Tuesday, January 1, 2008

In 2007: Earth Died Screaming

Al Gore wins the Nobel Peace Prize. Oil hit $100 per barrel. Congress finally increases fuel economy standards. In a year where climate change was the cause celebre, there are almost too many events essential to understanding the last twelve months. From those that emerged after years of neglect on our part to those that we undertook in an attempt to stave off future woe, this was supposed to be the year that the world got serious about global warming. It wasn't.

The latest in a storied history of global benefit concerts, Live Earth sought to raise the profile of climate change with the combined charisma of Al Gore and every rock star on the planet. What it became was a grade school arithmetic lesson on what happens when you add negative and positive numbers; proving that Al Gore's black hole of charm can suck the wind out of an international conference of rock stars and that learning is never cool. Even when Jennifer Garner is telling you about recycling. From the beginning, the concerts were engulfed in controversy. If it weren't bad enough that rock stars were flying across the world to rock out on power draining stages, only to be watched by fans who traveled to the venues in fossil fuel burning cars while leaving piles of waste behind them, Al Gore's son got busted for possession the night before while pulling 100mph in his hybrid Prius in Southern California.

The concert came and went with a whimper, not a bang, and what does the world have to show for it? Some pledges were signed, and it was likely the most eco-friendly global rock show by a significant margin. But there was no global shift in consciousness spurred on by an Alicia Keyes duet. The Spinal Tap Reunion may have helped inch the Bali Summit forward, but we still don't have a harder, better, faster, stronger Kyoto Accord. Maybe if they'd gotten Daft Punk, the post-Bali world would be a zero-carbon emission, techno-robotic wonderland. Maybe.

Climate change is a crisis of both magnitude and urgency, and no event this year encapsulated both the enormity of the challenge and the impossibility of immediacy than Live Earth. Even more essentially, however, it shined a light on a path oft-ignored by the media. Where intergovernmental conferences may create the framework for long-term, cross border solutions to carbon emissions, we can only count on governments so much as we can count on ourselves. To that end, Live Earth was the trans-national conference of the global grassroots. The pledges may not seem like much, but at least it didn't tank as badly as Bali.


Brendan K. said...

My roommate and I watched Live Earth for a full two hours expecting the innevitable appearance of Coldplay. It seemed inescapable, didn't it? And yet, the Police thing where Kanye waved his hand and went "yeah!" a bunch of times came and went, clearly signalling the finale of the global show, and no Chris Martin bearing piano graffiti. What the fuck? I came to the conclusion that Coldplay must have been off having their own Live Earth somewhere in central Asia and that it probably got better ratings anyway.

(Sidenote: The Police reunion? SO underwhelming. I was sick of them at about the 8th minute of "Message in a Bottle." Who knew they'd come back as a jam band- and consecrate my disadain by playing Bonnaroo!?)

Steven Simunic said...

Here's another question: has any reunion show ever met expectations? Pixies, Led Zeppelin, The Police. The list goes on.