Most years, July 7 is notable mostly as the first day of the annual "Running of the Bulls" in Pamplona. Spain. This Saturday, however, as numerologists debate the significance of the date being 07-07-07, many observers will have their eyes focused on former Vice President Al Gore's "Live Earth" concert series.
The series, billed on its website as "a monumental music event that will.... engage, connect, and inspire individuals, corporations and governments to take action to solve the climate crisis" will consist of a total of eight concerts on all seven continents, even a small concert on Antarctica. (A planned concert for Istanbul has been cancelled). More than 100 musical artists, including Alicia Keys, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Police, Snoop Dogg, Metallica, Kelly Clarkson, Bon Jovi, Lenny Kravitz and fictitious rockers Spinal Tap are among the featured entertainment. LiveEarth promoters have estimated an audience of two billion viewers.
Before a single note has been played, however, it appears the concert series may leave a larger carbon footprint than its efforts could take away.
First, there are the musicians themselves. While musicians of the level performing at Gore's concerts might come for free, they do not come cheaply. For the LiveEarth concerts, local airports are expected to be filled with luxury private aircraft - aircraft that have used large quantities of fuel and polluted the skies for the sake of the environment. A single Gulfstream IV jet burns 5,000 pounds of fuel in the first hour of flight and 3,000 pounds of fuel every additional hour, according to the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration, a U.S. government agency.
Then there are the bands's equipment - instruments, microphones, lights and the stage itself. A single band alone can require an army of heavy duty trucks to move the equipment. By example, last year's European tour of legendary rock band, The Who, required 1,000 flight cases to load and unload equipment, which included seventy guitars for guitarist Pete Townshend alone, as well as a six-ton drum kit.
It has been estimated that between the actual concerts, web streaming and television broadcasting, the Live Earth concert series could produce as much as 200,000 metric tons of carbon, after the conversions from electricity have been calculated. In other words, the Gore concerts could produce more carbon dioxide than was produced by all of Afghanistan in 2006.
Gore's organization, Save Our Selves, has put in place what it calls a "Green Event Standard" for the concerts. Unfortunately, these efforts are either implausible or ineffective, or contain loopholes such as certain measures will be used "where possible."
Among the Save Our Selves proposals to make the concert environmentally-friendly, taken directly from their website:
* Venue offices, walkways, etc will be retrofitted with compact fluorescent (CFL) light bulbs, where possible. (Emphasis added)
* SOS staff and artist air travel will be offset through carbon credits.
* Ground travel will be hybrid or other clean fuel where possible. (Emphasis added)
* Hotels will be directed to change light bulbs to CFLs, use nontoxic cleaning products, and have recycling containers present in the rooms.
Apparently, Gore believes the carbon footprint left by jet and automobile fuel and emission, the lighting, sound equipment, sound and stage trucks, artist hospitality, web-streaming, audio and video recording, concessions and everything else that is involved in staging concerts on all seven continents will be offset by directing local hotels to change its light bulbs, use different cleaning products and place recycling containers in rooms and by paying carbon credits and, where possible, changing more light bulbs and ferrying musicians in a Prius.
Indeed, LiveEarth's own website is filled with such nonsense. One of the benefits for the environment, LiveEarth's blog states, is that not "all the artists fly in private jets." Would a musician living in New York City take a private jet to Giants Stadium anyway?
"It is a manufactured get-out-of-enviro-guilt-jail-free card," said Christopher Horner, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute said of the Green Event Standard. "How they can so loudly promote their own elitism is merely further proof thereof," Horner asked.
Criticism of the possible environmental impact of the Live Earth concerts has not been limited to Washington, D.C. Even some world famous musicians have scoffed at the idea of the Live Earth concerts.
"The last thing the planet needs is a rock concert. I can't believe it. Let's burn even more fuel," Roger Daltrey, lead singer of The Who and participant in the Live Aid and Live8 concerts for Africa told the British paper, The Sun. "We have problems with global warming, but the questions and the answers are so huge I don't know what a rock concert's ever going to do to help."
The lead singer of the rock band Muse, Matt Bellamy, referred to the musicians' consumption to participate in the concerts as "private jets for climate change".
"When we're using enough power for 10 houses just for (stage) lighting... It'd be a bit hypocritical," Matt Helders, drummer of the popular British band, the Arctic Monkeys told the Agence France-Presse.
Most surprisingly, Bob Geldof, the musician and Nobel Prize nominee who founded the Live Aid and Live8 concerts, singled out Gore in particular, asking, "Why is Gore actually organising them? To make us aware of the greenhouse effect? Everybody's known about that problem for years."
Such criticism has not been seen since the late 1980s when Gore and his wife, Tipper, were leaders in the Parents Music Research Center, and organization that advocated warning labels for music with questionable lyrics. In those days, Gore may have been the least popular Democrat in Hollywood.
Looking back at the criticisms the Gores faced, it is startling to see the 180 degree reversal that has been made among the Hollywood royalty since.
Nowhere was this better demonstrated than the Grammy Awards this spring. The former Vice President's reception, while he served as a presenter and lectured those in the audience about climate change, was a far cry from the late 1980s when Gore was considered a pariah in the music industry.
"I think they love you, man," rapper and actress Queen Latifah gushed.
The entertainment industry's affection for Gore reached coronation heights a few weeks later at the Academy Awards. Not only was Gore a prominent and consistent face during the broadcast, which included a predictable tongue-in-cheek, cat-and-mouse game with Hollywood's current "king of the world," Leonardo DiCaprio, but the Oscar for Best Documentary went to Gore's environmental Armageddon propaganda piece, "An Inconvenient Truth."
The Live Earth concerts come at what could be a perfect storm for Gore.
Fresh off his Grammy appearance and Oscar win, Gore has basked in overwhelmingly positive media coverage at a time the announced Democrat candidates for President are attacking each other. He has been free to make his views known, without receiving challenging pushback for the press or political candidates. His current best-selling book, %%AMAZON=1594201226 The Assault on Reason,%% sits atop the bestseller lists. And, perhaps most telling, a poll released June 27 show 32% of New Hampshire Democrat primary voters would switch their support from another Democrat to former Vice President Gore, putting Gore first place in the poll.
Gore's concert series is sure be a further publicity bonanza as many Democrat voters are torn between Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and many left-leaning blogs and online activists find themselves either torn between Obama and former Senator John Edwards, or still wistfully wishing for a Gore candidacy.
The Hollywood coronations at the Grammys and Oscars helped propel Gore into the position he is in now - a potential Presidential frontrunner whose cultivation of liberal bloggers, activists and the netroots send the message to those core constituencies that Gore has not given up on their fight. "Al Gore trains a global army" blared a USA Today headline.
But the Live Earth concerts represent the largest global undertaking of an issue in history and bolster Gore's drive to appear statesman-like, if not presidential. The timing of the concerts as the newly accelerated primary season is just beginning present Gore as the possible best, last hope the far-left has to erase a victory they feel cheated out of in 2000. With much of Gore's team remaining uncommitted thus far into the campaign, Gore is the only Democrat who could raise the money and build the organization necessary to win the nomination.
If the mission of the concerts is to improve the environment, the best thing to do may be to cancel the concerts altogether. Of course, the goal of the concerts may have less to do with climate change than with election of the most popular Democrat not on the ballot. Yet.
Political strategist and journalist Doug Heye was recently the press spokesman for Michael Steele's unsuccessful U. S. Senate campaign. He has also served as communications director for U. S. Senator Richard Burr. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of music.