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GEI 14: Brian Eno preaches climate ‘opportunity’

A keynote interview with Brian Eno and Aurora was one of the highlights of the 14th Green Events & Innovations Conference (GEI), the leading gathering for sustainability at live events.

The duo sat down with host Love Ssega to discuss ‘Directing the energy of music for the benefit of the planet’ to close this year’s GEI at the Royal Garden Hotel, London last Friday (29 April).

A renowned musician, producer, visual artist and activist, Eno praised Coldplay’s efforts to cut their carbon footprint on their current groundbreaking eco-friendly stadium tour.

“The biggest carbon footprint of touring is generally getting the audience to the shows,” said Eno. “It isn’t getting the band and the equipment to the shows, it’s the audiences. If you’ve got 100,000 people coming to a show and they’re travelling an average of say 30 or 40 miles, that’s a huge huge number of vehicles.

“So Coldplay, for example, are now trying to set up systems where they set up a coach service. And in fact, it sounds a lot more fun to me to be in a coach with 30 or 40 other people going to the same show.”

“I’ve now started thinking in terms of the climate opportunity, rather than the climate emergency”

Eno recently founded Earth Percent, a charity providing a simple way for the music industry to support impactful organisations addressing the climate emergency, and spoke of his desire to tell a “second story” on the issue.

“We all know the first story: we’re on course for disaster,” he said. “The apocalypse is just around the corner and so on. But I’ve now started thinking in terms of the climate opportunity, rather than the climate emergency, because if you think about all the things we would have to do to save the planet… we have to change the way we do all sorts of things. And then when you think about that, you think that would be a much better world anyway.

“It’s not just about trying to save what we have. It’s about trying to make something new with this huge prompt that says, ‘We’ve got to change.’ And if we succeed, we’ll end up in a better place in a better place than we ever imagined.

“The invitation is not just to fight back like the resistance, against this huge force that is coming at us, but to sidestep it and say, ‘We’ll just build a new future.’ And I think this is happening already.”

“As things start to disappear from culture, people suddenly realise that they’re valuable”

Eno pinpointed the expression, “The best is the enemy of the good,” for its growing pertinence to the matter at hand.

“What I see happening a lot is people saying, ‘Well, I can’t do this thing that would be the ideal, so I won’t do anything.’ That is really not an option,” he said. “There is going to be a continuous, endless set of choices and negotiations where we try to prevent another 0.1% temperature rise. And we will do that because we will soon start to realise what happens if we don’t.

“One of the things that always happens as things start to disappear from culture, is that people suddenly realise that they’re valuable… So I’m hoping that because of the good side of mass media, we might actually be a little bit further ahead of the game this time.

“A heroic figure in this is David Attenborough – nobody has been more effective in making people fall in love with the planet than he has, and I think that’s what it takes for people to realise that this is the place to direct their love. I’m an atheist, but if I were going to pray to anything, it would be this place.”

“We have forgotten how to coexist and make room for everything else but ourselves, which is very sad”

Norwegian pop breakthrough Aurora said: “Apathy is the enemy of progress” and shared the relevance of her single The Woman I Am and LP The Gods We Can Touch, released in January.

“This whole album and song… is very in tune with what we’re here to talk about today: how humankind has changed through times and how the way we perceive each other and the earth, and the way we handle it… and how our touch and connection with nature that used to be so obvious in the past, has become less and less prominent within us,” she said.

“I was just wondering why this had happened, why we’d forgot to live organically as a coexisting thing, because we have forgotten how to coexist and make room for everything else but ourselves, which is very sad. I’m constantly moving in between, ‘Every small change matters,’ but also that, sometimes, small change isn’t enough when you know there’s so much we can do.”

The connection between wellbeing, inclusivity, diversity, equity and environmental sustainability was a recurring theme throughout GEI, which was presented by A Greener Festival (AGF) in partnership with the International Live Music Conference (ILMC).

Representatives from AEG, ASM Global, EarthPercent, Forest Green Rovers, Glastonbury, Music Declares Emergency, OVO Arena Wembley, Roskilde Festival, Royal Albert Hall, SEC, Soul Sutras, We Love Green, UWE and Yourope also appeared at the first green events industry physical get-together in over two years.


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