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Live Earth Shanghai: “start small, start now”

Saturday’s Live Earth concert in Shanghai looks to set the standard for future green events, but has received little press attention in China. Li Siqi, Liu Liyuan and Ren Quan ask why.

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On July 7, the Live Earth Shanghai concert will take place in the shadow of the Oriental Pearl Tower. The climate-change awareness concert hopes to put environmental protection at the heart of everything it does. Making sure the show is as environmentally friendly as possible was its biggest challenge, says organiser Kevin Wall, and they seem to be doing everything they can.

“Sustainability engineers” were intimately involved in its production, and they came up with a number of surprising solutions. Talking to chinadialogue, Live Earth spokesperson Yusef Robb described how engineers made sure the power they need is generated by the wind and the sun, and how the lighting rigs are fitted with energy-saving bulbs. And the people of Shanghai will be able to judge for themselves, if they come to see the green event.

The US Green Building Council also helped Live Earth implement its “Green Event Guidelines”, which sets the standard for large public events to help reduce their environmental impact as far as possible. This means a number of sustainability measures will be put into place, from using biodegradable plastics to installing recycling facilities.

The Live Earth team seem to have been determined to keep things green from the start, in the choices they have made for catering, packaging, transportation, energy and water usage. This can provide a model for future events: the 3,000 capacity venue will have separate litter bins for different types of waste, use environmentally friendly light bulbs – and even do away with toilet paper. Live Earth seems to be practising what it preaches.

But what about the audience? The organisers are hoping they will use recyclable tickets, tickets which double up as bus tickets, or paperless SMS tickets. Attendees are also being encouraged to take public transport to the venue. The Shanghai concert will be taking place an hour earlier than planned – from 6 to 10 in the evening – to allow everyone to take the subway home, rather than making a polluting car journey. Concert employees and performers are offsetting the carbon emissions incurred by any air travel, and are using hybrid transport such as the Daimler Chrysler smart car – the official transportation partner for Live Earth.

All of this will hopefully serve as a model for future green event planning. Shanghai is a popular venue for major concerts, and will host the World Expo in 2010. If these green measures can be consistently implemented it will do some real good. “Green” will not be a mere slogan – it will be an ideal that is visibly implemented.

But all is not rosy for Live Earth Shanghai: the event has not attracted the attention it hoped for in China. The line-up features British-born singer Sarah Brightman; Cantopop stars Eason Chen, Joey Yung and Anthony Wong; Hong Kong rock band Soler; Taiwan singers Evonne Hsu and Winnie Hsin. The only celebrities from the Chinese mainland are actor Huang Xiaoming and contestants from reality TV shows popular in the Shanghai area. Performers from the Chinese mainland are seriously underrepresented at Shanghai Live Earth, leading to a lacklustre press launch and lukewarm public response. This has also has meant little press coverage. One reason for this imbalance may be that the performers are reportedly turning up for free. There is also not a great degree of environmental awareness among the  Chinese mainland public.

But there is little else to complain of. Despite the criticisms of Bob Geldof, the force behind Live Aid and Live 8, who said that Live Earth lacks a clear set of goals, the green event is a good enough goal in itself. Policy change will require ongoing pressure from an aware public, and that will take time. As individuals we must start to pay attention to the small things – these green details.

And this is exactly what Live Earth is intended to do, raise urgently needed awareness of energy-saving and the environment. As Yusef Robb told chinadialogue, it’s about getting people to take the first step. Regardless of how successful it is, it needs to be done. As a Chinese saying has it: “Start small. Start now.”


Li Siqi is chinadialogue’s Beijing editorial assistant.

Quan Ren is a Shanghai reporter for chinadialogue.

Liu Liyuan is a trainee reporter for Shanghai newspaper Wenhui Bao.

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Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous



Reasons why?

It is interesting to hear why concert coverage will be low-key in China: the lack of Chinese mainland artists. I wonder how that came about - it seems quite unfortunate. They should have put more effort into this: because China is certainly somewhere that a climate-change awareness concert could make a big impact!

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

关键问题还是缺乏环保意识 (答复楼上)



Reponse to above comment: Key issue is poor environment awareness

Today in China, environmental protection is a hot but not a fashionable topic. Also, Chinese people, in general, have less awareness to protect the environment.

So, even such environment-related events as "Live Earth" concert have attracted several big-name stars from overseas, but they still seem not so interesting to Chinese people, not to mention to Chinese stars.

It is still the reality in China today: money, fame and enjoying life matter to individuals, but it is others' duty to care about the environment.

