Pop Culture

Some question Live Earth's ‘green’ credentials

Live Earth organizers have gone to considerable lengths to marry the global event’s methods with its message, but they’ve been called hypocrites by critics as varied as a Congressman and one of the Who.

Live Earth on Saturday will hold eight concerts (seven if the show in Brazil is canceled, as was a possibility Thursday) that bring together over 150 acts to perform for arena-size audiences from Australia to New Jersey. Any event of such magnitude is bound to create trash and use gas — and some have claimed this contradicts Live Earth’s green goal of raising awareness for climate change.

“The last thing the planet needs is a rock concert,” Who lead singer Roger Daltrey recently told a British newspaper.

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla. (who has called global warming a “hoax”), earlier in a posting on the Web site for the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works called on Hollywood global warming activists “who talk the talk, to walk the walk.”

To maintain its green integrity, Live Earth is implementing “green event guidelines” for its concerts. The guidelines were issued with support from the U.S. Green Building Council; John Picard, a former-member of President Clinton’s Green White House task force, is leading the efforts.

The guidelines are: all electricity that powers the shows will be from renewable sources; concessionaires will be encouraged to use suppliers of biodegradable plastics; waste will be minimized through recycling and reuse; venue offices will use as little energy as possible; production lighting will include the use of LED light bulbs; staff and artist air travel will be offset through carbon credits; and ground travel will be by hybrid or high-efficiency vehicles where possible.

“This is going to be the greenest event of its kind, ever,” former Vice President and Live Earth partner Al Gore told The Associated Press. “The carbon offsets and the innovative practices that are being used to make this a green event, I think, will set the standard for years to come.”

Still, some — like Muse frontman Matthew Bellamy — have criticized the use of private jets for artists. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has also claimed it is inconsistent with the message of Live Earth to host meat-selling vendors at the concerts.

Others have voiced skepticism that carbon-neutral efforts don’t absolve pollution. (The concept of carbon neutral is to offset carbon dioxide emissions with the help of companies that cancel out carbons in some way, such as by planting trees.)

Picard has called offsets “a necessary evil right now.” Live Earth’s U.S. carbon offsetting will be handled by Native Energy, a Native American energy company.

Experts say any impact caused by Live Earth will be far outweighed by its accomplishment. The goal of Live Earth, founded by concert producer Kevin Wall, is to “trigger a global movement to solve the climate crisis.” Through various media, the concerts hope to attract an audience of over two billion.

Singer-guitarist Adam Gardner of the band Guster has been helping bands tour in an eco-friendly manner since forming Reverb with his wife Lauren Sullivan in 2004. The nonprofit organization helps acts like the Dave Matthews Band, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Beastie Boys power their buses with biodiesel fuels, among other measures.

“Of course it’s not going to be perfect — nobody’s perfect,” says Gardner of Live Earth. “As long as the net impact is more positive than negative, that’s the good thing. And I think it will be.”

Gardner says he’s seen an increasing number of bands, record labels and venues become interested in reducing their environmental impact.

Joel Makower, executive editor of GreenBiz.com, which helps businesses become more environmentally friendly, says, “The only truly zero impact event is the event that never takes place.”

“One of the questions that critics need to ask is, ‘How good is good enough?”’ says Makower. “My sense is that in their eyes, almost nothing ever is.”

The organizers of Live Earth hope that ultimately concertgoers focus on their personal responsibility. Live Earth recently introduced on www.LiveEarth.org the “Live Impact” carbon calculator, which enables people to calculate their individual carbon imprint.

Says Makower: “The real impact is not how green they can make Live Earth, but how green they can help make all the concerts that come afterward.”

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