Wednesday, 6 July 2005

Live8, G8, desper8...

Last weekend, the great and the good rallied around to raise awareness of third world poverty by staging a series of rock concerts around the world. The BBC kindly broadcast the day's proceedings to an eager viewing public. Certainly it was an amazing spectacle: Paul McCartney, U2, Dido, REM, Keane, Travis, Razorlight, Robbie Williams and The Who were all excellent entertainment. Pink Floyd made men of a certain age get moist-eyed just by all turning up together. Other acts, including the much-lauded Coldplay, were below par in my book. Ms Dynamite spoiled the token appearance bestowed on her by squealing between two otherwise decent songs. Snoop Dogg's "mother-loving" exhortations provoked much hilarity with yours truly, and apparently many (300+) complaints to the Beeb. And everyone proclaimed their adoration for Sir Bob Geldof, some to the extent that you wondered whether they wanted to have his children. So everything's okay then, right?

Well I'm not so sure, to be honest. There's certainly no doubting Geldof's good intentions, and those of us who have supported the cause will at least be able to look back in years to come and say they tried to make a difference. I just wish I felt more confident that we can make that difference. Africa's problems stem far beyond simple poverty: corruption in government is rife in many countries; the healthcare burden of AIDS and HIV is tremendous; the infrastructure and supporting industry necessary to support the proposed increased in fair trade is patchy; civil unrest within and between territories is common. Then there's the question of whether the West has the right to impose its view of trade, healthcare, infrastructure and all the rest on such a different culture... or rather, such a huge collection of different cultures.

There's also an issue on which I feel sure I must be over-simplifying. The figure of 30,000 people dying needlessly every day makes my head spin. Clearly this is appalling. But let's just suppose, for one second, that G8 acquiesce to all of the Live8 campaign's demands, and that those 30,000 people don't die every day. In a week, 210,000 will have been saved. In five weeks, over a million will not have perished. In a year, that figure ramps up to over 10 million. This is clearly a good thing; no-one should die for simple lack of the money or means to support themselves. What worries me is that these impoverished areas don't have the means or infrastructure to support their current populations; how are they going to support 10 million more? And 10 million more the year after that? Are we just pushing back today's problems to a time in a few years when the basic survival needs of a larger population can no longer be met, in the same way that those basic needs cannot be met for today's poor? I don't know, maybe I am over-simplifying.

Finally, why isn't the G8 the G9? China is booming in every way: population, trade, industry... and carbon emissions. Okay, so the derisory figure of George W. Bush has attracted much criticism (though not enough from within his own country) for taking the US out of the Kyoto Agreement on climate change, especially since the States contributes a staggering 22% of the world's carbon emissions. By contrast, the whole of Europe contributes 12%, so we're clearly right to deride Bush for such lunacy. But China contributes 13%, a figure that looks certain to rise given the need for the immense Chinese population to play catch-up, racing through the same industrial and cultural follies that the West stumbled through in the latter half of the 20th Century. So why isn't China taking a seat at the G8 table and discussing these weighty issues? Why aren't there nine men in a room?

But I digress. Live8 is a noble cause and we have to try to make poverty history, even if you're as sceptical about our chances of success as me. I urge you to register your support for Sir Bob and his merry men at now.

And if you're as concerned as I am that ours is the generation that will be remembered for polluting our planet irretrievably, please take a look at the CRed carbon reduction campaign.

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