Live Earth: A briefing

The latest in a long list of concerts for causes, Live Earth will stage a multimedia assault on the world's attention span July 7, urging action against human-induced climate change.

By , Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor

What is Live Earth?

Al Gore received nearly 51 million votes in the 2000 presidential election. If all goes as planned July 7, his campaign to curtail global warming will receive 2 billion votes – if watching Live Earth can be considered casting a vote.

Live Earth, the latest in a long list of concerts for causes, will be a multimedia assault on the world's attention span for 24 hours to urge action against human-induced climate change. The event will bring together more than 150 musical acts for nine concerts on all seven continents in what is projected to be the largest global media event ever.

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"We want to make it very difficult to avoid our message," says Yusef Robb, Live Earth's global coordinator.

Concerts will take place Saturday in Sydney, Australia; Tokyo; Shanghai, China; Hamburg, Germany; London; Johannesburg, South Africa; Rio de Jan­eiro; New York; and at the British Antarctic Survey Station in Antarctica.

The musical acts, which include Madonna, The Police, Shakira, Smashing Pumpkins, the Beastie Boys, and Kanye West, will be broadcast on television and radio in more than 100 countries, and via the Internet on MSN.com.

The event's organizers say that they are taking extraordinary steps to ensure the concerts are "carbon neutral." They are cutting carbon emissions through steps such as using alternative fuels where possible and encouraging concertgoers to carpool or use public transportation. The rest of the CO2 emissions will be offset through projects such as planting trees to absorb carbon.

Critics argue that hosting an event that releases CO2 is hypocritical. Organizers respond that every venue will keep its environmental impact to a minimum, certain to be the key to the event's credibility.

The projected audience of 2 billion will be encouraged to take the "Live Earth Pledge," which asks everyone to reduce their own CO2 emissions and to demand that their governments sign a rigorous international treaty to cut emissions. Viewers will see public service announcements featuring celebrities such as Cameron Diaz and Penelope Cruz, as well as more than 60 short films.

In addition to the concerts, more than 6,000 other events will take place, from gatherings in homes to festivals with thousands of people.

While most people are aware of global warming, many aren't doing anything about it, Mr. Robb says. "The entire population has to get engaged at some point...."

The seven-point pledge

The Live Earth audience will be asked to sign this pledge, also available at LiveEarth.org:

I pledge

1. To demand that my country join an international treaty within the next two years that cuts global-warming pollution by 90 percent in developed countries and by more than half worldwide in time for the next generation to inherit a healthy earth;

2. To take personal action to help solve the climate crises by reducing my own CO2 pollution as much as I can and offsetting the rest to become "carbon neutral";

3. To fight for a moratorium on the construction of any new generating facility that burns coal without the capacity to safely trap and store the CO2;

4. To work for a dramatic increase in the energy efficiency of my home, workplace, school, place of worship, and means of transportation;

5. To fight for laws and policies that expand the use of renewable energy sources and reduce dependence on oil and coal;

6. To plant new trees and to join with others in preserving and protecting forests; and,

7. To buy from businesses and support leaders who share my commitment to solving the climate crises and building a sustainable, just, and prosperous world for the 21st century.

Sites & performers

Sydney – The Australia show kicks off the seven-continent, 24-hour event headlined by entertainers Wolfmother and Jack Johnson.

Tokyo – Following the concert, which features some of the top musical talent in Asia, a special music event will be held at the To-Ji Buddhist temple in Kyoto.

Shanghai – China's event will be held on the steps of the Oriental Pearl Tower. It's topped by the 12 Girls Band, a dozen young women who play compositions on traditional Chinese instruments. The group's members were selected from more than 4,000 applicants.

Hamburg – Two-time Olympic gold medalist figure skater Katarina Witt will speak at Germany's event, while rapper Snoop Dogg and singer Chris Cornell of Audioslave will perform.

London – Madonna, the Beastie Boys, and Duran Duran will be joined by the likes of Spinal Tap, the mock-rock group immortalized in the 1984 film, "This Is Spinal Tap."

Johannesburg – South Africa's concert was originally to be held at Maropeng's Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, 40 minutes from Johannesburg, but was changed to the more accessible Coca-Cola Dome. Supermodel Naomi Campbell will speak.

Rio De Janeiro – More than 1 million people are expected to attend this free concert on the famous Copacabana Beach, where Lenny Kravitz, Pharrell Williams, and Macy Gray will perform along with Brazilian artists.

New York – The US is capping the global event with performances by The Police, Smashing Pumpkins, Roger Waters, and Kanye West. The venue is actually across the Hudson River at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

Antarctica – The indie rock band Nunatak, made up of five scientists stationed in Antarctica, will perform for a live audience of only 17 people, although the performance will be broadcast on TV, radio, and the Internet. (Read more about this concert in the Friday, July 6, Monitor.)

Musicians go green

Dave Matthews Band, which will perform at the New York area event, founded the Bama Works Fund, which has contributed more than $4 million to charities, including environmental ones. The group offsets the CO2 emissions of its tours by supporting tree-planting projects. Proceeds fom the sale of its Ben & Jerry's ice cream flavor, One Sweet Whirled, support global warming organizations.

The John Butler Trio, performing in Sydney, has donated profits from its ticket sales to the Wilderness Society. The trio "greened" its 2007 US tour by using biodiesel to run its tour buses, and offset the rest of its CO2 emissions by buying wind-energy credits.

Sting, who will perform with The Police at the New York-area concert, founded the Rainforest Foundation in 1989 to fight rain­forest destruction and the violation of the rights of indigenous peoples in Brazil's Amazon region. The foundation supports projects in Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia.

Melissa Etheridge, who also will perform at the New York area event, won an Oscar for her song "I Need to Wake Up," which accompanied Al Gore's climate change documentary "An Inconvenient Truth." She fuels her road shows with B99 (99 percent biofuel).

'Cause concerts'

The Concert for Bangladesh, 1971: The first large-scale benefit concert, held in New York City, was organized by George Harrison and Ravi Shankar and featured Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, and Billy Preston.

Live Aid, 1985: Concerts in London and Philadelphia raised roughly £150 million ($300 million) for Ethiopian famine relief.

Farm Aid, 1985 - present: Rock and country acts raise money for needy US farm families.

Tibetan Freedom Concerts, 1996-2001: New York hip-hop group the Beastie Boys raised awareness of the Chinese occupation of Tibet.

Live 8, 2005: This event, organized by Bob Geldof, put pressure on the leading industrialized nations (the G-8) to increase aid spending, negotiate fair trade rules, and provide debt relief to African countries.

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