The Associated Press’s Erik Schelzig got at another piece of this development in an interview with Al Gore during his Saturday train ride between the concert in Washington, D.C., and the one in New Jersey. “Gore turned back criticism that the concert series lacked immediate goals beyond generally raising awareness about climate change,” Schelzig writes. “The concerts are just the first step in a three-year public relations campaign, he said.”


That is important because, whether you like Gore’s message or not, the former vice president is modernizing traditional forms of activism-environmental or otherwise-with his emphasis on multimedia solutions. Ann Powers, at the Los Angeles Times, was the only columnist to give this angle any serious attention. Live Earth “undoubtedly spiked awareness about environmentalist causes,” she writes, “but it paid off more directly as an experiment in cultural interconnection across time zones and in the floating realm of the Internet.”


Although Powers concedes that the celebritization of Live Earth detracted from the message about environmental stewardship, she dismisses criticism that “consumerism isn’t proper politics.” Stringing together ethnically diverse acts across seven continents, while touting environmentally friendly and easy to use products, was “simple genius,” Power writes. “This window into globalism, not Live Earth’s political message or the performances of its headliners, was the festival’s true innovation.”


It would have been nice if more journalists and pundits had tucked into this aspect of Live Earth, which is far more interesting than the reflexive cynicism. Was the enormity of Live Earth its ultimate sin or its ultimate salvation? The answer is debatable. Unfortunately for the press, it’s impossible to tell how many of the people that listened to Live Earth actually “heard” what was said.

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Curtis Brainard is the editor of The Observatory, CJR's online critique of science and environment reporting. Follow him on Twitter @cbrainard.