WASHINGTON — April 22 marked Earth Day this year, and with it came all the usual festivities. Teachers tasked their school-aged students to draw pictures and think about nature, while adults around the United States considered the weight of their ecological footprints.
The music industry also took note. Gwen Stefani, along with a coterie of other recording artists including Usher, Fall Out Boy and Train took to the stage at Washington’s National Mall to raise awareness and inspire political action on behalf of climate change and poverty.
The “Hollaback Girl” chanteuse opted not to tone down her vibrant persona for the day, even as Usher’s message of education and advocacy took center stage. He said, “To end poverty, it starts…with an education about it. I want you to go and investigate for yourself so that you can really understand what’s going on.”
The No Doubt front woman had just put on her first solo concert in six years at Los Angeles’s Orpheum Theatre last February and had no intention of slowing down. Stefani’s recent tour marks a return to the public eye after the birth of her third son, Apollo, with husband Gavin Rossdale.
Her stint in the National Mall is not her first foray into cause-related publicity. In 2011, she donated one million dollars to relief effort distributors in Japan after a record-breaking earthquake and tsunami devastated the country’s northeastern region, decimating towns and killing thousands.
Stefani continued her aid efforts by auctioning vintage clothes and custom designed T-shirts from her personal wardrobe, the latter of which she personally signed. To top it off, she hosted a private Japanese-style tea party in June of 2011 in Los Angeles, donating the proceeds from the party and auction to Save the Children’s relief effort.
The woman is a dynamo at raising money in both her professional and philanthropic work. Forbes estimated Stefani’s earnings at $27 million between June 2007 and June 2008, making her the world’s 10th highest paid musician for that year.
Gwen Stefani’s influential and lucrative aid could not come at a later time. Celebrations aside, the global public continues to neglect and abuse the verdant planet it hailed as home just a few days ago.
Only within the last five years have coalitions begun to seek out ways to clean up the Great Pacific garbage patch, for example. Estimates of the massive aquatic junkyard begin at 270,000 square miles, or roughly equal in size to Texas. However, because the junk mass is distributed over the Pacific Ocean, miles away from daily life, civilians of the developed world can easily turn a blind eye to the effects of their hedonism and go on contributing to the disaster.
At this point, it becomes a question of who is the guiltier party in regards to the buildup: the public or the media. This is truly a “chicken or egg” question because the media may choose to publicize selectively, but they are also pandering to the desires of the public. Barring major cover-ups, the public chooses its stories by voting with its dollars.
Therefore, in order to change the status quo, change must come from both ends. First the public must decide to change its locus of concern from celebrity gossip to more pressing ecological matters. Next, the media has to follow through.
Of course, this may be too tall an order for the 21st century. Must the poorest populations who suffer the effects of pollution most directly wait another hundred years for change?
– Leah Zazofsky
Sources: Billboard, Daily Mail, Forbes, LiveScience, StarTribune, The Independent, USA Today
Photo: Boston Herald