“I think it’s un­fair to sin­gle out rock’n’roll. There’s many other things that are in the same cat­e­gory but as it hap­pens we have a pro­gramme to off­set what­ever car­bon foot­print we have” – U2’s The Edge

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Feature -

construction in­dus­try, rather than merely for the film pro­duc­tion in­dus­try. In the UK, for in­stance, there’s a scenery re­cy­cling com­pany, which takes scenery sets away and puts them to use on other pro­duc­tions. We just don’t have the scale to do that here.”

When it comes to scale, how­ever, Ire­land does ex­ceed in at least one area – we’ve got the big­gest band on the planet, and they put on the big­gest, most ex­pen­sive sta­dium tour ever. Ac­cord­ing to car­bon­foot­print. com, the to­tal emis­sions from U2’s 360 tour will be in the re­gion of 65,000 tonnes of CO – who even knew a gas could weigh that much?

And the com­pe­ti­tion be­tween th­ese sta­dium-tour be­he­moths is pal­pa­ble. The pre­vi­ous big­gest stage be­longed to The Rolling Stones’s Big­ger Bang tour, which cer­tainly did what it said on the tin – their gig at Slane in 2008 con­cluded with a fire­works dis­play that put many Fourth of July cel­e­bra­tions to shame. Jag­ger and co claimed that they in­vested in car­bon off­set­ting to make up for their colos­sal folly, and the Edge said the same thing about U2’s lat­est ex­trav­a­ganza: “I think it’s prob­a­bly un­fair to sin­gle out rock’n’roll. There’s many other things that are in the same cat­e­gory but as it hap­pens we have a pro­gramme to off­set what­ever car­bon foot­print we have,” the Edge told the BBC in Au­gust.

How­ever, car­bon off­set­ting, it is in­creas­ingly agreed, is the en­vi­ron­men­tal equiv­a­lent of buy­ing in­dul­gences from the Church, a getout-of-jail free card that mag­i­cally prom­ises to ex­on­er­ate pol­luters from the real cost of their life­style. On top of its de­bat­able ef­fi­cacy, off­set­ting usu­ally ig­nores the fact that a huge


pro­por­tion of a given tour or fes­ti­val’s emis­sions re­sult from the fans trav­el­ling to the venue, rather than the pro­duc­tion it­self.

Ali­son Tick­ell, the founder and di­rec­tor of Julie’s Bi­cy­cle, a Lon­don-based coali­tion of in­dus­try, sci­ence and en­ergy ex­perts who are work­ing on re­duc­ing the mu­sic in­dus­try’s level of emis­sions, points out that “43 per cent of the mu­sic in­dus­try’s im­pact is down to au­di­ence travel to the con­certs”. The com­pre­hen­sive re­search con­ducted by the Ox­ford En­vi­ron­men­tal Change In­sti­tute on be­half of Julie’s Bi­cy­cle sug­gests that peo­ple trav­el­ling to gigs in the UK gen­er­ate at least 400,000 tonnes of green­house gas emis­sions ev­ery year. By en­gag­ing with se­nior peo­ple in the in­dus­try, from la­bels to fes­ti­val or­gan­is­ers, Tick­ell hopes to de­velop prac­ti­cal cam­paigns to make a dif­fer­ence. “Looking at CD packaging’s im­pact, that’s within our area of con­trol, in that the la­bels can agree to tran­si­tion to card cases, whereas fans’ travel is quite a chal­lenge to ad­dress. The for­ma­tion of Julie’s Bi­cy­cle did co­in­cide with Live Earth, and the sense that this was not the only way to work on th­ese is­sues. Our ap­proach has been quiet and be­hind the scenes, and we just get on with on it. But it’s im­por­tant to un­der­stand how the in­dus­try works, be­cause there’s no point in com­ing up with rec­om­men­da­tions that are un­work­able.”

Few acts have been more prom­i­nent in this cause than Ra­dio­head. Their ac­claimed tour in sup­port of In Rain­bows broke new ground in es­tab­lish­ing sus­tain­able, en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly prac­tices – the all-LED lighting rigs re­sulted in a 75 per cent re­duc­tion in power re­quire­ments over their 2003 tour, while ship­ping their equip­ment rather than fly­ing it re­duc­ing their trans­port-re­lated CO emis­sions by 97 per cent.

Fes­ti­vals such as Ox­e­gen, Elec­tric Pic­nic and Glas­ton­bury have large foot­prints too.

“The green­est thing to do is not to run the event,” Glasto’s Michael Eavis said last year. “But if we want some­thing like Glas­ton­bury, if it’s part of our cul­ture, that’s the price one has to pay... We’ve al­ways min­imised the dam­age. But if you switched off ev­ery­thing that cre­ated car­bon, we’d be bored to tears.”

Of course Eavis has a point. The mu­sic biz and above all the movie in­dus­try might be sur­pris­ingly heavy pol­luters, but un­like, say, CFCs, they can’t just be phased out. The re­al­ity is they will have to adopt greener prac­tices, whether from the ef­forts of in­dus­try ac­tivists, or due to the leg­is­la­tion that will in­evitably come to pro­scribe green­house gas emis­sions. Or per­haps, as we be­come in­creas­ingly aware of the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact of all our ac­tiv­i­ties, from own­ing a pet to run­ning a Google search, the pres­sure on the mu­sic and movie in­dus­tries to of­fer us clean, green en­ter­tain­ment will come from us.

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