Mal Fletcher
Live Earth – Beware Global Warming Overload

This weekend sees the launch of the global ‘Live Earth’ concerts, run on seven continents and featuring 150 artists.

Fronted by former US Vice President and now ‘eco-warrior’ Al Gore, the concerts will feature past and present hit-makers, streamed live to the world.

Scientists in many fields agree that we’ve got to change the way we use the earth’s finite resources. We have to find new ways to fuel the lifestyles and industries of tomorrow.

In a recent TV film, I looked at this issue of fuelling the future and discussed the viability of some of the current alternatives to traditional fuels.

The big question is, not whether we should be concerned about the environment, but how will we fuel the future without destroying the environment?

And how can we do this without turning the important issue of global environmental change into just another political football?

Bob Geldof has already said that he thinks ‘Live Earth’ will do more harm than good – especially as powering such a huge enterprise will doubtless lead to the production of enormous amounts of greenhouse gases.

There’s another point to watch, too. When so much is incessantly said and written about global warming, especially in this age of wall-to-wall, 24/7 media news, people may soon begin to experience ‘activism overload’.

Charities have often warned of ‘appeal overload’, in the wake of major natural disasters such as the Asian tsunami. It seems that people can only take so much bad news and ‘awareness-raising’ before they turn off.

When you’ve seen concerts for this and concerts for that, with one celebrity telling you to support this cause and another promoting something else, you may end up thinking it’s all too much. In the end, what organisers had hoped would be a cry for revolution becomes a sigh of resignation: ‘…whatever!’.

We also need to beware of turning the issue of global warming into the next ‘Y2K’.

I’m sure you remember that one: scientists and others warning us of potential disaster in the wake of computer-meltdown as digital clocks registered the beginning of the new millennium.

Some very reputable people were predicting global catastrophe, with airliners falling from the sky and power grids falling apart. Of course, nothing of the kind happened.

When it comes to issues concerning the environment, we can’t afford to be complacent. But we shouldn’t let fear overtake our pursuit of more information, or the proper use of the often limited data we already have.

Fear can be manipulated. Science can be politicized and sensationalised to serve interests other than those of pure research. If knowledge is power, it is sometimes misused – usually in the name of public security.

It is precisely because environmental issues are so important that we can’t allow them to be hijacked in a sensationalist fashion, which usually ends up backfiring.

If fuelling the future means that we make radical changes to our lifestyles, we should make them.

Yet we should do so without succumbing to the power of sensationalist hype, or taking our eyes off an even bigger issue for the environment – the soul of man.

The biggest enemy to the natural world is not environmental degradation, it is human nature. We find it easier to dominate the earth and overtax its resources than to discipline ourselves.

Mal Fletcher (@MalFletcher) is the founder and chairman of 2030Plus. He is a respected keynote speaker, social commentator and social futurist, author and broadcaster based in London.

About us