Saturday, July 14, 2007

Post No. 113: Why I Am A Live Earth Sceptic

Note #1: What follows below is an expanded version of the comments I have left on the blog of a friend of mine. I would like to use this opportunity to apologise to my friend for any unintentional offence I may have caused her with my leaving of sceptical comments on her blog.

Note #2: If you are a Live Earth enthusiast and are easily offended, please be advised to not continue reading this post.

One week ago, on 7/7/2007, Live Earth, touted to be “a 24-hour, 7-continent concert series taking place on 7/7/07 that will bring together more than 100 music artists and 2 billion people to trigger a global movement to solve the climate crisis” (according to its official website), was broadcasted to a worldwide audience through various forms of media.

Well, I must confess that, initially, I too was partly caught up in all the media hype about Live Earth and was a Live Earth enthusiast. In fact, I considered wearing something green on the day the concerts were held to show my support for the event and the cause it supported (this idea was, however, subsequently jettisoned when I realised that the only things green in my wardrobe were my army uniforms and a bright lime green running T-shirt).

However, over the past few days, after serious consideration about the various aspects of the event, I must say that my initial enthusiasm for the Live Earth has been replaced with mild scepticism. In short, I have become a Live Earth sceptic.

Do not be mistaken. I do support the cause of anti-global warming; I am just sceptical about what the Live Earth concerts can really achieve in aiding this cause.

Why am I a Live Earth sceptic?

For one, call me pessimistic, but I am of the opinion that, at least for now, the Live Earth concerts have not really awaken the environmental consciousness & changed the mindset in most people. I mean, just look at reports of how Live Earth concert-goers left behind heaps of recyclable & non-recyclable rubbish at the various concert venues. And, I suppose there will be people who claim that they are in support of Live Earth/anti-global warming but go on living their “globe warming” lives as per normal after the curtains fall on the last of the Live Earth concerts.

Yes, perhaps we cannot expect an overnight change in people’s attitudes or for Live Earth to have an immediate effect. Perhaps we should instead consider the possible long term impact that Live Earth may bring about.

Yet, while I do not deny the truth in that we should also consider the possible long term effect of Live Earth, I think it should be pointed out that considering the urgent need to find a way to resolve the climate crisis, even if Live Earth do have a successful long term effect, it may perhaps be a case of “too little, too late”. In the end, as Keynes have supposedly said: “In the long run, we are all dead”.

In addition, considering the lack of concrete achievements by other events & initiatives similar to Live Earth e.g. Live Aid, Live 8 & Product Red (remember the red Motorola mobile phones?), pardon me if I am sceptical about whether Live Earth will achieve any long-lasting effects.

And, ironically, as widely publicised as the concerts were, there remain people who remain ignorant about the concerts and the significance behind them.

Furthermore, I am of the opinion that there are, amongst those who attended and/or watched the Live Earth concerts, who supported the concerts not because of the anti-global warming cause but because of the celebrities & artistes involved with the concerts.

Yes, it is quite possible that the “celebrity effect” could indeed inspire people to become more environmentally conscious. However, perhaps I am asking for too much but I wonder this effect would be something long-lasting, as in whether fans and/or supporters of these celebrities have really realised the importance of anti-global warming and have it imprinted in their hearts & minds. Or would this effect be something superficial that wears off over time?

Also, while I comprehend that, in view of their influence with people, it is rather inevitable that celebrities be enlisted to be the public faces of the anti-global warming cause, I cannot shake off the feeling that it is rather sad that people will need a series of global concerts involving celebrities to be organised before they are to recognise the importance of anti-global warming. Oh well, I guess that, in the “celebrity effect” aspect, scientists from the IPCC and Professor Tommy Koh (who is the Ambassador-at-large for Singapore and a long time champion of the environmental cause who is one of the winners of the UNEP’s “Champions of the Earth” award for 2006) are no match for celebrities like Madonna.

Moving on, I must say that, with no disrespect, that it seems to me that the current attention paid to Live Earth/anti-global warming may perhaps partially be due to a “flavour of the month”/“5 minutes in the spotlight” effect. In other words, most people have short attention spans and it so happens that, due to the current media hype surrounding it, their short attention spans are now focused on Live Earth/anti-global warming. To put it crudely, it has become “fashionable” to be anti-global warming. As time pass and as the media spotlight shifts to another issue, perhaps people will start to forget about the significance of Live Earth and focus their attention on the next “flavour of the month” and/or the next “fashionable” noble cause.

On that note, as important as the anti-global warming cause may be, I think we should not forget there are other causes and/or issues which are no less important than it. Yes, the cause of anti-global warming is important. But what about global poverty? The HIV/AIDS epidemic? Domestic violence? Gender inequality? Racial discrimination? And the list goes on... Have we forgotten about these issues because no one is organising a series of concerts around the world to focus attention on them?

Yes, perhaps it is true what my friend (the one whose blog I first left my “Why I am a Live Earth sceptic” comments on) said. That the fact that we are currently having an anti-global warming campaign does not mean that we are neglecting the other important issues that were mentioned in the preceding paragraph. That we can only do so much to tackle the problems facing humanity one by one. Yet, call me obstinate but I just can’t shake off the feeling that with so much attention being paid currently to the anti-global warming cause, we are, to some extent, neglecting the other important issues (sort of like how the KDF was the “poor cousin” of the old NKF).

Sidetracking, allow me to state that personally, I have been, more or less, environmentally conscious become Live Earth came onto the scene. I am saying this to make sure you all understand that I am not criticising Live Earth because I am some “sceptic” who thinks that global warming is a hoax. I too attempt to reduce my paper wastage, switch off electricity when no one is around and etc. I may not go around wearing a T-shirt with “I support Live Earth” emblazoned across the front of it and/or a green T-shirt on 7/7-8/7/2007 but that doesn’t make me any less “green”; likewise, a supporter of Live Earth and/or wearer of green T-shirt on the days the concerts were shown need not be really “green” in what he/she does.

In the end, people need to recognise that alone, the Live Earth concerts cannot really achieve much. It is necessary that concerted and continuous efforts be made to educate and remind people about the importance of anti-global warming if we are to really achieve anything. Like what my friend said: “It is easy to teach about anti-global warming, but it’s also easy to forget”. Live Earth is a first step. It cannot be the only step taken.


Coincidentally, my mild scepticism about the long term effect of Live Earth is partially echoed in the closing paragraphs of Mr. Paul Jacob’s, Deputy Political Editor for the Straits Times, article (“I’m not ready to don the green cape”) in today’s (14/7/2007) Straits Times

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