It's the new pattern of 'New Politics': don't bother with politics, political parties, programmes and elections etc - just organise a big media feel-good gig and get celebrity endorsements for your cause. So despite the conspicous failures of past smugfests like Make Poverty History and Live 8, Al Gore wants to lecture us all by getting pop stars to perform environment concerts on seven continues over 24 hours. As if there's anyone alive who isn't already aware of the situation? It's rammed down our throats everywhere. But Live Earth reminds us that political pop is not dead but is in a dire state where, as I've posted before, there are Too many protest singers, not enough protest songs. [Read more below]
John Harris writes in the Guardian, 'Pop's engagement with politics is now a matter of piously subscribing to causes that no one disagrees with, and parrotting the slogan du jour. Sorry to be so cynical, but really: I am not taking any lessons about the perils of fossil fuels from Madonna, James Blunt and good old Johnny Borrell'. Harris concludes that 'the activity Neil Young characterised as rocking in the free world is now pretty much devoid of political meaning'.
Live Earth also reminds us all that the egotism of film and pop stars never fails to amaze. Already many commentators and the public are whether pop stars and their taste for conspicuous consumption are the best advocates for cutting fossil fuel emissions. Witness the fact that rich celebrities like John Travolta lecture us to cut down on consumption while continuing to fly their private jets everywhere. And even Al Gore has been exposed as running his household with a massive 20 times the national average of energy consumption.
As Rob Lyon points out in a spiked-online article - Live Earth: change the record - it is clear to most that rather than being the best to set a 'green example', celebrities are among the least 'green' individuals on the planet:
Even if the concerts themselves are carbon-neutral, the organisers and performers quite clearly have lifestyles that are at odds with the message they are preaching to the rest of us. They own big cars, private jets, huge homes and enjoy the best of everything. Yet their advice to everyone else is that we must tighten our belts, rein in our ambitions, make do and mend etc, if we ever hope to Save Our Selves and the planet.
Lyons astutely argues that 'Climate change is certainly the cause du jour for celebrities who want to prove that they aren’t shallow prima donnas' and that 'getting a bit of global exposure won’t do any of these acts any harm'. And in line with mainstream environmentalism, often these celebrities have a 'fairly low opinion of humanity. Di Caprio just comes right out and says it: we must repent for our sins against nature.' Lyons suggests, therefore suggests the Live Earth approach is 'nothing to sing and dance about' and cheekily calls it a 'global disaster':
The real problem with Live Earth, with Vanity Fair and with every other ‘green special’ of one sort or another is that they send out a message which is not simply misplaced but downright reactionary.... The pressing political question of our age should be about how we can both improve our lives still further and ensure that everyone in the world enjoys the benefits. The message of SOS seems to be that we’ve gone too far and we need to call a halt to development
For a similar line about improving people's lives, and taking a class approach to climate change, see Jeremy Seabrook's Guardian article about how the global warming 'crisis' has allowed a dispersal of blame to cover all of humanity, when it has really been a wealthy section of society that has been the beneficiaries of environmental degradation. Seabrook says that the current non-class approach 'permits the culprits to embed themselves in the global population to escape the consequences of their actions', and he objects to the current cross-class collective approach to the issue whereby the nebulous use of the term 'we' promotes a bogus unity which,
masks the reality, namely, that the poor are going to pay disproportionately to put right wrongs of which they have never been beneficiaries. It is one thing to invoke collective action, the common destiny of mankind, but quite another to ensure that the unequal do not bear an excessive share of the asperities required to confront the enormity facing the world. To impose sacrifice and renunciation on those who have nothing is consistent with the division of the spoils of the two centuries-long smash and grab raid on nature.
Seabrook says we that 'the sustenance of the poor remains the most urgent priority.'
A similar approach is taken by the commonly misunderstood leftwinger, Björn Lomborg, who says the west needs to urgently focus massive resources on helping the poor and undeveloped nations of the world. In a recent Guardian article, Lomborg comments on the EU's highly-celebrated 20% emission-cutting plan by pointing out that although it would cost those countries about $90bn annually it would only 'postpone warming in 2100 by just two years'. He thinks more radical and progressive solutions need to be implemented, and that the west needs to take a longer-term pro-development approach rather than the current quick knee-jerk actions:
We will not be able to solve global warming over the next decades, but only the next half or full century. We need to find a viable, long-term strategy that is smart, equitable, and doesn't require inordinate sacrifice for trivial benefits. Fortunately, there is such a strategy: research and development. Investing in R&D of non-carbon-emitting energy technologies would leave future generations able to make serious and yet economically feasible and advantageous cuts. A new global warming treaty should mandate spending 0.05% of GDP on R&D in the future. It would be much cheaper, yet do much more good in the long run.
In this regard, New Zealand is fortunate to have a visiting British member of the EU Parliament visiting at the moment. He is giving lectures on 'Nuclear Energy for a Green Future'. As profiled in this week's Listener article, Terry Wynn says that New Zealand’s inconvenient truth is that this country will need nuclear power one day. He believes that 'the problem of meeting the growing energy demands of the developing world, while the developed world starts switching off at the wall, could and should be met by nuclear'. He sees nuclear power, which he says is becoming significantly safer, will be part of the answer to global warming: 'Nuclear power on its own will not solve the problem of global warming, but the problem of global warming will not be solved unless nuclear power is in the equation'. Apparently he's backed up by people such as Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore, and the author of the Gaia theory, James Lovelock.