Thursday, July 12, 2007

Live Earth 2007: An Exercise in Hypocrisy?

Despite the cause’s altruism, are private-jet-flying-I-got-more-than-one-very-fast-car-driving Rock/pop stars good spokespersons for saving the planet?

By: Vanessa Uy

It’s almost tantamount to choosing Paris Hilton as a spokesperson on moral turpitude awareness, but ever since the inception of Live Earth, I’ve always questioned the logic behind the cause’s raison d’être (or more accurately it’s self-parodying stance). Everyone knows that Rock/pop stars are the epitome of Western style capitalist avarice and conspicuous consumption. This little incident of “cognitive dissonance” hasn’t stopped Kevin Wall, Live Earth’s founder from executing this concept – with Al Gore’s blessing of course. For an event that’s billed as “The Greatest Show on Earth to Save the Earth” or “The Greatest Pop Music Event in History” with a mission to spread the message of protecting our environment an estimated audience exceeding 2billion people worldwide. The event will never be free from controversy despite of the organizers’ purchase of “Carbon Offset” funds and the use of environmentally friendly transport like biodiesel powered buses, will biofueled private jets be on offer in the future? As Al Gore unveiled the “7 Point Pledge” in the Live Earth event as a sort of a “checklist” for anyone interested in reducing their “carbon footprint.” Cynics will be saying and thinking that the audiences are more interested in the “acts” than the message Live Earth is trying to get across, but is it right to dismiss the worth of Live Earth?

Ever since the very first Woodstock back in the summer of 1969, Rock/pop stars had always proven their worth in spearheading social revolutions aimed in changing our world for the better. Back in the “Summer of Love”, Rock/pop stars made average suburban white folks more aware of the plight of African-Americans, Dr. Martin Luther King’s message, and the Vietnam War. These “celebrities” provided a platform of informed choice with universal appeal especially to impressionable teenagers. The “Secret Policeman” concert of the early 1980’s where Sting fused his humanitarian concerns with his Rockstar persona for the very first time and quite successful at it even until now. Sir Bob Geldof’s “Live Aid” of 1985 made more young people aware back then in that pre-internet era on the extent of the Ethiopian famine than the traditional news providers ever could. Then came the series of look-how-caring-we-are causes like “A Very Special Christmas” album compilations for the benefit of the Special Olympics.

Basing on this historical track record, I think Rock/pop stars are more successful in earning/generating money/funds for charity than convincing the powers-that-be to end wars and torture. It’s quite sad that convincing “Westernized” people around the world to abandon their pursuit of avarice and conspicuous consumption is almost as futile as convincing the global powers to end all on-going wars around the world. And let’s not forget Live Earth is not the first musical event with an environmental platform. Who among us can still recall the 20th Earth Day TV special back in April 1990 where Bette Middler pleading to all people around the world to be more “Earth Friendly.” Or the Seattle- Music- Scene-movie “Singles” where a bumper sticker reads: “Think Globally, Act Locally” lends a “Dadaist” environmental message in the movie. But earth friendliness never became popular to the 1990’s “Alternative- Grunge-Seattle” music scene. Apparently the “Dadaist Message” was deemed to subtle because the SUV and “cheap” gasoline were the lasting legacy of Clinton-era America. Another environmentalism-driven music scene is “Lilith Fair” but was and always been perceived by the majority as an “alternative lifestyle” venue for American women. And lets not forget that the “Rockstar” lifestyle and excess knows no bounds like the recent incident of Al Gore's son in an “unlawful joyride” with a hybrid car, a Toyota Prius no less.

In spite of it all, to me, any form of spreading awareness on the plight of our environment and what we –the ordinary people- could do in our part to save it should be embraced with open arms because it’s a way a lot better than doing nothing. Rock/pop star fronted causes might work only on “charity cases” but the moral pressure they exerted back in the 1960’s ended the US Government’s involvement in the Vietnam conflict, Civil Rights are no longer a dream but a working reality, but it took time. I think everyone around the world is beginning to realize that environmentalism only works when poverty is reduced to zero, and if the global peace and order situation takes a radical turn for the better.

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