Saturday, July 07, 2007

Eco-Hero or Eco-Ego? Vol.4 - Live Earth

Today, to commemorate the "Live Earth" concert series, the Nexus of Assholery offers a special double-shot of Eco-Hero or Eco-Ego.

Al Gore: environmental messiah or flat-out hypocrite?

Today, people the world over are partaking in the Live Earth concert series, as nine festival-style concerts, on all seven continents (including the first-ever live performance in Antarctica) seek to raise awareness about global warming.

At the center of all this -- at times, in holographic form -- is Al Gore, the ultimate mastermind of the Live Earth concerts (a blatant rip-off of the Live 8 concert series in 2005), and the star of An Inconvenient Truth, the recently-christened favourite film of environmentalists and general left-wingers the world over (Michael Moore -- who recently thought Apple should postpone the release of the I-Phone so it wouldn'd draw attention away form his most recent film -- must be feeling absolutely abandoned).

With Al Gore so solidly in the world's climate change-related spotlight, an exploration of his history and his true commitment to averting climate change warrants exploration.

Al Gore was actually addressing climate change -- vis a vis global warming -- in the 1970s, when global cooling, a theory that entailed that Canada would eventually be covered entirely in ice -- was still en vogue amongst climate alarmists.

Throughout the '70s and '80s, Gore co-sponsored various congressional hearings regarding global warming, among other things (including toxic waste). Unsurprisingly, Gore became an advocate of the Kyoto Protocol, which he signed "symbolically" on 12 November 1998, after the US Senate essentially vetoed participation due to a lack of binding targets for developing nations. Bill Clinton's administration never submitted the bill to the senate for ratification.

When Gore's film was released, he instantly became a left-wing media darling. Yet, it didn't take long for scientists to point out that many points in the film were either exaggerated or outright misrepresented.

Particularly damning is Gore's assertion that there is no significant disagreement on climate change, and that all the peer-reviewed scientific work insists that human activity is responsible for climate change. Yet, deeper investigations of much of the "peer-reviewed" work that suggests this reveals that such review can be politicized, wherein advocates of a certain structure of scientific belief ensure their work will be supported by submitting it to peers who are already pre-disposed to agree wth them. In order to insist that the process of peer-review overwhelmingly supports them, all these individuals need to do is ignore competing peer-review networks (which can also be politicized in the same way, although not all may necessarily be).

Of course, peer-review doesn't work well in terms of isolated networks. This is a tactic used by individuals on either side of the issue to avoid having to engage in any form of debate, and it's fundamentally unscientific.

Back to Gore. Gore has often defended his exaggerations -- including immediately refutable claims about the impact of climate change on hurricane patterns -- as either "necessary" (to get the message out), or as posed in "layman's language".

More recently, Gore has suffered from controversy regarding the usage of electricity in his home. Earlier this year, the Tennessee Center for Policy Research released a report on energy usage in Gore's home, noting that Gore's home consumes 22,619 Kilowatt-hours of electricity in a month -- more than twice what the average family uses in a year.

To be fair, the Nashville Electric Service did not confirm any requests for information on Gore's energy usage. However, one Gore's assistants noted that Gore was in the process of installing solar panels on his home, and Nashville's WKRN-TV noted that Gore purchased 108 blocks of "green electricity" (generated by solar, wind, and methane gas) from the Nashville Electric Service's renewable energy initiative.

However, it should be noted that "green" electricity used wastefully is still wasted, and is thus unavailable for use by other sources. This, by necessity, increases demand for electricity generated from non-renewable sources.

Perhaps the most telling moment in An Inconvenient Truth is the portion of the film when he addresses his 2000 presidential defeat. This is a man who is still moping over his loss -- as wrongful as it obviously was -- to George W Bush. However, it should be remembered that, as the speaker of the senate, Gore shut down complaints from various African-American members of congress and effectively annointed Bush president himself.

And as Gore's holographic appearance in Tokyo demonstrates, Gore has proven himself to be more than a bit of a glory-hound.

Al Gore has engaged in more than his fair share of loud-mouthery north of the border, as he as at times has accused the governing Conservative party's green plan -- demonstrably superior to Kyoto -- of "fraud", and has accused them of being funded by "big oil".

Yet Gore's own performance tells an entirely different story. Despite his early attempts to draw attention to what he seems to believe is a pivotal world issue -- which he deserves credit for -- the example that he himself sets for the world is less than admirable. Furthermore (and finally) his tendency to insist that the splotlight shine so brightly upon himself, his tendency to pout over past defeats (even when they are largely self-inflicted) and attempt to garner political capital by attacking foreign leaders who are making greater contributions toward alleviating climate change than he is are very illuminating to say the least.

