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Stars rock the globe for climate change

Some of the world’s biggest pop stars from the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Madonna and The Police played Live Earth concerts worldwide on Saturday to urge fans and governments to fight global warming.

Tens of thousands partied at concerts in Sydney, Tokyo, Shanghai, Hamburg, Johannesburg, London, Washington, New Jersey and Rio de Janeiro to hear Bon Jovi, James Blunt, Linkin Park and Shakira and many other performers.

Spearheaded by environmentalist and former United States vice-president Al Gore, the concerts spanned over 22 hours, ending at Rio’s Copacabana beach and a New Jersey football stadium.

”You are Live Earth,” Gore told the crowd at New Jersey’s Giants Stadium, on a stage made with recycled tires.

With hand raised as if taking an oath, Gore took the seven-point pledge he wants others to endorse, binding them to cut carbon emissions and to lobby governments and employers to do more to save the planet.

”Today two billion of us have come together in over 130 countries on seven continents,” Gore said to cheers. ”Times like these demand action: please sign the Live Earth pledge.”

Pop idol Madonna ended the show at London’s Wembley stadium with a set including Hey You, written for Live Earth, while screens behind her flashed images of environmental disasters.

Madonna thanked Gore, ”for giving the world the wake-up call it so badly needs and for starting an avalanche of awareness that we are running out of time”.

The New Jersey show had political moments. Roger Waters, running through hits from his Pink Floyd days including Money and Another Brick in the Wall, displayed an image of US President George Bush aboard an aircraft carrier in 2003 under a ”Mission Accomplished” banner to signal the end of major combat in Iraq, drawing loud boos from the crowd.

And as The Police played Message in a Bottle, rapper Kanye West joined the band on stage and rapped the lyrics ”We need some new leaders to follow … Al Gore’s got my vote.”

Following the model of 1985’s Live Aid and Live 8 in 2005, Live Earth hopes to reach up to two billion people through radio, television and the internet.

There has been widespread cynicism among music fans, campaigners and fellow rockers about the role of pop music, renowned for Learjets and limousines, to promote green living.

Backstage in New Jersey, singer KT Tunstall said the first-year sales of her debut CD generated 650-million tonnes of carbon emissions but she has tried to partially offset that huge carbon footprint through the planting of 6 000 trees.

The devil and chimpanzees

At Wembley, Corinne Bailey Rae sang Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology), Marvin Gaye’s 1971 classic, also played by Alicia Keys in New Jersey. In London, mock rockers Spinal Tap reunited to perform Warmer Than Earth, in which the Devil complains about high temperatures in Britain.

Among the stranger moments was primatologist Jane Goodall telling the New Jersey crowd, ”I’m going to start by giving you the greeting of the chimpanzee” before mimicking the animals she has lived with and studied since 1960.

Gore wants world leaders to sign a treaty by 2009 to cut global warming pollution by 90% in rich nations and more than half worldwide by 2050.

His Oscar-winning documentary on global warming An Inconvenient Truth and now the Live Earth campaign have only added to chatter that the man who lost the 2000 election to Bush might mount a fresh White House bid, despite his statements that he has no plans to do so.

A plane flew over the stadium towing a banner that read ”DRAFTGORE.COM,” apparently hoping to convince Gore to run.

Not everybody has has supported the concerts. Bob Geldof, the man behind Live Aid and Live 8, argues the world is already aware of global warming and the event lacked a ”final goal”.

But many concert goers defended the gigs.

”We could do a lot more for the environment, but I suppose we’re lazy,” teenager Robyn Raymond said in Johannesburg.

Message to George Bush

The almost sold-out Johannesburg concert began at 6pm with a performance by the South African Grammy award-winning Soweto Gospel Choir.

Other artists included Senegalese star Babaa Mal, Beninese singer Angelique Kidjo and British diva Joss Stone.

British reggae band UB40, the last performers on stage, stole the show with a slew of crowd favourites such as Kingston Town and Red Red Wine.

”Though the developing countries have done least to cause climate change, we the poor are the ones suffering,” said Kumi Naidoo, secretary general of Civicus, a world alliance for civic society.

”We have a message to George Bush: ‘If you can be able to fund a war in Iraq, you can do more to help in the fight against climate change. Answer the call’,” he said.

About 30 000 people in Hamburg enjoyed performances by Yusuf, formerly known as Cat Stevens, and Shakira, despite rain. German comedian Elton joked about the bad weather: ”We’re here to fight against global warming in such crap weather.”

The Shanghai concert was seen as key to Live Earth’s success, after the International Energy Agency said China could become the top emitter of the main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, as early as this year, a claim disputed by officials.

The free Rio show, almost canceled over security concerns, drew as many as 600 000 peaceful attendees. Near the stage, revelers in bikinis and swimsuits frolicked in the surf.

In Antarctica the previously unknown band Nunatak played for 17 fellow researchers, allowing Gore to keep his promise to hold concerts on seven continents on the date 7/7/7.

”Thank you for coming to Live Earth,” Gore said as the series of concerts ended in New Jersey. ”Harness the energy in your heart and help us solve the climate crisis.” – Reuters

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