It’s tough to meet expectations when your goal is to save the planet. And you are promising the greatest show on earth.

In the aftermath of the marathon of concerts called Live Earth, there was plenty of grousing over everything from trash being strewn at Giants Stadium to overpriced merchandise to somewhat ambiguous goals.  There was a “seven point pledge,” but also the goal of curbing carbon emissions by 90% by 2050.

And there was to worry that it would fall victim to rock star self indulgence. Time magazine reported, “Some Live Earth organizers admitted the contradiction. ‘It’s very obvious that any event like this is not environmentally friendly,’ says Yu Nakajima, who was in charge of greening the Tokyo show. ‘It’s probably better not to have an event at all.’”

Writes Roger Friedman of Fox News.com, “In all, Gore and the show’s impressive list of artists and activists seem to have given Live Earth their best, in hopes that their actions will inspire people to change their carbon-emitting ways. Did it work? Only time will tell.  

“As far as the actual concert was concerned, walking past piles of empty cans and caravans of honking trucks, one got the idea that Live Earth might have amounted to exactly what Bob Geldof and the Who singer Roger Daltrey predicted: a huge, offensive rock concert.”

The New York Times Alessandra Stanley noted the contrast of messages, like Robert F. Kennedy Jr. calling politicians “corporate toadies” even with the array of corporate sponsors.

Live Earth did break some online records, but early viewership figures from the UK were lackluster, with the event failing to top the recent Diana concerts. Save for Madonna and a Police performance of “Message in a Bottle,” some critics complained that there were too few really standout moments.

This concerts were just the beginning of what organizers say will be a three-year campaign  to actually change habits, and they have been taking to calling Live Earth a “launch event.”

“The planet doesn’t have a PR agent,” Al Gore said. “But now it will, because the Alliance for Climate Protection is going to use the modern techniques of messaging to get the scientific evidence in front of people all over the world.”

So it is hard to measure just what success is for Live Earth — ratings tell only part of the story. They benefited from loads of publicity, so even if people didn’t watch it they were at least made aware that something has to be done about the environment.

So even if this was, in the end, “just an enormous pop concert,” as Geldof called it, it is hard to criticize its intent. SOS, save our selves, was the mantra. Who can argue with that.

The problem that they have had all along is that the landscape is now populated by superstars and their special causes, and you have to wonder if there is sort of an entertainment-driven compassion fatigue setting in. It’s not just global warming but health care and Africa. Producer Kevin Wall even said a couple of weeks ago that he didn’t ask U2 to perform because they already were consumed with their effort to end global poverty. The public is overwhelmed by it all.

The challenge will be in the follow up, perhaps not just in getting more people to sign up for Gore’s “seven-point pledge.” Some question whether major habitual changes can occur without more drastic laws being passed on energy consumption at the consumer level. After all, seat belt laws, with the threat of being pulled over and ticketed, actually got people to wear seat belts.

Writes Bryan Walsh in Time, “It’s time to get past the obsession over carbon footprint size and offsets, over who’s an eco-hypocrite and who is truly green. We need to use energy far more wisely, both individually and internationally, but with hundreds of millions in the developing world getting richer and producing more carbon every day, the threat of climate change is far, far bigger than our personal conservation habits. It will require technological change and painful political choices such as carbon taxes, gas taxes and mandatory greenhouse gas emissions caps. That means, especially for the young, the un-rock star act of voting.”

 

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