Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

Awareness Campaigns Don't Do Crap for the Environment

Written by johnleemk on 2:39:23 pm Jul 14, 2007.
Categories: ,

Not too long ago, in the vein of campaigns like Live 8, Al Gore organised a Live Earth concert around the world to raise awareness about global warming.

Now, I'm all for saving the environment. Most people who aren't nutcases would be. But for the live of me, I can't see what serious good this campaign did that made it worthwhile.

I come from an authoritarian country with a government used to telling its people what to do, rather than using the market or other incentives to alter individual conduct.

The government incessantly runs campaigns urging people to "be a smart consumer", keep public toilets clean, and the like. I have become used to the failure of these campaigns — it's a given that they won't accomplish anything except wasting money.

Unfortunately this is a little lesson people like rock stars and politicians haven't learnt — either that, or they are intentionally not learning because they prefer to waste money to keep their own egoes inflated and their reputations high and dry.

How many people who could afford to watch and listen to Live 8 don't already know about the problem of the environment? How many wouldn't have already heard of global warming?

More importantly, how many would be compelled to make a difference in the long run? The answer may lie in the thousands of plastic cups the UK Live Earth audience left on the floor of Wembley Stadium, despite the fans being explicitly told to place them in recycling bins.

Even if you can come up with a significant positive here, how far does this outweigh the cost of having all these rock stars travel around the world for the events, not to mention transporting their entourages and equipment?

Oh, yes, you can say it's "carbon neutral", and all that, but nothing beats not polluting in the first place — and why couldn't all this money spent on transportation and carbon offsetting have been spent on something more useful than a concert, and I don't know, be used to subsidise green energy or plant trees?

The fact is, if you want to make a difference in bequeathing the human race a cleaner planet and a more pristine environment, ego-inflating concerts are not the way to go about it. All you need are the right bloody incentives.

My paternal grandmother lives in a quiet rural town. She doesn't know much about the environment, and may never have heard of global warming. But as far as I can remember, she has been sorting her garbage (and she has a lot, since my grandparents run a grocery store) for recycling.

Is it because she cares about the environment? Maybe. But more importantly, she cares about the money she earns from selling old newspapers, used plastic bags, and old tin/aluminium cans for recycling.

If each of those persons attending the concert at Wembley Stadium had been paid five cents for every plastic cup they placed in a recycling bin, do you think there would have been any left on the floor after the concert?

If we want to move towards a cleaner planet, we don't need fancy concerts. We just need the right subsidies and taxes.


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Infernal Ramblings is a Malaysian website focusing on current events and sociopolitical issues. Its articles run the gamut from economics to society to education.

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