledge that former US vice president Al Gore wants everybody to sign up to. Are you prepared to sign up, or are you just going to the party?   Here it is – it’s up to you:


1. To demand that my country join an international treaty within the next 2 years that cuts global warming pollution by 90% in developed countries and by more than half worldwide in time for the next generation to inherit a healthy earth;

2. To take personal action to help solve the climate crisis by reducing my own CO2 pollution as much as I can and offsetting the rest to become "carbon neutral;"

3. To fight for a moratorium on the construction of any new generating facility that burns coal without the capacity to safely trap and store the CO2;

4. To work for a dramatic increase in the energy efficiency of my home, workplace, school, place of worship, and means of transportation;

5. To fight for laws and policies that expand the use of renewable energy sources and reduce dependence on oil and coal;

6. To plant new trees and to join with others in preserving and protecting forests; and,

7. To buy from businesses and support leaders who share my commitment to solving the climate crisis and building a sustainable, just, and prosperous world for the 21st century.

If you don’t like this pledge, what would yours be?

Can you help build a Cooler Living pledge for young people around the world, whether they are rich or poor? Tell the world what your pledge is in the Cooler Living forum!     


Sam Geall is the deputy editor of chinadialogue

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Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous


那些问题也让我烦恼了很久。谢谢这篇富有想法并且语气平和的帖子。我写了篇相关的博客,在另一个绿色世界:http://blogs.laweekly.com/judith_lewis/?p=303 Judith


Those questions were nagging at me, too. Thanks for the thoughtful, balanced piece. I blogged about it here, at Another Green World:



Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous


我觉得“七点宣誓”不太合适。植树对大部分人来说是一个现实的建议么?我应该在哪里植啊?我从哪里弄种子呢? 我的宣誓建议则会是把家里每一件不是正在用的电器的电源线都扒掉--那样会省很多电:你甚至应该在不用的时候把洗衣机的电源线都扒掉!

New pledge ideas..

I'm not sure about the 7-point-pledge, is planting trees really a viable option for most people? Where am I supposed to plant them? Where do I get the seeds?

My pledge would be to unplug every electric appliance in the house when it's not being used - this saves a lot of energy: you should even unplug the washing machine when you're not using it!

-Reg in S.A.

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous


绝好的主意!我也把我住房子里的洗衣机的电源线给拔掉了。 不过我的室友们都闻起来有些糟糕,因为他们还没搞清楚怎么把电源重新接上呢。

Dear Reg

Excellent idea. I have done the same in my house with my washing machine. My flatmates all smell terrible however, as they haven't worked out how to turn it back on.

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous


有没有人读到Bob Geldof愚蠢的评论?他说人人都知道气候变化了,说我们不需要这场音乐会。这里面看上去充满了对大型音乐会的嫉妒之心啊。同时也实在很可笑,Bob也不出来支持一下Live Earth。有多少人即将因为气候变化而挨饿?又有多少人已经挨饿了?


What about Bob?

Did anyone read Bob Geldof's rather silly comments. He said that everyone already knows about climate change and we don't need this concert. It seems to me that there's some big concert jealousy going on here. It also seems really ridiculous that Bob hasn't come out in support of live earth. How many people will starve because of climate change. How many people have already?

Tom, Ireland

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous


Al Gore表演么?如果算个指南的话,比尔·克林顿曾是个出色到家的萨克斯演奏者

Big Al

Is Al Gore playing? Bill Clinton was a bloody awful sax-player if that's any guide.

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous




Alive Earth is the grassroots alternative, which I don't know what they're doing but they have a YouTube group. They announced that Bob G was not invited!
I have my doubts about point 2. because offsets do not work. The Chillis and Madonna are setting a bad example jetting round the world when we are neglecting our local talent. I shall not be even taking the train to London to see the free battle of the bands, Clapham Common (www.switchonswitchoff.org). I wanted to do something in Nottingham Airport to entertain the check-in queues but security were hostile last time we visited, and told us to go away unless we wanted to go on holiday.
I cannot reduce my carbon emissions realisticly, because they are 1-2 tonnes per year. I walk 5 minutes to work and went on holiday to Glastonbury, sharing a car to get there. Write a song in protest. That should be everyone's pledge!

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous



The 7-point pledge is not very feasible for China!

How are the Chinese expected to follow the pledge? Points 3, 5 and 7
presuppose a political system that favours public participation.

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous


在Global Eco我们可以告诉世界如何降低大气中的碳,以及如何将其变成世界资源:简单,易行,快捷,有利可图,并却遍及全球。哈里·哈特,自1946年起在全球范围内担任纪录片放映技师,自1957年起在英国星级协会出任研究院研究生命支持体系。Global Eco及其拥有30多年历史的前身致力于全球荒地还原以为未来的自然能源、大气碳含量及有机培育等提供资源。

[email protected]

Better than a pledge

At Global Eco we can tell the world how to take the carbon out of the air and make it into world resources: Simply, easily, immediately, profitably and world wide.

Harry Hart. World-wide documentary cinematographer since 1946.
Fellow of The British Interplanetary Society studying life-support systems since 1957.

Global Eco, and predecessors over thirty years, are committed to world wasteland recovery to provide the resources for the future using natural energy, atmospheric carbon and organic cultivation.

[email protected]

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous



Clean up your act!

Despite cheapo airline tickets we keep our feet on the ground and instead of using a guzzling Commanchee Jeep (or similar!) we have a brilliant 1.5 dci Clio that guzzles just 4.5 litres to 100Kms (would that be 60miles/gallon?)and come back to a super-duper insulated house(er, floor,walls,roof & windows) heated with state-of-the-art wood-burning stove using wood bought in a year ago. Now, all you globe-trottin' centrally-heated, air-conditioned Jeep-driving freaks....how-about-that? .....actually ,no tips from Al to us all about HOW to clean up our acts so just thought the above might be useful...ROB

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous





Does the pledge apply to China?

I support comment 7. Given the circumstances in China, if individuals can change their lifestyle a little bit, say, saving electricity and water, etc., there will be contributions made to environmental protection. To most of Chinese people, the 7-point pledge is neither feasible nor realistic, and the target is set too faraway and too big.