July 11, 2007
It was hard to miss the hoop-la around Live Earth, the mega-concert on all seven continents on 7.7.07. I'm not sure if they really hit the two billion viewer mark (seems hard to measure that), or what the long-term impact of Live Earth will end up being in reality, but Al Gore did declare it the "largest global entertainment event in history." I do know that my 70-year-old parents went out and bought bulbs and started unplugging cell phone chargers. So let's just say it was a big deal.
I didn't watch the entire coverage, but saw plenty. By and large, it certainly can't hurt and may do a lot of good. It won't add much to the discussion for me to pontificate on whether this thing matters, works, etc -- many other voices will cover that. Instead, here are some reactions with an eye toward what the business world can learn or look out for
The pledges. Gore raised his right hand (I thought he might pledge to defend the constitution ) and asked everyone to join him in saying seven pledges (which, by the way, were not that easy to find online). Besides the ones that have obvious impact on specific industries (a moratorium on coal-fired power plants!), the last one was really interesting:
"I pledge to buy from businesses and support leaders who share my commitment to solving the climate crisis and building a sustainable, just, and prosperous world for the 21st century."
This is asking consumers not only to understand whether the companies they buy from are green and ethical, but whether their lobbying efforts and political donations are supporting green-minded leaders. I have no idea how people are supposed to figure this stuff out on their own since the information on that is incredibly hard to put together. But the pledge itself is fascinating: it's a newer, larger definition of what consumers as stakeholders can and should demand. Also, it may point to an opportunity for companies that have nothing to hide, can use transparency to their advantage, and can tell a well-founded story about their full environmental impacts and what they're doing about them. What a great chance to build customer loyalty.
"Small steps" I don't know if there were talking points but everyone from Sting to Mayor Bloomberg to Rosario Dawson were in synch -- every little thing you do can help (or perhaps every little thing you do is magic?...sorry Police fans). But like my parents, millions of people will be looking for small ways to reduce their environmental footprint. Companies that can provide solutions will do well.
Language and imagery. One criticism: there was still a lot of "save the planet" talk. Sorry to be cynical, but the environmental movement has been using that language for decades and failed. We need to talk about saving ourselves, our economy, our way of life, etc. And they kept showing the curly-Q compact fluorescent bulbs. Those are still weird-looking to many people. Why not also show the frosted encased versions that look like a regular bulb. My point is that we're still a bit behind on how we portray the shift (except for the clear preference for "climate crisis" over "global warming" and the constant messages about saving money). So companies that can pitch environmental solutions with a combination of words and imagery that make the change seem like a life improvement, not just a way to assuage guilt over killing the planet, will also thrive.
Lots of other thoughts it was fascinating how little discussion there was on what exactly the climate crisis is -- maybe they figured people knew that already and were ready to hear what to do about it (probably a good call -- i love Al's PowerPoint presentation, but not everyone can stomach the science). Or, why did some artists need to politicize the event? I love Melissa Etheridge, but talking about criminal presidents and unjust wars was off-topic at best, and put off the 30% of the country that still support the President. Of course it would be within bounds to criticize leaders for doing nothing on this issue.
Obviously I could go on -- it was a long event. But clearly awareness is building in a profound way and consumers may just join this fight in earnest. Companies ignoring their new green demands better beware.