Live Earth ratings flop

Hmmm...maybe rock stars don't have all the answers. The BBC reports today that NBC's coverage of the Live Earth concerts was the least-watched show on American television, losing out to a re-run of 2001's Monsters Inc. Yes, that's right. Animated monsters got more face-time than Sting.

I can think of a few reasons for the tepid response. What we have here is a bad case of preaching-to-the-choir syndrom. Those who are aware of the climate crisis and already committed to action probably watched in droves. But for vast swaths of Middle America, global warming is a distant, fuzzy concept with little relevance in their daily existence. For these folks, cartoon characters are a welcome break from mortgage and money worries. A bunch of stern, lecturing popstars? Less so.

And if the vast majority of Americans are like me, they're suffering from a bad case of celebrity fatigue. I know global warming is a problem. I don't need Cameron Diaz telling me it's a problem. In fact, I resent it. I have more education than Cameron Diaz. I read more than Cameron Diaz. I am not, however, as attractive as she is, but you get the idea. I'm not sure how celebrities became our activists. It's annoying as hell, and nine times out of ten they do more harm than good. I prefer to take my public policy cues from, you know, experts and scientists. Not actors and musicians. Sure, you can make a good movie, but that does not in any way qualify you to speak on anything other than the movie you just made. And it always comes off as a bit insincere when a multi-millionaire tries to lecture you on making sacrifices to save the world.

Social change is a grubby, tedious process. It takes sustained public education, and a committment by all sectors of society towards the ultimate goal. Or, to put it another way, stopping climate change is going to be like herding cats. I don't begrudge the Live Earth organizers their intentions or goals. But clearly, rock shows are not the silver bullet solution. Outreach, education and sustained political will are the only things that will turn the tide.