7/7/07 and “hypocrisy”


I don’t particularly know what I think about the 7/7/07 concerts, but I know that I agree with what Michael O’hare says here:

The specific fossil fuel consumption of the concerts themselves seem to me the most petty and ignorant line of attack. What’s the argument: we shouldn’t have concerts? We should only have daytime performances by local talent, for audiences that can walk or bike in, using only acoustic instruments? Seems to me the organizers did a pretty good job of delivering a lot of art engagement, and political speech, for not much carbon, but anyway, the point of life on earth isn’t to never use any fossil fuel, it’s to use the right amount for the right things, and having a good time together is one of those things. Music is another. Sorry, the hypocrisy rap on these events is just jive, a cheap debater’s trick to divert attention from the substance on the ridiculous premise that if A ever did B, even a little, anything he ever says against B is wrong. Playing gotcha is a kid’s playground routine grownups can leave there, especially when the stakes are high.

When you work in the environmental field, I think you inevitably start to develop a tricky relationship with some of the big splashy environmental events that command the most public attention. Witness WorldChanging’s heartfelt call to end Earth Day.

Nevertheless, most of the criticisms of such events come not from WorldChanging’s position of deep concern and constructive engagement with environmentalism. Rather, they’re generally glib exercises in contrarianism, written by people who don’t really give a damn about the underlying issues. Which is a shame.

Photo from Flickr user Michale under Creative Commons license.

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  1. jim clifford - July 11, 2007

    george monbiot of oxford says that to avoid global warming, no one can be allowed to use anymore planes. no more trips to visit grandma across the country much less visiting our international friends, no sending fedex pkgs, etc. what does terrapass think of this issue? he doesn’t even see carbon offset ideas as feasible for dealing w/ the aviation problem. he says we can only do slow travel, so its amtrak to see grandma and i’m not sure how he’d suggest we go overseas if at all. i guess we can only have fun locally now..?

  2. Green Jersey Girl - July 11, 2007

    Well, when celebrities get involved, it always seems to go over the top! However, as with the AIDS crisis, most of the high-profile people involved in big, events are there because they sincerely care about the cause and it is their way of doing something about it. Most of us are transitioning from a fossil fuel dependent lifestyle, which often includes how we work. It won’t happen overnight, but the sudden HUGE rush of interest, which precipitated Live Earth isn’t bad. Rather than focus on the negative impact, I am just glad it has sparked a very, very large and wide-spread conversation that will get folks thinking and hopefully active.

  3. Tom Arnold - July 11, 2007

    Jim: the problem is “love miles”. You can’t not see grandma once a year.
    I won’t speak for everyone at TerraPass, but I think we have got to start working on small changes. Lets convince everyone to think before they get on a plane, or challenge themselves to reduce their miles by 7% in 2007, 8% in 2008 and so on. From these baby steps change gets easier and easier.
    Aviation, despite being a focus of attention is still only 2% of global emissions. There are plenty of other areas to work on, and that’s where offset payments can start to help.

  4. very dim bulb - July 11, 2007

    Right… no more concerts. Sustainability means living where you can be happy. Check out Wendell Berry’s poem about ‘and you stay home too’. Do we need concerts? Learn to listen to the birds (and find ways to encourage them in your local environment so they will sing for you), to the wind (and plant some trees so your grandchildren can hear the wind in your trees), to the stream (the rocks are already placed perfectly for optimum sound quality), to the carrots growing (this takes practice, but it is a beautiful sound… ask any old hippie, like me). Listen to the sound of your lover breathing. Nature has provided us all the sound we need. Love Earth, and make it better for future generations to love Her too.

  5. Kari - July 11, 2007

    I hope that Live Earth does more to combat climate change than Live Aid did for helping to eliminate/reduce famine in Africa. The concert is just the beginning. Many people will go home having seen their favourite act live and change nothing about their behaviour, which is a shame. Small changes really are the answer, particularly when their effect is compounded over a few years. Tom is right – if we all start with something small, subsequent changes become easier and eaiser.

  6. Cindy Leigh - July 11, 2007

    Unfortunately, our society is one that is heavily influenced by celebrities and their status… (look at the whole Paris Hilton craze, ugh!) So, from a marketing perspective, I think that the concert is a great way to get the word out to the masses using a vehicle (pun intended) that has proven to be effective. By using celebrities to get the word out about simple changes people can make – being green becomes cool. It\’s a slow process and the average person is not going to change their life dramatically overnight. Baby steps are needed to break through the defensive front people put up when they hear the word “conservation”. Celebrities have the power to turn the general populace towards making changes… they buy hybrids, so now we want hybrids… I wish that by just telling the truth about our environmental crisis, people would wake up and change, but it\’s not how our society works these days. So, if you want to get the word out – you need to package it in a way!
    that the most people will listen and take notice.

