THE BLOG
06/09/2010 04:47 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Don't Expect a Massive "Save The Gulf" Concert

I ignored the first two emails I received concerning why there isn't a groundswell of momentum around a massive fund raising "Save the Gulf" effort starring George Clooney, Bruce Springsteen and Bono, but after the third email I decided to respond.

First off, benefit concerts are often organized to raise money when primary funding sources (government, corporations, non-governmental organizations, individual out of pocket) aren't sufficient to meet the immediate need. Hope for Haiti Now was organized to provide emergency funding when the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere was devastated by an earthquake. Haiti had a massive financial need and simply didn't have the resources for rescue operations or the rebuilding of its infrastructure. With the Gulf Oil Spill, BP (2009 net income more than twice the GDP of Haiti) and the US government have sufficient financial resources to pay for the immediate costs, though many strongly question whether the money will be distributed fairly. So, reason number one is that there is no obvious need to raise more money right now, but rather there is an urgent need to stop the ongoing oil flow, clean-up the environmental mess, create better controls and contingency plans so this issue isn't repeated, and eventually compensate those who deserve it.

Second thing to point out is culpability. The 2004 devastating tsunami and the Haitian earthquake were acts of nature. The loss of human life and environmental damage could have been mitigated, but certainly not eliminated, by developing good warning systems and improving the construction. The Gulf Oil Spill, however, is very different. There are plenty of people that have some level of responsibility for this disaster. When a reckless teenage driver runs over a child walking to school, we expect that justice will force possible jail time as well as potential financial compensation. When a child gets struck by lightning, we may search for people to blame but we all understand that this is an act of nature.

Third thing to point out is the immediate human impact. The tsunami was estimated to have killed over 200,000 people. The Haitian earthquake over 100,000. As far as we know, the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon that occurred about 40 miles offshore killed 11 people. It will take years to understand the long term impact of the oil spill on the health of those living nearby but this is a story about corporate greed, poor oversight, insufficient contingency planning, environmental damage, loss of livelihood and a few tragic deaths -- not a story about the immediate loss of hundreds of thousands of lives.

While there have been some concerts already (Lenny Kravitz and Ani DiFranco raised $300,000 on a May 16 concert), they pale in comparison to the over $50 M raised for Haiti. It is possible that there will be larger benefit concerts later, but I don't think we'll see the same momentum to raise money.

Rather, since the stumbling blocks in the world's latest (man-made) disaster seem to have been lack of effective response, lack of urgency, lack of transparency and potential limits on technology, please keep pressuring BP, the oil industry and politicians to act and stop looking for Bruce, Willie, Ani and Lenny to save the day by strapping on guitars.