A series of concerts "bigger than Live Aid" are being planned for July, in a bid to put the subject of climate change before a global audience of two billion, reports the Financial Times. The event, scheduled for July 7, will feature co-ordinated film, music and television events in seven cities including London, Washington DC, Shanghai, Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town and Kyoto, with major broadcasters and media owners aiming to magnify public concern over global warming. Al Gore is reported to be a chief organizer.
Given the major challenges that even major moments like the release of the IPCC report face in breaking onto the news and public agenda, these "entertainment education" events in the form of blockbuster movies, multi-media celebrity initiatives like Global Cool, and "Live 8" style concerts are a necessary and very likely effective alternative strategy.
According to the Financial Times, they are promising a line-up of artists to "dwarf" that of the Live8 and Live Aid concerts, thought to be branded under the name "SOS." One person close to the event said yesterday: "The talent involved is just exponentially bigger because the issue itself is bigger. Live Aid was about asking people to stump up money, this is about effecting systemic change. The aim is not just to drive awareness but to get people to take action."
There's just one problem. As great a catalyst and leader as Al Gore has been on global warming, and as much as I admire Inconvenient Truth, he remains a major "negative brand" for the nearly half of Americans who hold an unfavorable view of the former VP. It's one reason why I've argued in the past that Gore's film should stay out of science classes. With this summer's world concerts, his prominent involvement will be just another convenient filtering device for Republicans tune out the event, and disregard the science and the urgency of global warming.
Under the picture-worth-1000-words category, Paul McCartney's decision to give Friends of the Earth a prominent sponsorship slot on his 1989 live comeback tour paved the way for other stadium artists - like Bono and Edge - to comfortably introduce political and environmental issues into their stage shows, which U2 did so stylishly with their early-'90s Zoo TV concerts.
I'm a fan, Matt, and I properly frame things in my work all the time, but this is also a 'teachable moment' for...well, how things are framed.
Pointing out the dirty tricks of the right/denialist lobby, how they marginalize, and how they pay people to write deceptive articles in this context has much power.
I appreciate your thoughtful and provocative analyses of the intersection between science and politics, Matt. However, you seem to have a blind spot when it comes to Al Gore, since you fairly regularly suggest, as here, that he is the wrong spokesperson for the kind of policy changes necessary to avert catastrophic global climate change because a large segment of the population supposedly dislikes him intensely enough that he has no credibility with them. I am a biologist, not a political scientist, but here is my alternative analysis. The U.S. is not like a Society of Friends meeting, requiring unity to take action. Instead, we can move forward on dealing with climate change at the federal level with majority support in the House of Representatives, 60% support in the Senate, and a President willing to sign legislation. It will help to have a President who proposes and promotes meaningful legislation, which is a possibility following the next election.
There will always be a segment of the population who doesn't accept Al Gore as a leader on this or any other issue. But please recall that he won the popular vote in 2000 by a solid margin. He faced three major obstacles to winning a resounding victory in the popular vote and a substantial victory in the Electoral College: disgust at Bill Clinton's personal behavior, the candidacy of Ralph Nader, and a campaign that was too driven by cautious consultants. The first two will no longer be problems (even if Nader runs again, his supporters will want to atone for their contribution to all that has gone wrong since that election). Gore shows signs of overcoming the third problem. If he can retain the passion and intelligence that he has shown in his campaign to educate the public about global climate change, he will be a formidable candidate in 2008.
We need to move forward. Isn't it time to forget about the climate change denialists and start to do what needs to be done?