Remember Live Earth? On July 7, 2007, 150 A-list acts performed around the clock on seven continents to a television audience of billions. The point was to draw attention to global climate issues. Each location brought its own vibe. Australia was earnest, China factory-fresh pop lite, and Keith Urban covered "Gimme Shelter" at Giants Stadium. A pretty good time was had by many.
But did it do any good? Were consciousnesses raised? Did the rate of global warming decelerate in the slightest afterward?
Yale University, Gallup, and the ClearVision Institute have now studied the influence of such mega-events on public opinion. In the first such investigation, a thousand adults were surveyed a week before Live Earth and then again two weeks after it. The study's conclusion:
Live Earth appears to have had no immediate impact on American public opinion as a whole.
It does appear, however (within the limitations of this study), that Live Earth did reinforce and
amplify attitudes about global warming among those watchers who were already concerned, while
having a smaller impact on other watchers. Importantly, Live Earth was intended to be the start of a
multi-year campaign to raise awareness, change individual behavior, and increase public pressure for
governments to act. It remains to be seen how effective this campaign will be.
At the Yale Forum on Climate Change & the Media, Conservation Value Institute executive director Jonathan L. Gelbard shares his thoughts about why the musicians' message didn't get through, and what can be done to help it along. As producer of the Rothbury festival's Think Tank, Gelbard has an intimate perspective on the subtle relationship of live music and politics. At a time when, as he notes, "39 percent of Americans cannot accurately name a fossil fuel, nor 51 percent a source of renewable energy," Gelbard suggests that musicians' influence may lie more in actions than words -- or massive concerts.
Currently, however, many in the music community aren’t actively talking to their fans about climate change. Rather, they are focusing their efforts on greening tours and events to reduce their own environmental and carbon footprints. And in that respect, events from Rothbury to Bonnaroo are making important progress, some quite creatively so. Even for those who are working to educate fans, however, most lack the time and resources needed to measure whether their messaging is motivating action, a key for assuring their time and resources pay off and make a difference.