Live Earth concert organizers may not care about global warming

It is an uphill battle for green-themed Live Earth organizers to pull off concerts around the world in the name of curbing global warming while avoiding their own contribution to landfill and emissions from the event. Animal lovers have already complained that the meaty food sold on the sidelines is cruel and wastes energy.

Live Earth was founded by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and concert producer Kevin Wall to raise awareness about the global issue by interlacing its message through over 100 acts over the course of 24 hours on Saturday.

"This is going to be the greenest event of its kind, ever," former Vice President and Live Earth partner Al Gore told The Associated Press. "The carbon offsets and the innovative practices that are being used to make this a green event, I think, will set the standard for years to come."

But despite the considerable lengths organizers have gone to in order to marry the global event's methods with its messages, they have been called hypocrites by critics, including a member of the Who.

Live Earth on Saturday will hold eight concerts (seven if the show in Brazil is canceled, as was a possibility Thursday) that bring together over 150 acts to perform for arena-size audiences from Australia to New Jersey. Any event of such magnitude is bound to create trash and use gas - and some have claimed this contradicts Live Earth's green goal of raising awareness for climate change.

"The last thing the planet needs is a rock concert," Who lead singer Roger Daltrey recently told a British newspaper.

At the venues, organizers have encouraged steps including the use of biodiesel generators and containers made of biodegradable materials such as starch.

While vendors at the locations are expected to offer vegetarian fare along with standard stadium menus and use compostable containers, one group does not see green.

In a letter to the vendor management of New Jersey's Giants Stadium, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals raised the issue of greenhouse gases created by raising animals for food.

"Selling meat at a concert to benefit the environment would be like selling cigarettes at an anticancer fundraiser," said the letter from Matt Prescott, PETA's vegan campaign manager. Overall, the group supports Live Earth, listing on their Web site the vegan artists who will perform at the event.

John Picard, leader of the event's sustainability team, said he would be willing to discuss the issue with PETA, but that a concert crowd is still a concert crowd. "I'm sure there's going to be a ton of hot dog eaters," he said.

"The real hit is the negative energy on flying in" staff and performers by carbon dioxide-spewing jet aircraft, Picard said. In the planning stages, all air travel has been through a rigorous approval process and trips deemed necessary would be offset through carbon credits, he said from London.

But Picard, who admitted he was about to board a 747 bound for New York, did not see paying for credits as an ideal alternative to flying. "Offsets are a necessary evil right now," he said.

The Live Earth Web site lists eco-friendly ways for the audience in some locations to travel to concerts taking place in East Rutherford, New Jersey; London; Johannesburg, South Africa; Shanghai, China; Tokyo; Sydney, Australia; and Hamburg, Germany. A further concert is due to be held in Rio de Janeiro, according to organizers.

"Audience travel accounts for the vast majority of a concert's impact on our climate, as much as 50 percent!" the Live Earth site points out.

But Picard said that only a live event would draw the necessary attention to the issue of global warming.

"Is there justification for making this a live event? Yes. You get enough people in the same place and there's going to be a human factor that I'm sure will translate to television audiences," he said.

However, Picard said he was disappointed when he learned recently of the typical pre-concert ritual at Giants Stadium in New Jersey.

"We found out there's going to be massive tailgating, which will produce more trash than what is happening inside the stadium," he said. Tailgating parties are impromptu rallies in the parking lots outside official stadium venues, often involving cookouts, lots of beverages served from glass bottles and aluminum cans, and people keeping car engines running to power sound systems, air conditioning or heat.