Hard to Change

Live8 Brought Millions for AIDS Victims; Can Live Earth Accomplish the Same?

Opinion | Anna Claessen | September 2007

I turn on the TV and different images keep flashing on my screen. I feel my emotions rushing through my body. Anger, devastation and disbelief – all those  images of territory lost to pollution, facts about global warming and cartoons showing the damage we are doing to our earth. Next to these images were videos of celebrities, actress Jessica Biel and American Pie actor Jason Biggs doing their part by sorting the trash. Apparently we are supposed to admire them so much that we immediately want to do the same.

"What is this," I wonder. It isn’t until I see John Mayer singing "Waiting for the World to Change" live in concert that I realize what this is: It’s Live Earth.

Live Earth was held on Jul. 7, 2007 to raise funds and awareness about global warming. It was a part of a three-year campaign to combat climate change. Around two billion people watched 150 live musical acts in 11 locations around the world that were broadcasted on TV, radio and Internet.

The first of such events, Live Aid, was held on Jul. 13, 1985. The event was a multi-venue rock music concert organized by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure.  They had written the song "Do They know It’s Christmas," with the voices of most of the hit recording artists of that time, to raise funds for famine relief in Ethiopia. Turned out it wasn’t enough, so they staged simultaneous concerts at Wembley Stadium in London and John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia and convinced BBC to broadcast it live on UK television and radio. The event raised £150 million, about 217 million euros.

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Live Aid, on Jul. 2, 2005 around 150 bands and 1,250 musicians gave concerts across the globe soliciting names to be put on the "Live8 List." The list would be presented at the G8 Summit five days later to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair who was chairing the session. The list got their attention and the meeting voted to provide AIDS drugs to all those who need them, to care for all AIDS orphans, to cancel the debt for 38 developing countries (with 18 benefiting the same year) and to commit to providing free primary education as well as basic healthcare for all children.

The "Live" concerts, starting 1985, were always "live," not recorded. This was like watching a propaganda film.

"They must be desperate," I thought to myself, "to have to go this far." It reminded me of the Michael Moore technique: Pushing the world to change, using short films, cartoons and celebrities.

A few days later, I got into a very deep conversation with two Icelandic guys at a party about what it takes to change things, using this as an example. They were sure that protesting would be the best way to be heard. In some ways I agreed, but in others I wasn’t sure that it would be affective.

The most effective way to stop something, I decided, would be to interrupt the cash flow.

But making normal people change their day-to-day routine – even to improve our earth and future quality of living – is not so easy. Although people receive money for their cans and plastic, only so many people take the time to sort and recycle. Maybe those bottle fees need to be higher? Because so far, recycling costs a lot of money and effort and still receives negative feedback.

But if not fees, what would work then?

Are propaganda style movies and glitzy entertainers the only way to get though to us? And if that doesn’t work, what will?

Other articles from this issue