Saturday, July 14, 2007

Hypocrisy or Necessary Evil?

Live Earth. An Inconvenient Truth. Both brainchildren of former Vice President Al Gore. Both designed to bring awareness of human caused global warming.

Of course, there has been a bit of blow back.

Critics of the movie point to Mr. Gore's personal energy use. Critics of the concerts point to their energy consumption. Does that matter?

First, a bit of history. An Inconvenient Truth won an Oscar, and the very next day a conservative think tank issued a press release criticising the amount and cost of the Gore family home's energy consumption. The Tennessee Center for Policy Research said that the Gore home uses 20 times more energy than the average household. Cries of hypocrisy were embedded in the release, and spread through the various media outlets. Many rose to the vice president's defense, including Keith Olbermann. Even though I was not moved by Mr. Olbermann excusing the energy use because VP Gore has a really big house, plus a guest house, these defenders bring up some very good points about how the think tank analyzed the raw data. Bottom line, though, Al Gore does use more energy than the majority of Americans.

Live Earth suffered much the same fate as VP Gore's house. It was a well-intentioned effort to spread the global warming message that also generated a lot of criticism. Critics spread the word that all those concerts all over the world would generate a huge negative environmental impact that would obviously be at odds with the concerts' message. This time, however, it wasn't just think tanks on the offensive. PETA sent Mr. Gore a letter criticising the meat items being served at the concerts, citing a UN study which shows that the meat industry causes more global warming than all the cars and trucks in the world combined. PETA maintains that the single biggest cause of global warming is meat, and that is where our efforts should be focused. Interestingly, these warnings were met with indifference, despite the United Nations data. Bottom line, concert organizers made huge efforts to reduce their environmental impact, but there was no way around it.

Does all this matter? Is it hypocritical to use so much energy while advocating reducing the world's energy use? Does the good of spreading the global warming message outweigh the negative? Do the ends justify the means?


Charles D said...

The answer is probably a bit of both. I do not doubt the science behind global warming, and even if I did, I would still believe we should protect ourselves in the event the science is correct.

The problem however, is not Gore's big house and it's electric bill. The problem is that global warming is too large a problem to be solved with individual efforts, phony carbon offsets, and rock concerts. The real solutions would require changes so radical as to be politically impossible in all but the most forward-thinking nations.

Goat said...

Global warming is not a problem unless you are subject to foolish propoganda.

Cameron said...

The purpose of the concerts and the movie and all the other efforts is twofold. First, individual awareness and action. If we all ditch our SUV's and switch our light bulbs then we'll be making a difference. The second purpose is related to the first. If the general populace is on board, it then becomes much easier for governments to make the radical changes you speak of. I think that is the reason why the concerts were deemed a necessary evil by their promoters.

What intrigues me though is the seemingly selective use of UN scientific studies. PETA is promoting the UN study which states that global warming is overwhelmingly caused by the meat industry. If we all cared about solving global warming, why did it take me happening across the PETA thing in an online news story about a rock concert to find out about it? Why isn't that being promoted all over the place? Shouldn't we all be vegans by now?