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous



good enough

Concerning the current situation of China, it is already satisfied to see such an event. It's just like that you can't ask a elementary student to come out with a PhD thesis. After all, China is still a developing country. celebrities have to listen to their companies on what to do. Not to mention that currently all the companies in China still put their profit on first and only priority.To perform for free? No way!

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous



Chinese celebrities, show for the sake of showing

Gong Li, for example, was heading a campaign for environmental protection, whilst continuing to wear luxury clothing made from wild animal fur. The level of environmental awareness of Chinese celebrities is the lowest among the Chinese. Although that of the Chinese populace is already quite low.

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous



The tickets for the concert are too expensive!

This environmental concert quotes a price as high as four-digit. Even the lowest price is still above 200 yuan. Apparently, this is high-end consumption to Chinese public. The price in UK is less than 55 pounds, which, in relation to the income level, is much cheaper than ours. Environmental protection is an issue that everyone need to face. Why that they kept us away from it by those high prices?

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous


我同意价钱的昂贵, 然而据我所知类似的音乐会在中国往往是昂贵的。但另我质疑的是,为什么有这么少的电视频道直播呢?并且传达从音乐会中的讯息所作出的努力是这么的有限呢?

high prices and lack of interest

I agree the prices are high but I am told that concerts like this are always expensive in China. I wonder why so few TV channels carried the concert though? And why was so little effort made to get the message of the concert across?

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous


意识的改变需要一代人的努力. 但以经济手段激励对环保行业投资, 以行政手段强化环保标准, 却有着立竿见影的效果. 民众的意识变化能改变政策走向, 由下而上如在美国. 在中国更普遍的是由上而下, 政策引导民众意识与行为.

所以, 问题关键在于, 政府能否下大决心, 动大动作, 上令能否下达. 中国经济不健康的过热众说纷纭, 其中一大诟病就是巨大的环境代价. 2004的地一份国家绿色GDP就指出占GDP3.05%的环境退化成本,那还是不完整的统计.

用环保法令,布局经济手段去刹不健康的经济发展快车, 用经济政策大力推广, 促进环保产业, 循环经济, 把国民经济发展引向可持续的方向. 这道理有之识士都看的到, 但做起来, 上面可要下大决心.


Great determinations are necessary

Great determinations are necessary
It will take a period of one generation to change the public consciousness (to environmental protection). But there are more effective ways to approach it, such as making economic policies to encourage investment to “green industry” and setting strict environmental regulations. The public opinions could influence policy makings in a bottom up way, like the U.S.A. But there is an above down way in China, the public consciousness and behaviors are guided by set polices. Therefore, the key issue is, will the (Chinese) government make great determination to reform its environmental policies in a large scale and make sure these policies will be implemented in all levels. There are various criticizes on China’s unsustainable way of economic development, one of the greatest issues is enormous environmental damage. The China Green National Accounting Study Report 2004 states that the estimated environmental damages was equivalent to 3.05 % of Chinese GDP in 2004, and that is not a final statistical result. In order to prevent unsustainable economic development, to promote green industries and sustainable economic development, it is vital to set strict environmental protection legislations and make appropriate economic policies. This common sense is agreed by general public, but it is hard to achieve, the Chinese government should have great determinations to make some changes.

Tian Ming

The China Green National Accounting Study Report 2004 (public version in Chinese) is available at:

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous



The real reason

In the mid 1980s, Guo Feng, a Chinese singer, organized a top singers' concert, "Tomorrow will be better", to show support for refugees in Africa.

The event attracted more attention than the Live Earth concert held recently in Shanghai.

Obviously, this Shanghai event does not indicate that Chinese people have less interest in charity activities. Reporters should dig deep for the reasons behind the low attendance of the Shanghai concert.

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous



The tickets are expensive!

Environmental protection should not be a luxury commodity.

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous


我同意环境保护不应该是一个奢侈的消费品,但是我也不认为环境保护是廉价的.我们花费无数的金钱和其他资源去开发,研究,监控生物体和非生物因素之间的关系是为什么呢? 是为了我们的生存和繁衍! 把资源用在正确的地方是昂贵的行为.

Environment protection is about human lives!

I agree that environment protection should not be a luxurious commodity for sale, but I do not think environmental protection is cheap either. We spent enormous money and other resources to explore, to search, to monitor relations between living organisms and abiotic factors, but for what? For our lifes and further generations! To put resources in right places are expensive practices.