This Saturday, millions of viewers around the world tuned in to round-the-clock coverage of the Live Earth concert series held in various stadiums in cities across the world. As well as crowds of tens of thousands of music fans, viewers watched televised broadcasts and webcasts of the event while pop music superstars performed at the global festival organized by former Vice President-turned environmental campaigner Al Gore. Since he helped produce the Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth, Gore has trumpeted the cause of going green and the dangers of climate change culminating with the massive concert series to raise awareness about global warming.
After announcing the concert series, which was inspired by another socially conscious event, the Live 8 festival benefiting African AIDS relief, Gore told reporters, “Live Earth will ask people across the world to commit to changes in their lives and to move other people, communities, companies and governments to reduce our carbon output by 90 percent by 2050.” Gore made the goal of the ambitious event clear from the get-go: Live Earth would be about raising awareness about climate change. This weekend, some of music’s biggest stars played on stages around the globe including the Foo Fighters, Kanye West, a reunited Police, Madonna, Black Eyed Peas and more. But it was the event’s end goal of awareness that has drawn criticism for some artists and activists also concerned about the plight of global warming.
When asked about why they were choosing not to participate in the event, British indie rockers the Artic Monkeys told one media outlet, “It’s a bit patronising for us 21-year-olds to try to start to change the world … Especially when we’re using enough power for 10 houses just for (stage) lighting. It’d be a bit hypocritical.” The Artic Monkeys weren’t the only ones that questioned the effectiveness of conveying a message of cutting carbon emission through a massive concert series. Several large media outlets carried stories outlining the huge carbon footprints left by the artists that were performing at the event. Comedian Chris Rock even joked, saying, “I pray that this event ends global warming the same way that Live Aid ended world hunger.”
His joke carries a poignant sting for a generation passionate about enacting change, whether it be socially or environmentally, concerning where the line between glamorous events aimed at raising awareness and where they actually connect with activists who are really doing something to make a difference.