Al Gore so desperately wants to be seen as an eco-hero. That is what makes him an eco-ego.

The artists: how much do they really care?

Things aren't quite so black an white among the artists supporting the Live Earth concerts with their talent. Among them, there are some who legitimately claim to care bout the issue of climate change. Others simply can't.

Like many rappers, Ludacris and Snoop Doggs are known for their love of vehicles -- from SUVs to big pickup trucks to fuel-economy-challenged sports cars. Snoop Dogg's fleet of cars was featured in an issue of Lowrider magazine. Fellow participant Xzibit may be best known for hosting MTV's Pimp My Ride, wherein various cars are made even harder on the environment by upgrading them with various unnecessary luxuries, such as flat-screen TVs (bad idea in a car, any day of the week).

Metallica, a recent addition to the London concert, are renowned for the size of their stadium stage -- actually two stages connected by a walkway. The accompanying lighting and sound rigs have ensured that Metallica is one of the heaviest big-rig users in the history of the business. In the excellent documentary flick Some Kind of Monster, lead singer James Hetfield is even seen ripping around in a gas guzzling open-cab roadster. To make matters worse, he's also shown recieving a speeding ticket. That can't be helpful for his already-massive carbon footprint. In the companion book, This Monster Lives, filmmaker Joe Berlinger describes the band's absolutely astonishing reliance on private jets to constantly fly back-and-forth across the country.

Frankly, Metallica's participation, like that of Ludacris, Xzibit and Snoop Dogg, is disingenuous.

And in all honesty, how much are we supposed to believe The Pussycat Dolls could possibly care about climate change? In their annoying reality-TV show The Search for the Next Pussycat Doll, the would-be Dolls spend more time backstabbing one another and fawning over expensive watches than doing or saying anything that suggests they know -- or care -- anything about what's going on in the world. It's much more likely that The Pussycat Dolls are only on board because it's become so fashionable to care about global warming.

Likewise for Rhianna. Her "ah-ah, ah-ah, yeah, yeah... Uhm-BRELL-ah" wouldn't much good to her under conditions of a climate-change induced drought. Fortunately, she likely doesn't really believe in it.

On the other side of the coin, however, are acts like The Beastie Boys and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, who have always cared about political causes. The Chilli Peppers, for one, have their earthchild-rocker cred intact, having contributed to a variety of environmental benefit CDs, including the third volume of Music For Our Ocean Mother. The Beastie Boys have defined political activism through their music, especially their support for Chinese-occupied Tibet. Live Earth is certainly nothing new to either one of these acts.

Garth Brooks has also addressed environmental issues before -- well, okay, fair enough. In his video for "We Shall Be Free", which he and his wife Trisha Yearwood sang together at the Washington DC concert. Brooks has always been known for his willingness to address social issues, from domestic abuse to terrorism.

Madonna is well-known for her support of various political causes. She has also been accused of kidnapping babies from impoverished countries, but those criticisms turned out to be less than fair. Melissa Etheridge may have wrote a corny and, frankly, painful-to-listen-to song in support of Al Gore's film ("I'm throwing off the carelessness of youth/to listen to An Inconvenient Truth -- yech), but it's unlikely she knows any better.

Yet, at the heart of the matter, one very fair criticism can be directed at the Live Earth concerts: they don't do much of anything.

Sure, they make it fashionable to care about climate change. Then again, the Live 8 concert series made it very fashionable to care about poverty in the developing world -- a much more demonstrable problem, which actually outranks climate change in the Copenhagen Consensus. Yet, two years later Bob Geldof and Bono are complaining about the lack of aid actually delivered.

Furthermore, more questions could be raised about the artists themselves. In 2005, many questioned how much of their own money multi-millionaire celebrities would donate to wipe out developing-world poverty. Today, questions are being asked about the lavish lifestyles enjoyed by the artists playing Live Earth. What are they doing to fight climate change? The Foo Fighters admit, "not enough."

Then there's the matter of the concerts themselves. Rock concerts use a lot of electricity, most of which is generated from non-renewable resources, and involves the emission of a lot of greenhouse gases. The Live Earth concerts -- like the Live 8 concerts before them -- are using up a lot of resources -- in terms of money and energy -- that could otherwise be invested in alleviating climate change (most notably in the development of green technologies).

The artists themselves have to settle for an even split. Those using the Live Earth concert to promote their own careers or simply make themselves look environmentally conscious (especially when it can be demonstrated otherwise) can count themselves amongst the eco-egos.

There are, however, some legitimate eco-heroes in the bunch -- one just has to look a little harder to find them.

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