Sydney rocks in first of climate change concerts

The first of nine concerts across the globe aimed at persuading millions of fans to go green for the environment swung into life in Sydney on Saturday with fiery vocals and a distinctive Australian beat.

Following in the footsteps of the Live Aid and Live 8 mega-gigs, Live Earth hopes to reach up to two billion people through radio, television and the internet, and features acts including Madonna, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Snow Patrol and Snoop Dogg, among the more than 100 performers.

“Revolution, do it, do it,” Australian dance and blues group Blue King Brown screamed to a crowd in Aussie Stadium estimated to swell to around 45 000.

Organiser Al Gore said the concerts, kicking off in Australia and ending at Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana beach, were the start of a three- to five-year campaign to promote awareness of climate change.

“This is a planetary emergency,” said former United States vice-president and environmentalist, summing up the urgency he and others feel about the need to convince polluters to curb emissions and slow global warming.

Gore said he wanted Live Earth viewers to pressure leaders to sign a new treaty by 2009 that would cut global warming pollution by 90% in rich nations and more than half worldwide by 2050.

But there is widespread cynicism among fans and campaigners about using rockers renowned for their conspicuous consumption to promote green living.

“Some people feel that as long as they are preaching the right message, it doesn’t matter if they espouse it as well,” said Michael Musto, entertainment columnist at the Village Voice in New York. “I have a problem with that.”

Bob Geldof, the man behind Live Aid and Live 8, joined the Live Earth detractors, saying the world was already aware of the dangers of global warming and the event lacked a “final goal”.

However, some concert goers saw it differently.

“It’s a great cause for the rest of the world to stand up and take heed,” said Tony Andrews, who took his children to the Sydney concert.

Artists hit back

Some stars appearing at the concerts hit back at the criticism.

“It’s easy to criticise but what are you doing?” asked Benin singer Angelique Kidjo at a news conference in Johannesburg ahead of the concert there.

“Get your butt out there and do something. If we don’t do something today, then when there’s another tsunami then that cynical person, his arse is going to be on that wave.”

Concert planners are trying to keep the “carbon footprint” of Live Earth to a minimum, using renewable sources to power the gigs and investing in renewable energy to offset greenhouse gases spewed out by stars’ jets or travelling fans.

After Sydney, concerts will take place in Tokyo, Johannesburg, Shanghai, London, Hamburg, New Jersey, Washington and Rio de Janeiro.

There will also be footage from Antarctica, where the previously unknown band Nunatak, comprising two engineers, a marine biologist, a meteorologist and a polar guide at a remote British research station, have recorded a short set.

The “gig” in front of 17 fellow researchers allows Gore to keep his promise to hold at least one concert on all seven continents on the date 7/7/7.

Preparations for the event have not been without hitches.

A planned concert in Istanbul was ditched due to lack of interest and security concerns, while organisers had an 11th hour reprieve in Rio de Janeiro, where a judge lifted a ban on the concert on Thursday.
- Reuters

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