A further problem with Live Earth is the much publicised waste of energy used to power the event. The Arctic Monkeys recently spoke out against the ‘hypocrisy’:
“It’s a bit patronising for us 21 year olds to try to start to change the world,” said Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders … “Especially when we’re using enough power for 10 houses just for (stage) lighting. It’d be a bit hypocritical,” he told AFP in an interview before a concert in Paris.
Large parts of the band’s hometown of Sheffield were flooded at the end of last month after a deluge of mid-summer rain that some blamed on global warming. Two people were killed.
But the band wonder why anyone would be interested in the opinion of rock stars on a complex scientific issue like climate change.
“Someone asked us to give a quote about what was happening in Sheffield and it’s like ‘who cares what we think about what’s happening’?” added Helders. “There’s more important people who can have an opinion. Why does it make us have an opinion because we’re in a band?”
Much of the Live Earth message is about changing our lifestyles, to cut down on planet spoling emissions. As well as reducing power consumption, we should reduce our carbon footprint by travelling by car and plane less, on foot and bicycle more, and through the purchase of locally produced goods with fewer ‘food miles’. Why, then, was the Live Earth event not concieved with these ideas in mind? Instead of highly centralised concerts, with artistes imported from all over the world, the Live Earth brand should have been used to promote dozens, if not hundreds, of more parochial concerts. Big Name bands could curate a gig in their home town, discovering the latest talent via MySpace and the recommendations from the local scene – an easy ask for the Arctic Monkeys, say. These big name bands would, of course, headline the gig, and the crowds that they attract would be able to walk to and from the venue. Beer would be supplied from the local pubs – and it would be the local economy that recieved a financial boost.
Instead of a distant and mythological Al Gore, local politicians could re-engage with their electorate by explaining what the council is doing to recycle, and on what day the blue bins are being collected. Instead of a Jonathan Ross and Kate Silverton overload, local radio journalists could host the concert, and perhaps inspire some of the community cohesion that many towns lack.
The Live Earth website, instead of being a promotional tool for Madonna and Bon Jovi, could instead carry YouTube clips from thousands of concerts from all over the world. The most popular, as voted for by the Internet viewing audience, would be broadcast on network TV. Sure, these would probably be mostly the big acts (the Sheffield gig for the Arctic Monkeys, the St Andrews gig for KT Tunstall), but this method would undoubtedly throw up some interesting, idiosyncratic acts with a little local flavour, which nevertheless prove popular with Internet users. Some exposure for these artists would be welcome change from the smooth-edges required of any musician who wants to go ‘mainstream’.
Such an approach would also mean than millions more people could actively participate in the event, rather than passively via the TV as some of us have done this weekend. This would still inspire a collective memory, even though individual recollections would depend on which concert you went to see. The question “Where were you for Live Earth?” would not be about which pub you chose to sit in to watch the TV, but about what bands you saw and which friends you went with – an altogether more interesting question, and one that could travel the world.