Fri, Jul 06, 2007 - Page 9 News List

Rock, then change your light bulbs

Mas events like the Live Earth concert raise awareness, but if we are going to combat climate change, personal action is vital

By Henry POrter  /  THE OBSERVER , LONDON

More than 150 music acts will come together tomorrow on the propitious date of 7/7/07, to take part in Live Earth: the Concert for a Climate in Crisis, which will occur over 24 hours on every continent and will reach about a third of the July estimate of the world's population of 6,602,224,175 people.

There will even be a performance from Antarctica by the Nunatak band, which has been raised from the small number of scientists over-wintering at the South Pole. (Nunatak, by the way, is Greenlandic for a peak within an icefield or glacier.)

It will all go off very well, I am sure.

Satellite links will bring you music from Shanghai, Sydney, Johannesburg, London, Hamburg, Rio and Tokyo and everywhere we will see the misty-eyed warmth of the human spirit briefly "engaged" with the problems of rising sea levels, desertification, melting glaciers and the pH levels of the oceans.

We will have the sense of creating a unified front just as we did during Live Aid and less universally during Live8. There is no part of me that resents the enjoyment that will be had, but let's not mistake it for political action and hard-headed political thinking.

It is simple-minded to think that Madonna, the Red Hot Chili Peppers or the Beastie Boys will achieve anything other than a slight rise in the carbon emission of those traveling to events or switching on their TVs to watch them. Certainly, lives were saved by Live Aid and its anthem Do They Know It's Christmas? Bob Geldof and Bono have done a great deal to prod the West's conscience but what more was accomplished by the people who formed daisychains in druidical white prior to the Gleneagles summit and the Live8 concert in July 2005?

The answer is probably not a lot.

To Geldof's despair, debt relief and aid have fallen short of promises made two years ago. There's just only so much that music and stadium politics can do.

That's not to say that mass movements don't work, but how will people's consciences be affected by lectures from rock stars who use private jets? How many of those at Wembley have plans to escape an appalling summer by traveling on easyJet to the record temperatures being experienced in southern Europe? Whatever your views on manmade global warming, we must keep this clear: swaying with Sting will do nothing for rising sea levels.

My absolute conviction about climate change dates from Feb. 3, 2005 and the International Symposium on Stabilization of Greenhouse Gases at the Met office in Exeter, when, in the final session, scientists got up to express surprise and horror at how quickly things appeared to be unfolding in their colleagues' research.

Global warming does not mean long, hot summers, but aberrant weather that defies previous patterns and long-range prediction.

The evidence of abrupt changes seems to become more obvious every month. But this is going to take decades of concentration and the sort of cooperation between competing states that the world has never seen before.

The people cannot wait for government. There is a requirement for each of us to change our habits in driving and flying and in energy consumption at home.

This is where politics becomes personal, a question of self-control and, I suppose, morality. It is all rather pedestrian and dull, but what needs to happen next Saturday for Live Earth to mean anything at all is a bit of a chat about practical measures.

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