August 4th 2007

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Articles from this issue:

EDITORIAL: Solving the housing crisis

NATIONAL SECURITY: The lessons of the Dr Haneef case

CANBERRA AFFAIRS: Will Liberals dump Howard before election?

ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Call for industry policy debate

PORNOGRAPHY: Canberra drags its feet over internet porn

FAMILY: Group marriage on the way

VICTORIA: No more abortions, please

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Bring back King Canute / The entertainers / Broadcaster's bias / Regime changes in Turkey and Pakistan?

SPECIAL FEATURE: Postmodern science - a contradiction in terms

VIETNAM: Economic tiger, political laggard

GLOBAL WARMING: Hosting a hog roast to promote vegetarianism

OBITUARY: A born leader and exemplary Christian - Peter Keogh (1931-2007)

Tough anti-terror laws needed (letter)

Collective bargaining hypocrisy (letter)

Rudd on grocery and housing prices (letter)

Young couples without homes (letter)

First home unaffordable (letter)

Young people deprived by technology (letter)

Film's Christian theme? (letter)


BOOKS: ELLA: Princess, Saint and Martyr, by Christopher Warwick

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Hosting a hog roast to promote vegetarianism

by Jerome Appleby

News Weekly, August 4, 2007
The recent Live Earth worldwide concerts, aimed at mobilising public opinion against man-made greenhouse gases, produced an extraordinary volume of carbon emissions to make their point. Jerome Appleby reports.
Rocking against climate change:
Madonna at Live Earth.

Madonna, Kanye West and Leonardo DiCaprio were just some of the celebrities to take part in the Live Earth series of worldwide rock concerts on July 7, an event designed to publicise global-warming and encourage people to live more environmentally-friendly lifestyles.

Presiding over the event was the environmental prophet himself, former US presidential hopeful Al Gore, who offered these words of wisdom: "We are in a transition time in history when the only way we can get to where we need to be is by starting from where we are."

Audience members at the Live Earth concerts, which brought together 150 musical acts in 11 locations around the world, were invited to sign a seven-point Climate Pledge. Signatories pledged themselves, among other things, to live as carbon-neutral a lifestyle as possible; work to increase energy efficiency at work or school, etc; plant trees; persuade their governments to sign treaties committing their countries to cut pollution by 90 per cent in a short period; and support those businesses and leaders who committed to solving the climate "problem".

Was Live Earth an appropriate vehicle to push this environmental message? Arguably not, given that the total carbon dioxide output of this worldwide event, including that of the stars' travel, is estimated to have been 31,500 tonnes — that is, more than 3,000 times the average Briton's yearly output, according to John Buckley of the United Kingdom firm, Carbon Footprint.

One viewer suggested that holding this event was like "hosting a hog roast to promote vegetarianism".

Not only did Live Earth gather some of the world's biggest celebrities, it gathered some of the biggest individual polluters too. One of the superstars of the London show, Madonna, faced criticism last year when she used a combination of private jets and commercial airplanes to fly her 100-person entourage for the Confessions on a Dance Floor world tour. She was estimated to have produced 440 tonnes of carbon dioxide — that is, 44 times what the average person generates in a year. Not bad for just four months' work.

She is also said to have a fleet of cars that includes not one, but two Range Rovers, a Mercedes Maybach, an Audi A8, as well as a Mini Cooper.

Nor did the criticisms of Madonna stop there. Perhaps the most damaging were the revelations made by Fox News that one of Madonna's charitable foundations holds shares in some of the least environmentally-friendly companies in existence.

So how did Kevin Wall — primary organiser of the Live Earth concerts and founder of SOS (Save Our Selves) — respond to criticisms levelled at Madonna? He stated: "Whatever is being said, I know that her commitment to this cause runs deep. She is performing for free and has written a new song for us, which I think goes to show that."

Sure, Madonna had shown a commitment to the cause that ran deeper than giving up private jet-travel or gas-guzzling cars — she had written a song. If only we all had such musical talent …

US band Razorlight was reportedly cautioned by Al Gore about their planned un-environmental departure from the London event. In order to fulfil their obligations for another event, the band duly caught a bus to the airport (instead of a fleet of hybrid cars), a private jet to Scotland, and finally a helicopter to Kinross.

Performing at the New York concert was singer-songwriter and guitarist, John Mayer, who hardly boosted his credentials as an environmental campaigner when he candidly admitted to not having signed the seven-point Climate Pledge. He explained: "We're just getting together, saying 'we want to be healthier'."


It is no surprise then, that bands, such as the Arctic Monkeys, dubbed the event as "private jets for climate change". Drummer Matt Helders admitted it was all a bit hypocritical when "we're using enough power for 10 houses just for (stage) lighting".

Some say you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs. Although this may justify the concert itself, the extravagant lifestyle of the stars — aka the jet-set brigade — still raises a troubling question for the environmental movement. If wealthy celebrities — who can afford to live more environmentally-friendly lives — are not prepared to make the so-called "necessary" changes, how can middle-class Westerners, let alone third-world residents, be expected to do so?

— Jerome Appleby works as a research officer with the Thomas More Centre, Adelaide.

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