  7. Patrice Painchaud - July 11, 2007

    Only one thing is going to change everything for the better: eliminate the burning of fossil fuels! Let’s do this within 15 years from now.
    Humanity can do it.
    The previous generation did a similar kind of effort for world war 2. Thousands of people started to build other products than what they used to. They adapted.
    Solar panels, wind power, tidal power, electric cars (see http://www.phoenixmotorcars.com/ ), hydrogen powered planes that emits zero CO2 (see http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/business/72466_airbus30.shtml) all that must allow us to ban the burning of fossil fuels in 15 years.
    Don’t forget: every ton of CO2 that you keep adding up in the air will stay there for 500 years (am I right?) and we already have too much.
    The final goal is to stop adding any CO2 that is not from renewable sources.
    That way, we will still be able to travel instead of living like amishs.
    Let’s wipe out pessimism. Gradually lower the allocation of fossil fuels that will end in the BURNING part until it’s out from the equation and there you go, problem solved! It will be our greatest challenge, it will be complicated, it will be a major job transfer but be confident, we will prevail!
    It’s atmosphere hygiene.

  8. Paul M. - July 11, 2007

    I agree very much with Adam’s comment. While it’s important to point out the environmental effects of even a conscious gather such as Live Earth, it’s wrong to discount the effort for dynamics that are common to the global condition.

  9. Debbie K. - July 11, 2007

    The concerts were an effective idea to promote this cause and to shake the planet out of denial. As in business or other endeavours, you have to give a little to get a little. There was no other way to promote this on a global scale. As one who watched Live Earth, I totally enjoyed the performances from across the globe, and my conviction about the interconnectedness of all of us was re-enforced.

  10. Nancy F. - July 12, 2007

    I went to Live Earth and found it to be inspirational. Then somebody told me about the huge carbon footprint Al gore leaves — flies around in a privte plane, spends $30,000 a year on utilities and maintains three homes. I truly think Al Gore’s heart is in the right place, and I would love to believe he is not being hypocritical. Can anyone help justify Al’s behavior?

  11. Anonymous - July 12, 2007

    I watched about an hour of the Live Earth concert while working on reglazing some basement storm windows. I gave up after an hour after being bombarded with so many car commercials. I thought we’ll maybe they’ll have something about ditching your car and riding your bike to work like I’ve been doing for most of the summer, so I looked up on line at their pledge. http://liveearthpledge.org/answer_the_call.php
    Nope not even a mention that riding a bike is one of the best ways to cut green house gases while saving energy and resources’. Seriously, I don’t think these people have a clue. Yea they fly in their jets, do their concerts, get everyone worked up and then buy offsets. I’d be more impressed if they went out some place, broke out in a sweat planting tree’s and getting some dirt under their nails.
    This is one of the reason’s I refuse to call myself an environmentalist, I can’t stand the hypocrisy and the blind eye given to so many that live lifestyles that are completely unsustainable for the planet.
    I rather call myself a conservationist, I conserve where ever I can because not only is it good for the planet, it’s good for my pocket book. I don’t need a big house, I don’t need to fly everywhere, I don’t need no 4 wheel drive SUV and I certainly don’t need them preaching to me!
    Keep riding your bike but watch out for Al Gore III

  12. Rebecca - July 12, 2007

    Apparently, Al was recently excoriated by the media in TN, who pointed out, as you, that his footprint was *large*. He and Tipper have begun retrofitting their house and attempting to bring their lifestyles into alignment with his professed values. Not ideal, but better late than never.

  13. Rob - July 14, 2007

    The Al Gore thing is certainly awkward, but much of it — especially his flying, and basically all of his footprint that relates to his campaigning — is outweighed 300 times over every year forever if you give him *1%* of the credit for Ontario’s banning of the bulb.
    (Sadly, I can’t find the numbers that I used to crunch this — but it was basically (Gore’s estimated CO2 from flying) / (estimated use of power by incandescant lightbulbs in ontario * .75 [the savings from going from incandescent to CF] * average CO2 output per kWh in Ontario).
    The other thing to consider is not how he compares to the average American (or Canadian, or…) but how he compares to the average person approximately in his socioeconomic segment, the billionaire politician.
    But yeah, he should fix that — the fact that he hasn’t is unfortunate, but still probably the “right” use of his time in the big picture, except to the extent that he can be undermined for not doing it.

  14. MNWalleye - July 15, 2007

    Rebecca, finally looks like a little education for Al is finally rubbing in.

    Trust but Verify someone once said.

    Now if we could only take away his son\’s drivers license for good.


  15. MNWalleye - July 17, 2007

    Sometimes you don’t know if you should laugh or cry when you read this

  16. Anonymous - August 20, 2007

    Hi Jim,
    We don’t have to stay home. Just as long as we progressively entirely replace “things” that emit CO2 and eventually ban all artificial CO2 production, geniuses will find solutions.
    People will still travel as much as before (even more) but there won’t be anymore guilt.