Sunday, July 08, 2007

Live Earth, New7Wonders, and TreeHugging

Yesterday's Live Earth event, which featured concerts on all continents in a 24-hour campaign to spread awareness about climate change, came under intense spitfire from high-profile figures. Among them, the likes of Bob Geldof, organizer of the Live Aid concerts, and other artists like Roger Daltrey and Muse, jointly accused Live Earth performers of jetting around the globe in their private planes in a hypocritical bid for public attention to spotlight energy conservation and education about climate change.

While I'll side with the critics inasmuch as recognizing the carbon emissions caused by transportation to the event (though carbon offsets were purchased in the hopes of absolving guilt for this AND the event was regionalized partially to minimize transportation) runs counter to the ethic prevailing through the event, it would be myopic to let the criticism linger and not focus on the potential long-term gains from convincing large crowds of people to modify their lifestyles and decrease their carbon footprints. Of course any large-scale campaign to affect awareness on climate change will consume natural resources; you simply have to conduct a life-cycle assessment to see whether or not there's a net improvement.

What I'm more concerned with is not juxtaposing the good intentions of concert organizers and concert-goers against the actual outcomes, but the irony with which this event was timed perfectly with the release of the NEW Seven Wonders of the World list. The new Wonders list was compiled from some 100 million votes collected by SMS and internet ballots and replaces the ancient Greek list of sites found in the Mediterranean and the Middle East.

This is ironic because it's obvious how this will spike tourism numbers for countries like Jordan, Brazil, and Peru among the others as vacationers worldwide will be seeking to witness these 'wonders' first-hand. The wonder that worries me is how this is compatible with widespread calls for reducing our reliance on aviation since unless you have the good fortune of living near Agra, India, good luck on visiting the Taj Mahal and not getting there by plane. I'm certain that's what Bertrand Piccard was hinting at with his appeals for climate change awareness at the announcement ceremony before he was removed from the stage.

I'd say that the difficulty of this situation has been made more apparent to me as I was browsing through the forums at a website I otherwise respect, TreeHugger, where a most disturbing thread on the connection between veganism and climate change had been posted. While I do agree that some of us vegans tend to be a bit proselytizing when it comes to animal ethics and the reasons to become vegan, I'd say there may be good cause to bring light to the carbon emissions caused by meat consumption. So the title of the article may have been innaccurately worded (something to the extent of vegans in Hummers causing less harm to the environment than meat-eaters in Priuses), the original email solicited one of the most rancorous displays of carnivorous aggression I've seen for some time. Honestly, we're not asking you to launch into why you love meat, why the animals are here for your well-being, why you think that biologically we're constructed to consume meat, etc. - we've heard it all before too many times to count, but I would appreciate you stepping down from your ivory tower for one moment to simply consider how your dietary choices affect the land from where your food comes. Not to do this because you are a thoughtful human, but because you are a self-branded 'environmentalist' spending your time tooling through the TreeHugger forums. The failure and unwillingness for even meat-eating environmentalists to be self-reflective and consider their personal impact means we'll never make it to 2050 without exceeding 550ppm.

1 comment:

shruthi said...

thats a really interesting correlation between the release of the seven wonders and the new-found wisdom (or rather, dissemination of the same) re climate change! but shouldnt the focus be on trying to offset the carbon emissions caused by air travel by any means possible (r & d them if unavailable, at the very least), rather than discourage international tourism or rather air-borne tourism/travel?