This weekend, rock stars will jet around the world, cars and buses will clog traffic, and elaborate sound stages will be set up to burn massive amounts of fuel to send the message to fans at home that they better conserve their energy or face the allegedly dire threat of global warming.
The Live Earth concerts, which start this Saturday, July 7, are also one last chance for Baby Boomers to relive the "flower power" activism of the '60s. In a recent interview in Rolling Stone, former Vice President Al Gore invoked music icon Bob Dylan to promote the importance of these concerts. Citing Dylan's '60 anthem "The Times They Are A-Changin'". Gore rambled: "What's the old Bob Dylan line? 'Come senators, congressmen, please heed the call/Rattle your windows' - what's the rest of it? - 'for the times they are a-changin'."
But there's just one problem with invoking Dylan to hype the global warming scare. And that is that Dylan himself has expressed skepticism -- to the same magazine -- to the notion that global warming is a catastrophe. When he was asked by Rolling Stone founder and publisher Jann Wenner in the magazine's 40th anniversary issue if he worried about global warming, Dylan replied with an unexpected rejoinder. He asked Wenner, "Where's the global warming? It's freezing here." Wenner, who has blanketed Rolling Stone and his other magazine Men's Journal with doom-and gloom climate change stories (that often bash CEI), quickly moved on to other topics after he received his comeuppance.
Yet Dylan's latest statement may signal that in the global warming debate, the times are changing. Even independent-minded celebrities are now questioning the establishment media orthodoxy that the debate over global warming and its effects are all but over. In a phrase familiar to those who study pop culture, it appears that the global warming scare may have "jumped the shark."
"Jump the shark" refers to the precise moment at which a TV program loses momentum or begins the process of losing the element that made the show popular. The phrase comes specifically from an episode of "Happy Days" in which Fonzie jumps over a shark with water skis. Fans argue that the show became less realistic after that. The web site JumpTheShark.com is dedicated to fans debating the precise moment their favorite programs "jumped the shark."
But "jumping the shark" can also refer to a trend or even a line of argument. And as a post on the web site Moonbattery.com has noted, environmentalists' sky-is-falling global warming rhetoric is jumping the shark because of its inconsistencies and contradictions. Bob Dylan has always been something of an iconoclast and has strayed from the party line more than his liberal fans would like (for a list of examples see the web site RightWingBob.com.) But I think on basic level, it's hard to convince a man who grew in the bitter cold climate of Hibbing, Minn., that a few degrees of warming over the next century will be that much of a problem.
Other rock stars are questioning the very purpose of the concert. Bob Geldof, who put together the "Live Aid" concerts of the '80s to combat starvation in Africa, asked: "Why is [Gore] actually organizing them? To make us aware of the greenhouse effect? ... We are all [expletive] conscious of global warming."
Similarly, the Who's Roger Daltrey told the London Sun: "I can't believe it. Let's burn even more fuel." Then, in a rare bit of humility for famous entertainers, Daltrey argued that it's possible that rock stars may not have all the answers. "We have problems with global warming, but the questions and the answers are so huge I don't know what a rock concert's ever going to do to help," he said.
And the latest is from the new band Arctic Monkeys, who expressed skepticism about the concert to the French wire service AFP. "It's a bit patronizing for us 21 year olds to try to start to change the world," drummer Matt Helders said. "Especially when we're using enough power for 10 houses just for (stage) lighting. It'd be a bit hypocritical."
To be sure not all stars are ready to embrace the CEI side of the debate. But acknowledging there are complexities is first step to halting global warming hysteria. What Geldof in particular seemed to realize is that the arguments to stop global are convincing not because warming itself is bad (indeed, there could be many benefits), but of the effects it may cause, such as exacerbating drought and malaria. Whereas Geldof's Live Aid raised money that directly went to buying food for Africa's poor (although there were some problems with distribution, as there are in many food aid programs), it's unclear how the "Live Earth" concerts will improve anyone's life.
And environmentalists have rejected solutions to the problems they say global warming will worsen. Indeed, as I show in my book Eco-Freaks, environmentalists have created their own public health crises with many of their "solutions." It was not global warming but the banning of the pesticide DDT -- inspired by the hysterics of Gore's heroine Rachel Carson -- that has led to millions dying of malaria in the Third World.
And there is even a question about how seriously environmentalists take the global warming "threat." After all most eco-groups are opposed to nuclear power, which involves no pollution and carbon dioxide emissions. And they want to shut down the non-polluting dams that provide electricity in the Pacific Northwest, which would result in a sharp increase of the dreaded coal and oil to provide power. These are even bigger hypocrisies than a fuel-burning concert, and provide even more evidence that global warming hysteria is jumping the shark.