Let’s hope Live Earth doesn’t repeat Live Aid’s results

I applaud Al Gore’s efforts to confront climate change and laud the fact that he has brought many previously ignored environmental issues into the mainstream. But it’s hard not to be a little provoked by a Reuters report today that leads with Al Gore’s hope that the Live Earth concerts scheduled for July 7 will ...

602706_070410_liveaid_05.jpg
602706_070410_liveaid_05.jpg

I applaud Al Gore's efforts to confront climate change and laud the fact that he has brought many previously ignored environmental issues into the mainstream. But it's hard not to be a little provoked by a Reuters report today that leads with Al Gore's hope that the Live Earth concerts scheduled for July 7 will do for climate change awareness what Live Aid did for Africa. Aside from noting that pop stars, with their "taste for conspicuous consumption," are hardly the best advocates for environmentalism, we should ask: What exactly did those Live Aid concerts ultimately achieve, apart from a glittering media spectacle and some healthy publicity for its entertainers? An update more than two decades on:

Life expectancy at birth in Ethiopia—the main target of the concerts—is just above 42 years
Almost half the children under five in Ethiopia are malnourished
Over a quarter of Ethiopia's population live on less than $1 a day, over eighty percent live on less than $2 a day, and the country ranks in the bottom ten of the U.N.'s Human Development Report
Almost thirty percent of children under five in sub-Saharan Africa generally are malnourished

The Live Earth message is undoubtedly important. I just hope the upcoming concerts achieve more than Live Aid did back in 1985.

I applaud Al Gore’s efforts to confront climate change and laud the fact that he has brought many previously ignored environmental issues into the mainstream. But it’s hard not to be a little provoked by a Reuters report today that leads with Al Gore’s hope that the Live Earth concerts scheduled for July 7 will do for climate change awareness what Live Aid did for Africa. Aside from noting that pop stars, with their “taste for conspicuous consumption,” are hardly the best advocates for environmentalism, we should ask: What exactly did those Live Aid concerts ultimately achieve, apart from a glittering media spectacle and some healthy publicity for its entertainers? An update more than two decades on:

  • Life expectancy at birth in Ethiopia—the main target of the concerts—is just above 42 years
  • Almost half the children under five in Ethiopia are malnourished
  • Over a quarter of Ethiopia’s population live on less than $1 a day, over eighty percent live on less than $2 a day, and the country ranks in the bottom ten of the U.N.’s Human Development Report
  • Almost thirty percent of children under five in sub-Saharan Africa generally are malnourished

The Live Earth message is undoubtedly important. I just hope the upcoming concerts achieve more than Live Aid did back in 1985.

Prerna Mankad is a researcher at Foreign Policy.

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