Coldplay have announced that they will not be touring their new album until such time as they can find a way to make their gigs carbon neutral. Now, ladies and gentlemen of The Afterword, do not slide lazily into a smug rejoice, just because Coldplay aren’t, you know … they just aren’t very Afterword. What is the real significance of this announcement?
I take the warnings of the academics and experts seriously. I fear that most of us haven’t yet comprehended the ways in which our lives are going to have to change if we are not to cause irreversible damage to the climate. And, of course, I am a hypocrite, because there are countless ways in which I could do more to consume less. As the crews swap between acts on festival stages, I ponder the cost to the planet of my hedonism. There’s the electricity, for starters, just to pump up the volume, even for an ‘acoustic’ act. There’s the methane skull and crossbones lingering in unsavoury fashion above the burger van, the excess consumption going on in the beer tent. Meanwhile, on the campsite, all those Boomer campervans have each guzzled diesel to get there, but that is nothing to the international artists who have flown in from who-knows-where (though as a result it is doubtless either desertifying or sinking beneath the waves.) Hell, have you seen the itineraries of the average folkie on tour? Whatever talents they or their manager may have, geography ain’t one of them, evidenced by the inefficient zig-zags across the country, hightailing it up and down the M40 to the next arts centre / folk club.
And yet, maybe a festival or a mega gig is not the environmental disaster one might think. As a vehicle for delivering the entertainment we crave, such events have the economies of scale which may make it a reasonable use of our dwindling resources. And so progress my thought processes. If we really have to think in terms of rationing our carbon emissions, as all agree who are not in the pay of some Koch Foundation or another, then I would think there is a good case for musicians to make their claim for a decent ration. The other really painful abstention that I can see coming is foreign travel, but I’d like to see a case made for the cultural value of that too, justifying its occasional (annual holiday) carbon emissions. There are all sorts of activities and behaviours that strike me as anachronistic in their flouting of the environmental needs of the times. F1 racing; ‘parental choice’ turning schoolkids into commuters in their pre-teens; Christmas shopping on the other side of the Atlantic; for crying out loud – stag dos in Riga. We just can’t keep on doing this stuff. But guess what? I didn’t do any of it anyway, so it’s all very pious for me to suggest that others should stop NOW while I still want to carry on with my folk music and holidays in the sun.
A penny for your thoughts?