The black and white of going green

1 million took part in Live Earth-related events

How green the world is likely to become because of Live Earth is an open question, but the July 7 multimedia extravaganza will go down as the largest global entertainment event in history, and so far the most interactive.

While the TV ratings in the U.S. and some other major territories were rather modest, millions of additional viewers streamed parts of the concert over the Web or listened on the radio. By organizers’ reckoning, 1 million people around the globe participated in more than 10,000 Friends of Live Earth events in 131 countries.

But getting people to actually put into practice the seven-point pledge they may have signed, to pressure their governments and to modify their own lifestyles in an eco-friendly way, will be much more difficult — especially in the U.S., the country that consumes more resources and arguably wastes more energy than any other on the planet.

For one thing, Americans these days are notoriously unaccustomed to making personal sacrifices, even small ones. Who among us, other than soldiers and their families (or profiting Haliburton stockholders), have made the least alteration in their lives because of the Iraq conflict?

And the attention span and follow-through of the average Joe are questionable at best.

It’s also debatable whether the megarich celebs who lent themselves to the effort were more irksome or inspiring as they shared their green tips. Whether their calls will be effective in convincing regular folks to follow suit remains to be seen. As one pundit put it to me, “Think about Angelina. Folks may admire her for going to Darfur, but they’re probably more interested in copying her looks rather than imitating her politics.”

Arguably the archest suggestion on the show came from Cameron Diaz, who thinks that turning the shower water off while shaving one’s legs would do wonders for the environment. Ouch.

Another pitch featured Jennifer Garner in a black & white PSA looking very serious as she inserted a plastic mesh filter into her coffee pot. No tree will die in order for her to sip her brew. Yet another had Jessica Alba launching a plastic bottle into her recycling bin.

I half expected Paris Hilton to make a surprise appearance suggesting that a short stint in jail for each of us would cut down on carbon emissions.

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with these admonitions, it’s just hard to picture the stars actually living this way themselves.

OK, Diaz was one of the first Hollywood types to own a Prius, but I’d be curious as to how much mileage she puts on it (as compared with jetting here or there and being limo-ed everywhere else). Still, she did help make the alternative-vehicle gesture instantly trendy here in car-crazed Los Angeles, though countless others in the biz blithely continue to drive Hummers and Escalades.

Beyond Diaz, what was the idea of having groups like the Beastie Boys performing in the concert? Aren’t they the ones who used to trash hotel rooms on a routine basis? It’s hard to imagine them hanging up their bathroom towels or forgoing a daily change of sheets.

Leaving aside the silliness and the sanctimony, there were actually enjoyable performances during the 24-hour marathon — and lots of musicians who are retooling their tour buses to run on biodiesel.

To my mind, the image that most eloquently drove home the point about global warming was that of a clutch of parka-clad polar scientists/amateur musicians plucking away at their instruments in Antarctica, with a (no doubt melting) glacier in the background.

Would that we all had the wherewithal to follow in their carbon footprints.

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